CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Nearly three years after a Chesterfield father was shot and killed while taking his children on a fishing trip, police know who murdered him.
Chesterfield Police detectives and federal investigators met with CBS 6 Problem Solver Laura French exclusively Tuesday and said that an investigation identified Jerquell Cheatham as the man who shot Nick Clavier back on October 24, 2015.
"Somebody in that vehicle pointed their gun outside the vehicle, fired one round which struck either Nick’s vehicle or the weather stripping around his window causing the bullet to tumble striking him in the head killing him," Chesterfield Police Captain Jay Thornton said.
"He engaged in some road rage activity," Thornton said of Clavier prior to his death. "Whether he was the instigator of that or the reciprocator we don’t know."
No charges will be filed in the case because Cheatham himself was fatally shot inside a south Richmond nightclub in January 2016. As for the passengers in the vehicle who did not report the shooting, the statue of limitations of one year has expired.
Cheatham, just 21 years old at the time of his death, had a lengthy criminal history, and at one time was considered one of Central Virginia’s “most wanted” by the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force.
"That was a very difficult pill to swallow just because you know there really isn’t any chance you’ll get to look him in the face and say just what you took from me and tell him what his actions did to my family and that’s difficult," Nick’s widow Melody said. "I became very emotional when they showed me a face to put a slide to such a difficult day was more than a little overwhelming a lot of emotions fill you as a mom and a wife to know undoubtedly this is who changed our lives forever."
"I do kind of wish I had the opportunity to see him face to face," Nick’s daughter Mikayla said. "I would tell him that he basically ruined my life. I would tell him he ruined other families lives. He hurt a lot of people including my family."
Police initially ruled Clavier’s death an accident
Investigators initially believed Nick Clavier’s own gun had unintentionally discharged inside his car while he drove his children along Hull Street Road.
But his children always contended someone else shot and killed their father and that the killer was in a car that pulled up next to their vehicle.
The children's story led to a series of CBS 6 investigations. Investigations that led to police taking a closer look at the case.
"I was very upset that not a lot of people believed me," Mikayla said. "Because nobody believed me, I just wanted to figure it all out myself."
"I am very relieved that now they know I was right and everybody else knows I was right I was right and they finally solved it," she added.
"I needed to know what really happened. I needed to look my child in the eyes and say I believe you," Melody said. "I just wanted my answers. I wanted somebody to take what my children had to say seriously and you did that,” she told French.
Reopening the Clavier investigation
"We heard the families concerns. We did look at ourselves and ask some questions and we did give it to the UMIG [Unsolved Major Investigations Group] group to investigate which they did and it’s led us to this point,” Thornton said.
In 2017, CBS 6 was the first to report the ballistics report had found the bullet that killed Clavier could not have been fired by his gun.
That led to police changing the status of the case from “cleared” to “pending,” and they launched a new investigation.
On May 9, 2018, Chesterfield Police announced the investigation of Clavier’s death had officially been changed from “undetermined” to “homicide.” The medical examiner also changed Clavier's death certificate to reflect the update.
About that time, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms announced a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Chesterfield detectives said that prompted a source to come forward. The source produced credible information that led them to a witness. That witness pointed to Cheatham as the gunman, both in Clavier’s death and a homicide that happened in the City of Richmond the very next day.
Investigators said Mark Jefferson was gunned down on Powell Road with the same gun used to kill Clavier. Bullets from both crime scenes were then sent to the Virginia Department of Forensic Science for testing.
"We were able to piece together bullet fragments from one case case and compare them to ours and we found a match on the weapon," Thornton said.
A witness said Cheatham shot Clavier during a road rage incident that led to both vehicles slowing down near the 8700 block of Hull Street Road.
Based on the witness’s testimony, detectives believe following or during the road rage incident Clavier pulled out his handgun and aimed it a vehicle containing Cheatham and several occupants. Cheatham also displayed a weapon, and fired a shot that most likely went through the weather stripping of Clavier’s car, before striking Clavier in the head.
Investigators said weather stripping from driver’s side window was tested and showed damage that was consistent with a bullet impact.
“It was a specific caliber that struck Nick and it was not the gun that he had in his vehicle,” said Thornton.
Clavier’s car went off the road, crashing into a tree.
His four children, who were also inside the vehicle, escaped serious injury.
Police said when the children were interviewed by the FBI after the case was switched to pending, they reported that it was not uncommon for their father to have his weapon out at times and show them the laser. Investigators said the kids reported that on October 24, 2015 Nick was seen pointing the gun out the driver’s side window and as he attempted to re-holster the weapon that’s when the “bang happened.” They say the kids said the their dad was shot while he was “playing with it. [Nick’s firearm]”
“It boils down to road rage,” said Melody. “I don’t know any details, I never will because the person who could tell me is no longer here.” “I won’t really ever know what really got to that point but being cut off or whatever happened in my mind can’t justify taking a life.”
Clavier’s daughter, Mikayla, who was nine years old at the time, was in the front seat.
“I remember that we were driving down the road we were listening to music, we were all talking then I heard a loud bang … I looked over and I saw my dad bleeding and blood was going everywhere because his foot was on the accelerator and he was kind of leaned over on the steering wheel … it was not something very pleasant,” she told CBS 6 during an interview in May 2017.
Investigators said that witnesses who aided the children after the crash said they heard the crash and heard the kids running and yelling “someone shot daddy!”
Tuesday, Mikayla reflected on the day that changed her life.
“I do think of myself as strong and very brave because not most little kids would do that,” she said. “Most little kids would panic in the moment and do half the things I did.”
She said as difficult as it was she needed to fight to be heard for her father.
“I knew my dad would never kill himself because he had tons of people who loved him and I wanted people to know he wasn’t that kind of person and I wanted to do it for him because I didn’t want people to think that of him.”
Police said the sketch Mikayla drew of the vehicle she saw pull away after her father was shot closely matched the vehicle that carried Cheatham.
“I was really happy because at least I knew that I did help them find at least the car because it was an accurate picture,” said Mikayla.