FDLE agents arrest Robert Kern Jr. for murder of 16-year-old Justis Garrett

For Immediate Release

May 24, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. – After a thorough and detailed investigation, FDLE agents issued a warrant today for the arrest of Robert Nixon Kern, Jr., 40, for the murder of 16-year-old Justis Garrett of Sorrento.

Kern was taken into custody in February by the Suffolk County (NY) Police Department on fraud charges stemming from a case in Volusia County. He was extradited to Florida and subsequently arrested on a second-degree murder charge.

“Robert Kern, Jr., is responsible for the cruel and brutal murder of Justis Garrett, who was smart, vivacious and loved by so many,” said FDLE Orlando Special Agent in Charge Lee Massie. “The agents on this case were relentless and worked long hours to see Justis’ murderer arrested so he could ultimately be held responsible for her untimely death.”

“It is our duty and our mission to hold the defendant accountable for the murder of our Victim in this case,” said State Attorney R.J. Larizza. “The combined efforts of our law enforcement partners and our homicide prosecutors in this case was nothing short of extraordinary.”

Justis was reported missing on Saturday, April 14, 2018, by her mother to the Mount Dora Police Department (MDPD). She was last seen the day before, on Friday, April 13th, when Kern told investigators he had taken Justis to Mount Dora High School.

Four days after she was reported missing, a group of hikers discovered a body in a wooded area off Service and Gasline roads in DeLand. On May 7th, forensic analysis determined the body was that of Justis.

The MDPD advised FDLE on April 24th that the 16-year-old student had been reported missing. Eventually, due to the multiple jurisdictions involved, FDLE became the lead investigative agency on the case.

During the course of the investigation, agents learned Kern gave inconsistent statements regarding his whereabouts on April 13, 2018. Kern was the last known person to have contact with Justis.

In interviews with Justis’ mother and others, agents encountered additional inconsistencies in statements Kern provided to law enforcement. Agents then reviewed phone records and social media accounts that led to evidence linking Kern to Justis’ murder.

Kern is in the Volusia County Jail on a no-bond status. The Office of the State Attorney, 7th Judicial Circuit, will prosecute the case.

For Further Information Contact:
Angela Starke
FDLE Office of Public Information
(407) 650-2336 Office
(407) 988-5009 Mobile
(850) 410-7001 Tallahassee