Almost three months after a body was found in a barrel in Malibu Lagoon State Beach, law enforcement officials have announced the arrest of two men in connection with the murder.
The body of 32-year-old Javonnta Murphy was found by a lifeguard on July 31 floating in a 55-gallon drum in the lagoon.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation and found that Murphy’s body had not been in the barrel for long before it was discovered and that due to high tide, it was possible that the current had carried the barrel into the lagoon from the ocean.
After LASD continued their investigation, they were able to identify two suspects: Joshua Lee Simmons, 37, and Dennis Vance, 41. They were each arrested on Oct. 3, authorities said.
“Both suspects in the case are known to be acquaintances of the victim,” LASD said in a release.
Authorities were also investigating whether Javonnta Murphy’s murder was retaliation for the murder of rapper Pop Smoke in 2020; Murphy’s brother Jaquan was one of five people arrested in connection with the rapper’s death, but he was later cleared.
While investigating Simmons, authorities learned that he was the prime suspect in an attempted robbery caught on video in September where he allegedly sprayed employees of an El Monte jewelry store with bear repellent before being forced out of the store with no shirt on.
He was charged with murder, personal use of a firearm, and making criminal threats in addition to attempted robbery, two more counts of making criminal threats and personal use of bear spray in connection with the attempted smash-and-grab in El Monte.
Vance was charged with one count of accessory after the fact in connection with the murder of Javonnta Murphy.
A motive has not been established, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau at 323-890-5500. Anonymous information can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or by visiting www.lacrimestoppers.org