• Man charged in murder of Lake County teenager whose body was found in DeLand

    By: Jason Kelly

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday afternoon that it has issued an arrest warrant for a 40-year-old man in connection with the murder of a 16-year-old Lake County girl.

    FDLE said the Suffolk County Police Department took Robert Nixon Kern Jr. into custody in New York in February on fraud charges stemming from a Volusia County case.

    Agents said he was extradited to Volusia County Jail on Friday afternoon and that he is being held without bail. They said he faces charges of second-degree murder.


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    Investigators said a group of hikers discovered Justis Garrett's partially decomposed body April 18, 2018, in a wooded area near Service and Gasline roads in DeLand.

    Garrett's mother reported her daughter missing April 14, 2018, one day after Kern said he had taken Garrett to Mount Dora High School, agents said. They said Kern was the woman's boyfriend.

    Through a forensic analysis, it was determined May 7, 2018, that the body was that of Garrett.

    Read: FDLE: Foul play suspected in Mount Dora girl's death

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    Agents said Kern gave inconsistent statements about his whereabouts April 13, 2018. They said phone records and social media accounts led them to evidence that linked Kern to Garrett's murder.

    "Robert Kern Jr. is responsible for the cruel and brutal murder of Justis Garrett, who was smart, caring and loved by so many," FDLE Orlando Special Agent in Charge Lee Massie. "The agents on this case were relentless and worked long hours to see Justis’ murderer arrested so he could ultimately be held responsible for her untimely death."

    Check back and watch Channel 9 Eyewitness News for live updates on this developing story.

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