MOUNT HOLLY, N.C. — Police have arrested an 18-year-old man who they said shot and killed a 14-year-old girl at a park in Mount Holly, and they are searching for a second person in connection with the case.
Authorities said Darvon Malik Fletcher was taken into custody Tuesday at a home on Turkey Point Drive in west Charlotte. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Taylor Smith, of Charlotte.
Fletcher faced a judge on Wednesday.
At the end of the bond hearing, Fletcher looked at family members a few rows back.
"Make sure you all put some minutes on that,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher was ordered held on no bond.
Police have also obtained a first-degree murder warrant for Eric Combs, 17. Authorities believe that he might have fled to another state. Officers said they're working with state and federal agencies to find him.
Channel 9 learned that Combs racked up six charges in just over a year. Among those charges are assault on a school official, resisting police and communicating threats.
Fletcher was arrested four times, including for assault on a security guard, while shoplifting at Northlake Mall last month, police said.
Qudarrius Willoughby, a friend of both suspects, said they are not killers.
"The guy is a really good dude, man,” said Willoughby, who lives with Combs. “The things that are going on, I really can't see him doing."
Mount Holly police Chief Don Roper said the suspects knew Smith, and the three of them went to River Street Park together on Monday afternoon.
Smith died after she was shot twice.
"My thoughts do go out to all involved,” Roper said. “It's a tragedy any time someone's life is taken and the tragedy seems to be amplified when it's youthful offenders and youthful victims."
Police said Combs may be hiding somewhere in Dayton, Ohio, where he has relatives.
"The best outcome of this would be for him to turn himself in and let us work out the process,” Roper said.
Police believe that Combs is in a white or gray 2000 Ford Aerostar van with North Carolina license plate EFT-1885. The van has only one hubcap on the rear driver's side wheel.
Mount Holly police executed search warrants Tuesday at Fletcher's home on Turkey Point Drive and Combs' home on Eagle Feathers Drive, a few streets away. The Gaston County district attorney told Channel 9 that officers were serving a search warrant related to Smith's murder.
Police said no one was arrested when the search warrants were executed.
"We see the whole house surrounded. The dogs come in. They had the K-9s and everybody was suited up like they were going to war,” said Nicole Jackson, who lives in the neighborhood. “It’s very alarming.”
The neighborhood is about seven minutes from the Mount Holly park where Smith was found shot. She died after being taken to the hospital.
"I understand you don't always know people, but if this is true, it's disturbing,” Jackson said. “I don't know what's going on with our young youth, and something has to be done, but killing is not it."
Officers responded to the shooting around 3 p.m. Monday at River Street Park on River Street and found Smith lying on the ground.
"The fact that it happened at the park, our kids play there every day," resident Onica Foster said. "That's sad. I just pray for her parents and her family."
Smith’s grandmother, with whom she lived, was emotional when she spoke to Channel 9 reporter Ken Lemon, telling him that the 14-year-old was “a flower that was not fully bloomed."
People living nearby heard gunshots, and when they looked outside, they saw Smith lying in the grass.
"It's a good neighborhood park, so this is uncommon," Roper said. "It does cause concern, and it's elevated whenever it's a young victim."
Roper told Channel 9 that his investigators are still conducting interviews with people who they think can help solve the case, but it was unclear how Smith got to the park.
Authorities have not released a motive in the case.
Fletcher's mother told Channel 9 that her son didn't do it.
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