GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The ex-boyfriend of one of the victims in a double homicide is charged with lying to authorities about his whereabouts the night of the murders.
Juan Nico Garcia, 30, is in the Kent County jail on a perjury charge for statements he made under oath to Kent County prosecutors.
He was compelled to answer questions after a judge issued an investigative subpoena sought by prosecutors.
Garcia had dated Jai’onna Braden, 20, who was shot and killed June 7 as she sat in a car with a friend on Bemis Street near Eastern Avenue. Braden’s friend, Quavon Lee, 23, was also killed in the shooting.
A felony complaint filed in 61st District Court said Garcia lied about where he was the night of the murders, his use that same night of his father’s vehicle and his grandmother’s cellphone, his possession of a firearm since being paroled and “statements or admissions he made to others regarding or related to (the) murders.”
Garcia was paroled from a Michigan prison in August 2019 after serving time for carrying a concealed weapon and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His criminal record includes three separate firearms convictions and an unarmed robbery.
VICTIM’S TEXT: ‘HE STILL WON’T LEAVE ME ALONE’
Braden’s mom told News 8 her daughter left her hometown of Detroit in December 2019 to visit Grand Rapids, where she met Garcia through mutual friends.
“I always told her to come home, just come home,” Aleea Braden recalled through tears. “(Jai’onna) wouldn’t come because she just wanted to be free. She was such a free spirit. She loved her friends, so she stayed (in Grand Rapids).”
Braden said it wasn’t until a couple weeks before the murders that her daughter revealed Garcia was abusive and said she was trying to get away from him.
“She didn’t want to tell us and when we found out, she didn’t want anyone to hurt or harm him,” Braden explained. “I just don’t know why she didn’t feel like she could come to us and just tell us and get away from him. Jai’onna had people that loved her in life… none of this should have happened.”
In one text exchange days before the murders, Jai’onna Braden told her mom Garcia had busted out her car windows. In another message, she said she had a black eye.
“I keep telling him to leave me alone,” she wrote in a text message to her mom. “He still won’t leave me alone. Idk what’s wrong with him…. I blocked him and blocked unknown calls (and) he buy a whole new phone.”
In another text, Jai’onna Braden said Garcia was ‘”tryna kill people.”
Braden told her daughter to call police and get a restraining order. Jai’onna Braden did not take out a personal protection order.
Braden said her daughter did call Grand Rapids police in the final days of her life, though investigators told News 8 they received no reports from the young woman reporting she feared for her safety.
Braden hopes her daughter’s story will prompt others in abusive relationships to seek help and find a way out before it’s too late.
“He took something from me I can never get back,” Braden said. “Jai’onna was great. She was happy. She was outgoing. Everyone loved her. She loved animals and elderly people. She loved to learn, and she loved life.”
LEE’S MOM: HE WAS THE BEST OF EVERYTHING
Jai’onna Braden’s friend, Quavon Lee, was sitting in the car with her that night. He was also shot and killed.
Lee’s mom said her son loved kids and wanted to help everyone.
“If he ate, you ate. Everyone was coming up with him,” Fatima Lee said. “He was the best of everything: best son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend, student. He would light up a room with his goofy laugh and smile.”
Lee was preparing to return to Grand Rapids Community College to finish a degree in automotive technology.
MDOC: GRPD SAID GARCIA MAY BE HOMICIDE SUSPECT
Chris Gautz, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections, told News 8 the agency received a call from the Grand Rapids Police Department in mid-June, about 10 days after the fatal shootings.
Gautz said GRPD told the state that a parolee — Garcia — might be a suspect in a homicide.
That prompted MDOC to search Garcia’s home, where Gautz said they found several items that violated his parole, including alcohol, marijuana and a component of a gun. As a result of those parole violations, MDOC placed Garcia in an “intensive detention re-entry” program at the Ingham County Jail on June 17.
Gautz said it was during that incarceration that Kent County authorities interviewed Garcia and subsequently charged him with perjury.
As of Tuesday, Garcia was in the Kent County jail on a “life offense perjury” charge. If convicted of lying to investigators about the double homicide, he would face the same potential sentence a murder conviction would carry — life in prison.