Four Oak Harbor youths were charged with murder yesterday for conspiring to kill a high school student over an impound fee.
John Skyler Johnson, 17, was found by a family friend with a gunshot wound to the head in his Oak Harbor residence. Responders arrived in the wee hours of Nov. 11 and transported Johnson to Whidbey General Hospital and then to Harborview Medical Center, where he died of his injuries two days later. Johnson had been finishing his senior year through Coupeville High School online courses.
The four young people, each charged separately in Island County Superior Court, conspired to kill Johnson and dispose of the handgun in Puget Sound, according to court documents. Brian Christopher Rayford, 20, David Nunez, 19, Kitana G. Hernandez, 19, and Derek Diamond Reeder, 16, were all charged with murder in the first degree, being armed with a firearm and conspiracy to commit murder.
Rayford confessed to shooting Johnson with Reeder standing nearby, according to court documents, although he “closed his eyes, turned his head and pulled the trigger” in Johnson’s direction.
Johnson had been video chatting on Facebook with his new girlfriend in Mount Vernon until around 10 p.m. on the night of Nov. 10 when there was a knock at the door, according to court documents. Johnson left the chat to answer the door, according to the girlfriend’s testimony, and then returned to end the chat, seeming to know the visitor.
The girlfriend said that before Johnson ended the chat, she overheard him say something to his visitor like “hey man why are you shaking so bad?”
Late Nov. 11 investigators received a tip from a woman who said that her daughter “may know who shot Johnson but was afraid to talk about it,” according to court documents. The girl stated that she went to a “get together” on Nov. 10 at Nunez’ and heard some troubling statements.
The girl said that Nunez approached her car on arrival and said “it’s about to go down, pop pop” and made a gun trigger shooting gesture with his hand. Nunez, Rayford and Hernandez left shortly after and came back after about an hour and a half.
When they came back, the girl observed that Nunez and Rayford had a small black handgun and they talked about how they could easily take it apart and dispose of it in the bay or off the Deception Pass Bridge, according to court documents.
When the girl asked if he did something, he said, “don’t worry about it, after today it’s my last time I do something for a homie and I need to get my shit together,” according to her statement. She asked if he was okay shooting someone and he replied, “No, but I have to when I have to have my homie’s back.” Rayford said he had to have Nunez’ back because they had been friends since they were 7 years old.
The girl said she believed the shooting was the result of an argument between Nunez and Johnson, who had gotten Nunez’ car impounded and refused to pay the impound fees. Nunez claimed that Johnson had threatened to “handle the business” with Nunez.
All four youths were taken into custody within a few days of the incident, but their accounts of the shooting vary. Hernandez, who served as the driver by all accounts, delivered the others to the location of the shooting, but Reeder told investigators that Rayford went to the house alone. Hernandez said that she and Nunez drove to West Beach Road to dispose of the gun.
Nunez and Rayford are being held in Island County Jail without bail because “there is clear and convincing evidence that they have a propensity for violence that creates a substantial likelihood of danger to the community and the witnesses who are aware of the crime,” according to court documents. While Rayford conducted the “hit against a 17-year-old child,” threatening text messages from Nunez to others shows that he “poses a threat of harm to the witnesses.”
Hernandez and Reeder are being held on a $500,000 bail.