A grand jury has indicted a man on an upgraded charge of first-degree murder in the 2018 killing of a 16-year-old girl while he either tried to or actually did sexually batter or kidnap her, according to the indictment.
Robert Nixon Kern Jr., who will turn 43 on Jan. 27, had previously been charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Justis Marie Garrett. Kern had been dating the teenager's mother at the time.
Garrett grew up in Volusia County and had been a student at New Smyrna Beach High School until shortly before her death. She was living in Sorrento at the time she was killed.
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Joggers found Garrett's body April 18, 2018, near a dirt trail in the area of Service and Gasline roads in DeLand.
Count 1 of the indictment charged Kern with first-degree murder and states he killed the 16-year-old while he was committing or trying to commit the felony of either sexual battery or kidnapping.
Count 2 of the indictment charged Kern with tampering with physical evidence, stating he altered, destroyed or concealed any record or thing to prevent its availability in a trial or investigation.
Slaying happened in April 2018; arrest occurred in May 2019
Kern killed Garrett on or between April 13 and April 18, 2018, in either Volusia County, Lake County or Seminole County, according to the indictment.
Kern was arrested in May 2019 Suffolk County, New York. He has been held without bond at the Volusia County Branch Jail since May 2019.
Records show he served two prison terms. In 1999, he was convicted of burglary and served more than 18 months. In 2002, he was convicted of another burglary charge and served one year.
Kern told investigators that he dropped the girl off at her school in Mount Dora the morning of April 13, 2018. That was just one of the many falsehoods he made to detectives, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Kern also claimed he had been doing carpentry work in Volusia when the girl disappeared, but that too was a lie, according to the FDLE.
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Justis Marie Garrett's accused killer indicted on first-degree murder