Mothers of murder victims 8 years apart want justice at last

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — In jail, awaiting his day in court, a man already charged with a double homicide in June is now under investigation from a slaying in 2012.  

Two mothers are mourning their children. They’re also wondering if more could have been done 8 years ago to prevent the latest homicides.  

In June 2012, the body of 19-year-old Terrance Stokes was found behind a wooden staircase behind 249 Travis St. NE in Grand Rapids. He had been killed with a bullet to his head.  

Stokes was the son of Lisa Johnson, who spoke to News 8 from her home in Detroit. She said her son was planning to go to Kalamazoo College on a scholarship and while he had run-ins with police in his past, he was working toward a brighter future.  

When Johnson found out about her son’s slaying, she called Juan Nico Garcia because she knew the accused killer was the last to see her son alive.  

“When I called Nico, he hung up on me. Then I called back and I was like, ‘Where’s my son?’ and he hung up again,” Johnson said. 

Johnson said her son had only recently met Garcia and then they traveled to Grand Rapids from Detroit.  

“I do believe that Juan Nico Garcia did murder my son, ain’t nothing going to change that,” she said. 

Grand Rapids Police talked to Garcia but did not arrest him until early August for the June 7 homicides of 23-year-old Quavon Lee, and his friend, 20-year-old Jai’onna Braden. They were found dead in a car on Bemis Street on Grand Rapids’ southeast side.  

A booking photo of Juan Garcia from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

Garcia posted the same kind of statements on social media about Johnson’s son as he did for his latest alleged victims, claiming he was sorry to see the death of his friends.  

“He’s no friend, he’s a manipulator, the same way he did them, he did my son,” Johnson said. 

Johnson believes the other murders were committed in order to keep the victims quiet because they had information on her son’s murder, a suspicion shared by the mother of Jai’onna Braden.  

“They (GRPD) were fully aware that he (Garcia) had warrants and he was on the run,” Braden’s mother, Aleea Braden, told News 8. “They were fully aware that he already had been implicated in a (Stokes’) murder before.”

The mothers want justice and equal protection under the law.  

“He murdered my child and he took the life of somebody else’s child,” Aleea Braden said. “When are our children’s lives going to matter really? It doesn’t make any sense because the GRPD will grab our people for any little thing, standing on a corner, they’ll pick us up for trespassing, they’ll pick us up for jaywalking, but they wouldn’t go get a murderer. They wouldn’t go get him.”  

Grand Rapids police did confirm that Garcia is being actively investigated in all three slayings but did not provide details.