A 15-month-long murder investigation the Flagler County sheriff called “the most extensive” in county history ended Thursday with the arrest of two men charged in the hit-style shooting at the Circle K on Palm Coast Parkway in October 2019. The shooting left Deon O’Neal Jenkins, 25, dead, and a friend injured.
The two arrested are Derrius Braxton Bauer, 26, of 6371 Collins Road in Jacksonville, and Marcus Avery Chamblin, 26, of 49 Berkshire Lane in Palm Coast. Both went to school in Flagler County, and at one point Bauer lived on Louisiana Drive.
Chamblin, who nick-names himself “C Murder” on his Facebook page (after the rapper Corey Miller, who was sentenced to life in prison for murder), is charged with premeditated first degree murder: he is accused of firing 16 rounds in four seconds at the vehicle where Jenkins and his friends were idling. He is also charged with attempted murder and shooting at a vehicle.
Bauer, the alleged getaway driver, is charged with principal to first degree murder, principal to attempted murder and principal to shooting into an occupied vehicle. Chamblin was already in state prison when he was served the new charges. He had violated his probation on earlier, unrelated charges of carrying a concealed firearm and grand theft, leading to his incarceration last January, though he was “days away from being released,” Staly said, when served. Bauer was arrested in Jacksonville on Thursday and booked in a Duval jail.
The suspects were stopped by police in South Carolina hours after the shooting, but no arrests were made. The agency did not release details of the investigation.
Speaking at a news conference this afternoon, Sheriff Rick Staly described the shooting as a “targeted hit” and said the motive isn’t entirely clear, but that it “appears to be fear of betrayal.” Drugs were not involved. He would not elaborate further on that and several other aspects of the case, including the type of weapon used, or whether the weapon had itself been recovered. (Chamblin’s home on Berkshire Lane is a short walk away from Beechway Drive, where seven months before the deadly shooting, a rifle and a handgun were stolen from a Flagler sheriff’s deputy’s patrol car.)
The case had perplexed detectives for months, leading to a doubling of the reward for any help provided, to $10,000, weeks after the shooting. What Staly described as “the most difficult homicide case since I’ve been Flagler County Sheriff” ended up involving some 20 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, interviews and leads in Virginia, South Carolina and California, where the suspects had attempted to evade authorities, the work of 40 employees at the Flagler Sheriff’s Office and 2,000 investigative hours, the bulk of them by three detectives: Agustin Rodriguez, who was last year’s Crime Stoppers’ Officer of the Year for his investigative savvy, George Hristakopoulos, and Darrell Butler.
They served 50 search warrants and 30 subpoenas, collected and searched hundreds of hours of surveillance video, downloaded and analyzed numerous devices and used cell-tower mapping, with help from the CSI team and the agency’s newly created real-time crime center, along with help from the FBI and other agencies. The joint investigators “were able to connect the dots of what started out as a true murder mystery,” Staly said. The sheriff had himself given his investigators wide berth to follow leads where they might go, without hesitating to shoulder the expenses of travel and other investigative costs.
The shooting took place on Oct. 12, 2019, at 3:30 a.m. Jenkins and his friend sat in their car at Circle K at Belle Terre Boulevard and Palm Coast Parkway. A masked man, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, was behind the building. He fired 16 rounds at them in less than four seconds, awakening people miles away. “Just as quickly as the man emerged, he disappeared,” Staly said.
A brief clip of surveillance video the sheriff’s office released today shows, in more shadows than anything distinctive, a silhouette approaching Jenkins’s car from slightly behind the passenger side. The man started firing from about two parking spaces away, the bullets triggering big sparks as they struck metal. He then kept firing while backing away and out of the frame. The car’s rear lights had been off at the beginning of the clip, which lasts all of 10 seconds. They flashed on and off during the shooting. See the video below.
Another brief clip shows a silhouette running away from the Circle K, in the distance. The identity of the second victim has not been released in accordance with state law that allows the protection of crime victims’ identities.
A map the sheriff displayed at the conference traces the circuit the suspects took around the country. Based on the detectives’ reconstruction, they left Palm Coast immediately after the shooting. The suspect vehicle was briefly stopped by Waterboro police in South Carolina later on Oct. 12. The next day, the vehicle was in Newport News, Va., where the suspects are believed to have stayed until Oct. 26. They traveled to California on Oct. 29 and left the state to return to Palm Coast on Nov. 12, 2019. The investigation spanned across Florida, including Duval, Clay, Gulf, Miami-Dade and Putnam Counties, in addition to the other states.
“This case is a testament to the lengths we will go to build a strong case, examine all the evidence, and take the time to bring justice for the victim and their family,” Staly said. “We’d like to thank the many agencies throughout the country that assisted with this case and I commend our entire team for bringing this difficult case to conclusion. Let this be a warning to criminals that law enforcement today knows no boundaries and we will always work with our partners, like they did for us, across the country to solve crime and arrest offenders no matter how long it takes.”
The sheriff also credited the “modern and sophisticated technology” that helped to solve the case. “this is in my opinion a solid case.”
State Attorney R.KJ. Larizza, who appeared with the sheriff and detectives this afternoon, noted “the kind of violence we’re experiencing, in not just the Seventh Circuit but throughout the state and throughout the country, especially gun violence, gun violence with young folks who resort it seems like to violence, and deadly violence, instead of trying to work out any differences they may have in a more reasonable and certainly a less deadly way. I don’t know how we’re going to wind up figuring out how to solve that. But one thing is for sure, and this is what I said to the family, it’s what I say to all the families of murder victims throughout the Seventh Circuit. That is, we cannot bring your loved one back, and your life is forever changed because of your loss. But the one thing we can do is holds the folks accountable for what they did. A lot of folks use the word justice. But I don;t know that they know what it really means. Justice means in this case holding the defendants accountable for what they did.”
Larizza said his office’s intent is to bring first degree murder charges to the grand jury for both suspects. But he shed doubt on whether he would seek the death penalty. Death penalty cases disproportionately burden both the State Attorney’s Office and that of the public defender, potentially draining resources or focus away from the prosecution of violent crimes with lesser but still severe penalties. The state’s recent judicial chaos over the status of scores of death penalty cases, caused by recent state Supreme Court reversals of long-established precedents, has created confusion about current death sentences and added yet another burden on prosecutors and defense lawyers, essentially doubling up the workload on such cases, which can drag through the courts for decades. So prosecutors think long before seeking the ultimate penalty.
“Just because it’s a first-degree premeditated murder doesn’t mean that an individual is actually qualified for the death penalty,” Larizza said. “We will be making that assessment after the indictment and in cooperation with the Sheriff’s Office and in consultation with the victim’s family.”