WARNER ROBINS -- A 23-year-old Warner Robins man who had convictions for dealing drugs was found shot to death early Thursday morning.
When the victim, Matthew Allen Garner, was 6 years old, his father was murdered and his mother was badly beaten during a brutal drug-related assault.
Warner Robins Assistant Police Chief John Wagner declined to say whether Thursdays slaying of Garner was also drug related. His body was found about 12:30 a.m. lying in the walkway outside a second-floor room of the Econo Lodge at 12003 Watson Blvd., near Interstate 75.
Garner had been shot once and was pronounced dead at the scene. The body was sent to a GBI crime lab in Macon for an autopsy.
Police have identified a suspect, but they have not released any other details.
His parents, Tracy and Mark Garner, were attacked in the kitchen of their Warner Robins apartment the morning of Jan. 27, 1996.
In March 2012, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Bobbie Charles Shank on malice murder and related charges for the bludgeoning death.
Mark Garner had refused to sell him some marijuana because Shank already owed Garner $450, according to testimony at Shanks trial in Houston County. Shank hit Garner at least seven times in the head with what police believe was his own ax before Shank turned to Garners wife, Tracy Garner.
During a phone call Thursday, Tracy Garner confirmed that Matthew Garner was their son.
Matt was wonderful, she said before handing the telephone to her sister, Jenny Grabowski. Grabowski said the family would prefer not to comment.
Surya Patel, owner of the Econo Lodge, said Matthew Garner checked into the hotel about 11:15 a.m. She did not know if he checked in alone.
No one reported hearing shots fired or heard any type of commotion, Patel said. A visiting relative of hers saw blood on the walkway, which prompted a call to 911.
According to the state Department of Corrections website, Garner served about two years in prison from March 2009 to June 2011 for 2008 convictions in Houston County of racketeering, possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and possession of Ecstasy with intent to distribute.
A Warner Robins police mobile command unit, a specialized RV, remained parked late Thursday afternoon outside the front of the motel, with yellow crime scene tape stretched across the side of the motel that parallels Vietnam Veterans Memorial Parkway.
The fatal shooting was the second homicide this week in Warner Robins. A 47-year-old man was shot Tuesday afternoon on the front stoop of his Demetree Drive home by three men who were likely trying to rob him, police said.
Also this year, the city recorded two other fatal shooting deaths that were found to be justified, Wagner said. One was an officer-involved shooting, and the other was a homeowner who shot and killed an intruder.
Anyone with information about Garners slaying is asked to contact detective Brett Rozier at 478-302-5389. Information about his slaying also may be submitted anonymously by texting a tip to CRIMES (274637) and including keyword WRPD in the body of the text.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this article. Writer Joe Kovac Jr. contributed to this story. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.