RICHMOND COUNTY, Va. -- Just after 2 a.m. on the morning of July 21, the Richmond County Sheriff's office received a call about a car stopped in the middle of the woods on a rural stretch of Route 3.
When deputies arrived, they found the body of Jay Garner lying in a ditch. He suffered two gunshot wounds.
Garner was killed just down the street from a house he shared with his mother. She woke up early that morning to flashing police lights on her street.
Victoria Garner said she went to get a closer look and saw a sheriff's car.
A short time later, investigators came to the home and told her that her son was dead.
"We thought it was a car accident… never murder… never thought somebody had shot him," Garner said.
Family members say the 28-year-old man was well liked in the community where he was born and raised. He enjoyed working on cars, and was planning on opening his own landscaping business - but more than anything, Jay loved spending time with his children.
Jay's fiancee Britney Carter said the thought of raising their two children without him is painful.
"My daughter, she’s 8 years old, so she has some memories of him, whereas my son won’t," Carter said.
The Richmond County Sheriff's Department does not have a homicide unit, but they were tasked with finding out who killed Jay - and why.
"A lot of the witnesses had information that either they heard or they knew personally... it takes a lot of time to develop what is fact and what is fiction," Richmond County Sheriff Stephan Smith said.
The department identified two suspects fairly quickly: a man named Mike Veney and his son, Trevaughn.
The sheriff said both were friends with Garner – and surveillance cameras captured video of them all together earlier that night, outside of a Walmart in nearby Kilmarnock. Investigators said Jay was actually riding in Mike’s truck at that time, but that they had some sort of fight leading to Jay exiting the vehicle and Mike driving away.
Sheriff Smith said Mike was not a typical murder suspect.
"He is in a a wheelchair, he has a specially equipped pickup truck that he is able to drive and get himself around in," Smith said.
But investigators believe that it was from the driver’s seat of that truck that the fatal shots were fired a short time later.
"They were actually parked in the roadway on Route 3 in the Farnham area.. Mr. Garner, after being shot, from a witness statement, got out, exited the vehicle, went about 20-30 feet and collapsed in the ditch," Smith said.
Despite testimony from witnesses, it would be more than a month before the father and son were indicted.
The sheriff said that one of the problems is that the day after the murder, Mike – a veteran – traveled to the city of Richmond and checked himself into Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center while his son remained in town.
"He works at a local daycare, and at this time we’re actively looking for him," Smith said during the investigation.
A short time later, investigators located Trevaughn at his girlfriend’s home and said they needed to discuss the investigation with him.
He drove himself to sheriff’s office and once inside, was charged with first degree murder. Mike was served in the hospital that same day.
The arrests came as a shock to Jay Garner’s family who still have many questions. They said he was close to the Veneys – especially Mike - and would even bring his children to gatherings at his home.
However, Carter said they had apparently gotten into fights before.
"What happened that night is basically what they do all the time, they fuss, they, you know, hang with each other, and then they fuss and then they separate," Carted said, "That’s what makes it so crazy, cause, like, what was different this time?"
Mike has since been transported from the hospital back to Richmond County.
Investigators said they were still investigating the motive and Victoria Garner said she planned on being in court every single day of the hearings and trials.