Mill Spring man charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting death

Published 2:24 pm Thursday, March 30, 2023

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Victim’s family starts GoFundMe page to help pay for independent investigation 

POLK COUNTY–On the night of Friday, March 10, Talia Petoia of Tryon died after being shot by her boyfriend at a Mill Spring residence.

The shooting allegedly occurred accidentally while Tyler Laughter, of Mill Spring, was cleaning a loaded handgun and negligently discharged the firearm.

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Laughter was charged with felony involuntary manslaughter on March 17. He was booked into Polk County Detention Center on a $20,000 secured bond and posted bail within 24 hours. Laughter’s next court date is set for April 12.

According to Julie Daniels, Talia’s mother, the shooting was ruled an accident less than three days after the time of Talia’s death, before Laughter was fully questioned and before the autopsy was completed.

“I have always supported the police, but I feel like local law enforcement has failed in their investigation. I am so disheartened by this,” says Daniels. “There’s no way that this should have been ruled an accident before the autopsy, before fully questioning the shooter.”

Petoia’s family is dedicated to seeking justice for Talia, who was only 27 years old. 

“The family is in the process of retaining a specialist to review all of the evidence,” said Daniels. “While [the family] has asked for an investigation from the State Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement has not yet honored that request.” 

The family has started a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise funds for a private investigator who can provide an independent analysis of Talia’s death, and to pay for potential legal fees. 

“The first priority is to find justice for Talia by determining exactly what happened on the night that she was shot and killed by her boyfriend,” said Alison Marek, Talia’s aunt, in an update on the GoFundMe page. “The second priority, should we raise enough, is to ensure that Talia’s legacy of creativity and love continues in a scholarship in her name.” 

The family says there was a documented history of domestic violence directed toward Petoia by Laughter, though no charges were ever filed. Talia’s family says that it recently learned of a past incident in which Laughter had allegedly fired a handgun angrily in her presence, narrowly missing his own grandfather’s head. 

“[Tyler’s] grandfather told police that Tyler shot the gun to show him how it worked,” said Daniels. “In an extended conversation, [the grandmother] relayed that Tyler had explosive anger issues.” 

The GoFundMe page describes Petoia, who died less than a week after her birthday, as a kind, loving woman.

“Talia trusted the man who killed her because she always saw the best in people, and believed in goodness in the world,” the GoFundMe page says. “Nobody suspected that this relationship could end as tragically as it did.”

“The idea that her shooting death could be dismissed as an ‘accident’ infuriates everyone who knew and loved her.” 

When the Polk County Sheriff’s Office was asked about details of the investigation, Chief Deputy Jeff Ramsey said that PCSO was unable to share details related to the ongoing investigation at this time.

The family’s GoFundMe page can be found at