Last Updated: 7:54 p.m.
Marion Leo Gavins Jr., the 17-year-old Palm Coast suspect wanted in the shooting of Curtis Gray, 18, early Saturday morning, turned himself in to Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies this afternoon. He was arrested at the Palm Coast precinct, FlaglerLive has learned.
Gavins would not speak to investigators after he turned himself in, but immediately before he did so–apparently on the way to the precinct, as his mother was driving–he made a 66-second video, startling for its seeming incoherence and convulsions and perhaps less surprising for what message could be gleaned from it, since he was delivering it: he blamed Gray for “reaching first,” though there’s been no intimations or evidence that Gray was armed. “I ain’t worried about none of that shit, I’m gonna stay solid,” he says before unleashing a series of obscenities and slurs seemingly directed at those who “hate on me.”
Gavins’s arrest report indicates that Gavins thought Gray was armed when he was approaching him as he sat in a back-seat of an SUV near the smoke shop and laundromat where the shooting took place.
“Y’all don’t know the fucking situation, y’all assume shit,” he says, revealing that in his 36 hours in hiding he’d been keeping up with social media. He’d posted the video on his SnapChat account. (See the full clip to the right.)
Marion Gavins Jr.’s Statement Before Surrendering
After 36 hours of uninterrupted searches, traffic stops, surveillance flights, social and other media saturation and other means by the sheriff’s office that may have had the desired effect of closing like a vise around the suspect, Gavins’s mother, Krista Lee Maurer, contacted the sheriff’s office around 2 p.m. to arrange for a place and time to turn in her son. He faces a first-degree murder charge in the killing of Gray, a promising senior who’d started the year at Matanzas High School and had been attending Flagler Palm Coast High School.
Several people were in custody by 3 p.m., a sheriff’s spokesperson confirmed this afternoon, all of them related to the investigation. Though she would not confirm or deny that Gavins was among them, she said there was “definitely a major update,” with a news conference scheduled with Sheriff Rick Staly in Bunnell at 5:30 p.m. The only reason the conference is being delayed until then is to give Orlando and Jacksonville television stations time to get here. “That was just a courtesy time frame,” the spokesperson said.
Shortly after the news conference, the sheriff’s office released Gavins’s arrest report, which detailed for the first time the succession of events that led to the shooting. Gavins was one of seven people in a 2001 GMC Yukon that went to the strip mall near the Circle K gas station early Saturday morning. So was Teresa Salgado, whom detectives and deputies are still searching for. Gavins and Salgado were dropped off at the smoke shop while the five others drove on to the gas station. Gray entered the smoke shop several minutes afterward. Gray then left the store and went to speak with a friend in a car. Parts of the report are redacted. At some point Gavins and Salgado were back in the SUV’s rear seats. As the SUV was in reverse, Gray approached. Gavins, according to the report, told the driver to stop, pointed the gun at Gray and shot him in the abdomen, then pointed the gun at the driver and told the driver to head for 23 Woodfaire Lane. (The driver and other witnesses are not identified in the arrest report. See the full report as redacted by the sheriff’s office here.)
The Yukon was found there later that day, when a SWAT team served a warrant at the address.
The sheriff spoke to reporters at 5:45 p.m. outside the evacuated operations center. He commended his team for closing the investigation in 36 hours. He said Gavins was quickly identified as a person of interest after the shooting. He summarized the events of the last day and a half. Before noon today, a man was seen jumping the fence at the Woodfaire Lane house where the search warrant was served yesterday afternoon. After a car left the property, it was pulled over, and a .25-caliber handgun was found in the car. That’s not the weapon used in the shooting, the sheriff said. Two people were arrested as a result of that stop, but not in direct connection with the shooting.
Staly would not say whether the murder weapon has been recovered.
At 2 p.m., Gavins’s mother called a deputy and agreed to meet at the Palm Coast precinct office. She was there when Gavins turned himself in. “I appreciate Mom doing that, because let’s face it, we knew he had already killed one person,” Staly said. “These things can end very poorly for the suspect.” She was trying to keep her son safe, he said.
“I’ve already spoken with State Attorney R.J. Larizza and requested that he be charged as an adult,” the sheriff said. “This is a tragedy for two families,” he said, one that lost a promising athlete, another that may have a family member face the rest of his life in prison, or face the death penalty. (Gavins is to turn 18 in a month, making the death penalty option unconstitutional under current law.)
“Our tactics worked to quickly solve and apprehend this offender,” Staly said, crediting the team effort and Gabe Fuentes and Mark Moy, the detectives on the case.
“At this time we have no known motive for this senseless killing,” Staly said. He said Gray did make “a dying declaration that assisted in the investigation.”
The suspect and others were to be interviewed at the Flagler Beach Police Department’s interview rooms, because since the sheriff evacuated the agency’s own operations center in Bunnell, it hasn’t had interview rooms of its own for its detectives to work in. But Staly said Gavins invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not speak with deputies or detectives. He was taken directly to the county jail to be booked in.
“We have no doubt he was the trigger man, we had enough investigation done at that point to convince a judge to issue a first-degree warrant,” Staly said.
According to the sheriff’s office, Gavins, Curtis and others were outside a Palm Coast coin laundry shop off Palm Coast Parkway and Belle Terre Parkway after midnight Sunday when Gavins and Curtis had words, and Gavins allegedly shot Curtis in the stomach. Curtis was flown to Halifax hospital in Daytona Beach but soon died.
Sheriff’s deputies and detectives had a relatively certain idea who their suspect was early on: Curtis had spoken to authorities before his death. They launched a wide-ranging and sustained search for Gavins, at one point executing a tense traffic stop off of Pine Lakes Parkway Sunday afternoon then surrounding a house in the W Section nearby, at 23 Woodfaire Lane, with the SWAT team. The house was searched but the suspect did not turn up. The agency late Saturday publicly announced the suspect’s name and sought the public’s help in the search, though by then the name and Gavins’s image had spread all over social media.
The sheriff’s office maintained the pressure Sunday, adding another publicly announced “person of interest” to its announced list and disseminating the person’s picture while continuing surveillance, a considerable police presence in the W Section and targeted patrols elsewhere. There was a self-assurance from the sheriff on down, reflected in confidence expressed by Chief Paul Bovino after the SWAT situation in the W Section yesterday, that it would be only a matter of time, and short time at that, before Gavins was located and apprehended.
The pressure appeared to pay off as Gavins’s mother made contact with authorities in early afternoon. (Gavins’s father is serving a 15-month stint in state prison after violating probation on a felony battery charge. Gavins’s parents have long been divorced.)
Gavins is well known among local police, having run up a criminal record as a juvenile that included drug and weapons charges. He was expelled from Indian Trails Middle School in 2013 after bringing a knife to school and, off campus, handing off a stolen Glock firearm to a friend. The sheriff’s office has not yet revealed what sort of weapon was used in Saturday morning’s shooting.
Curtis’s killing is the first non-traffic criminal death of a student in Flagler County schools since the murder of 17-year-old Skyler Dawn Meekins and her boyfriend by William Gregory in 2007. Meekins had been a star soccer athlete at Flagler Palm Coast High School and, like Gray, a fierce competitor. Gregory, 24 at the time, was convicted for the double-murder and sentenced to death, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison in 2017 after scores of death sentences in the state were found to have been imposed unconstitutionally.
Curtis’s family today set up a GoFundMe account: “We, his mother Carmen Gray and sister Destiny Gray are attempting to raise funds for the funeral service. Any donations are greatly appreciated. All proceeds will go towards the memorial as well as the funeral.” Go here to contribute.