police car

Robert Kern Jr., 49, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty by a jury of raping and murdering his girlfriend’s daughter in a heavily wooded area of east DeLand, north of the Volusia County Fairgrounds, in April 2018.

The jury deliberated for only 30 minutes before finding Kern guilty of first-degree murder and tampering with evidence.

According to police records, Kern was supposed to drive 16-year-old Justis Garrett from her home in New Smyrna Beach to her high school in Mount Dora on April 13.

“Instead, cell phone GPS movements show he drove east to Volusia County. Kern took the victim into a heavily wooded area where he raped and killed her,” according to a statement from the State Attorney’s Office (SAO). “Evidence showed that Kern returned to the crime scene about 3 days later and spent about an hour there.”

Her body was found on April 18.

Prosecutors said that evidence on Kern’s phone showed he had a fake Instagram account, posing as an 18-year-old boy, and sent “obsessive and sexual messages to the victim.”

Web searches on the phone included “kidnapped,” “What are the best drugs to make someone unconscious?” and other explicit websites, according to the SAO.

After a lengthy investigation, Kern was arrested for the crime on May 22, 2019.

He was found guilty today, Aug. 8, and sentenced shortly after.


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