The following story is based upon affidavits filed by police and obtained by News Channel 11 in the arrests of Mark Sexton Jr. and his son, Mark Sexton III, for the alleged murder of 23-year-old Tava Woodard.
Father, wife both told police family had money woes
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A father and son are charged with first-degree murder in the June 2 shooting death of Johnson City convenience store clerk Tava Woodard, who died of a gunshot wound — allegedly fired by 18-year-old Mark Sexton III — less than an hour after starting the midnight shift.
Mark Sexton Jr., 41, and Mark Sexton III, 18, were arrested Monday night and both are being held under $1,000,000 bond at the Washington County jail with an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Affidavits filed by Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) officer Justin Jenkins report that video footage from the Roadrunner Market at 408 N. Broadway showed two masked people take cash from Woodard after one of them brandished a gun.
“The two men then walked towards the door but as they were leaving, one of the men turned around and fired a shot from the pistol, striking Ms. Woodard,” the affidavit reads. It says Woodard immediately fell to the ground and remained unmoving until officers arrived eight minutes later and discovered her already dead.
Officers found a 9mm shell casing and two blue nitrile gloves beside an alley near the store that matched the gloves the people in the video were wearing. Video had shown the suspects fleeing down that alley. Another glove was found near 2217 E. Fairview Ave., about nine blocks from the store and just a few doors from the Sextons’ residence at 2231 E. Fairview.
Police released surveillance video screen captures to News Channel 11 and other local media and received several tips “stating that one of the subjects appeared to be Mark Sexton Jr.,” one affidavit reads.
Tips from employees at an area laundry service said Mark Sexton Jr. and his wife had both worked there and described scrubs and gloves from the business as matching those being worn by the suspects in the store video.
A traffic stop and a search warrant move investigation foward
Some former co-workers told police “they believed the suspects were Mark Sexton and his son,” Sexton Jr.’s affidavit reads.
Based on the tips, JCPD obtained a search warrant for 2231 E. Fairview Ave. on Monday. While observing the house, officers saw a car registered to Sexton Jr. pull away and stopped it based on expired registration. Sexton Jr., his wife and a juvenile were in the car and were taken to the police department.
Police searching the house found scrubs and other clothing matching clothes shown in the store video, blue gloves that matched those found in the initial search near the store and a 9mm round with the same stamp on it as the casing found at the store.
Investigators then got a warrant to search Sexton’s car and found more gloves, a scrub top, sunglasses and more than a dozen additional 9mm rounds that also matched the casing from the crime scene.
Sexton’s wife talks
Police interviewed Sexton Jr.’s wife Monday. They showed her still images from store footage showing a “Marvel Comics” T-shirt with unique designs being worn by one suspect. She “identified it as being identical to one owned by her family and shared between she and her two sons,” the Mark Sexton III affidavit reads. She also admitted Mark Sexton III has a jacket like the one the same suspect is wearing in the surveillance video.
“Mrs. Sexton also stated during her interview that the family has been recently experiencing financial difficulties,” the same affidavit says.
Mark Sexton Jr. talks
The Mark Sexton III affidavit reveals that Mark Sexton Jr. provided an interview to investigators on Tuesday in which he “discussed he and his son, Mark Sexton III, participation in the robbery of the Road Runner. And various aspects of the shooting.”
Sexton Jr. said the two walked to the store and went in together, first going to the back of the store and then approaching the register. He confirmed the clothes he and his son were wearing.
When asked if the plan was to shoot Woodard, “Sexton, Jr., responded ‘hell no,'” the affidavit reads.
He told investigators he didn’t know Sexton III shot Woodard, “but that he heard the shot and that’s when he left on foot.”
Sexton Jr. also mentioned the family’s financial situation (multiple co-workers had told police both Sextons had been fired recently). He said “due to their desperate financial situation, his son encouraged him to do whatever they could to get money.”
Sexton Jr. told investigators the robbery netted a few hundred dollars. He said he believed the gun was still in their possession when they returned to the house but didn’t remember seeing it.
Sexton Jr. told police he burned a backpack and several items of clothing he had at the robbery.
In addition to first-degree murder, Sexton Jr. is charged with especially aggravated robbery and expired vehicle registration.
Sexton III is charged with first-degree murder, especially aggravated robbery, possession of a firearm during commission of a dangerous felony and tampering with evidence.