Florida Handyman Guilty In 2018 Rape And Murder Of Girlfriend’s Teen Daughter

A Florida man will spend the rest of his life behind bars for sexually assaulting his girlfriend's daughter more than four years ago.
Robert Kern Jr., 43, was found guilty Monday by a Volusia County jury in the 2018 first-degree murder of his then-girlfriend's 16-year-old daughter, Justis Marie Garrett, according to CBS affiliate WKMG-TV. He was also found guilty and sentenced to another concurrent five-year sentence on evidence tampering charges for attempting to cover up his crime.
"This was a complicated circumstantial case," said District Attorney R.J. Larizza said in a statement via WKMG. “The defendant raped and murdered a 16-year-old child and abandoned her body in a remote wooded area. The prosecutors prevailed and today we got justice for Justis.”
ADVERTISEMENT
Kern did not testify at the trial and his defense attorney did not summon witnesses to testify on his behalf.
Kern was ordered to drive Garrett to a Mount Dora high school on April 13, 2018 after she missed her bus, prosecutors said in court. Instead, he drove the teenager into a wooded area in Volusia County in his Ford Explorer, then raped and killed her.
"Robert Kern kidnapped, raped and murdered Justis Garrett on April 13, 2018 and the state has established this beyond a reasonable doubt," Assistant District Attorney Megan Upchurch said during the closing statement of the trial, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
Garrett last used her phone to post a selfie on Snapchat at 6:48 a.m. that morning, prosecutors said, and Kern texted her mother at 7:26 a.m. that he had taken her to school, the newspaper reported . But the girl never made it to school, and Kern's cellphone records showed he was nowhere near the school when he sent the message.
Prosecutors suspect Kern may have drugged or physically disabled the teen before killing her and found a broken nose.
From 8:12 a.m. to 9:17 a.m., Garrett's phone remained stationary in the area where her body was eventually found.
"We know she was raped at that point," Upchurch added. "We know she was killed."
Garrett's phone started moving again at 9:17 a.m., pinging from the same tower as Kern's near where her body was found later that morning. Eventually, prosecutors said, Kern drove to the girl's high school before turning off her phone and getting rid of it. He convinced her mother, who he was dating, not to immediately report her daughter missing and later told police that she was with him when they both took Garrett to school.
Cellphone data shows Kern returned three days later to the spot where he left Garrett's body, where prosecutors said he doused it in bleach.
Garrett's decomposing body was found by joggers near a dirt road in the woods four days after her disappearance, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported. Prosecutors say it's unclear how the 16-year-old died due to decomposition and animal activity, but her death was ruled a manslaughter.
Her pants were pulled down around her ankles, her shirt and bra were pulled up around her neck, and her hoodie was tied tightly around her head.
Kern was arrested in New York in May 2019 for Garrett's murder. He had denied killing the girl and insisted he had dropped her off at school on the day of her disappearance. According to state investigators, Kern also lied to detectives, claiming that he worked a carpentry job that same day.
Prosecutors discovered he had tried to catch the teenager on Instagram in February 2018 and were looking for ways to drug people and pornography related to incest and rape shortly before the murder.
During the trial, his legal counsel argued the state had no DNA evidence that Garrett had been sexually assaulted or other evidence that the teen had been drugged.
"The evidence in this case is overwhelming and the overwhelming evidence in this case shows that Robert Kern who is sitting here is the one who murdered Justis," prosecutor Jason Lewis also said in court. "He raped her. He kidnapped her. He took her into the forest. All the evidence points to that."
Kern's attorneys, assistant public defenders Adam Dala and Cameron Brown, were not immediately available for comment when contacted by Oxygen.com Tuesday afternoon.

Last News

Saweetie’s Pastel Goop Ball Coffin Nails Are a Y2K-Fanatic’s Dream

Saweetie’s Pastel Goop Ball Coffin Nails Are a Y2K-Fanatic’s Dream

Buttigieg Skewers Greene’s Bonkers Complaint

Buttigieg Skewers Greene’s Bonkers Complaint

Minnesota city settles suit with woman who filmed cops drawing guns on Black motorists

Gisele Bündchen’s Net Worth Reveals What’s at Stake if She Divorces Tom Brady