Three Fountains, SC (Paul Kirby) – Tuesday afternoon, the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department released several reports from prior incidents that shed light on the tumultuous relationship that led to a tragic murder/suicide on New Year’s Day on Old Barnwell road. Those reports detail several responses to the home after Jorge Luis Chavez and Mariassa Reynoso began to talk again about their relationship after a separation of several months.
Chavez and Reynoso had lived together and were considered a couple for approximately 5 years before they split up a few months ago. The couple had two children together, Elijah and Ezra, who were living with Mariassa after the break up. Mariassa also had another child by someone else, but that child was not home during the shooting spree on Sunday night.
On November 14, 2016, deputies were summoned to the home on Old Barnwell Road by Reynoso. She said that Chavez had showed up at her home and threatened to kill himself. She told the deputy that he had said, “I can’t do this anymore, I’ll see you in heaven,” before showing her a rope that he had in the car he was driving.
Before the deputies arrived, Chavez fled the home in the car that Reynoso said was not his. She said he had turned back toward Pine Grove on Old Barnwell Road and described the car he was driving at the time.
Lexington County deputies circled the area in an attempt to locate Chavez after that incident but never could find him that day. She told those deputies that Chavez was from North Carolina, but she didn’t think that he had headed home.
Lexington County dispatchers “pinged” Chavez’s cell phone after that incident in an attempt to locate him, but the phone had been turned off. Reynoso had also tried to call Chavez’s phone, but it kept going to voicemail.
At that point, the deputies issued a BOLO (be on the lookout) alert for Chavez and entered him into a national crime database as a missing person. They also filled out the department’s missing person’s worksheet that had Chavez’s description and other pertinent information. They then left the scene.
Again, on December 12, 2016, deputies were dispatched to the home for a call regarding a domestic issue. When the first deputy arrived, Reynoso said that she and Chavez had been hanging out again after the separation so that the children could see their father.
On the night of that call, Chavez had come to the home on Old Barnwell Road again unannounced and knocked on Reynoso’s bedroom window. He asked her to come outside so that they could talk about their relationship. On that date, she asked Chavez to leave and he only did so after she called 911 requesting deputies come to the home.
Deputies next responded to a call at the home on New Year’s Day. When they arrived this time, they found the four bodies. Those dead included 26-year-old Reynoso and the couple’s two children, 4-year-old Elijah Chavez and 1-year-old Ezra Chavez. The fourth body was Jorge Chavez, also 26, who was later identified as the shooter by investigators.
During her last call for help, Reynoso reported that someone was trying to break into the house. According to the sheriff’s department, "Chavez tried to enter the home Sunday night through a window and eventually shot his way into a back door as Mariassa called 911.” The first responding deputies arrived at the incident within one minute. They immediately began to pursue leads in the case after finding the bodies.
On Tuesday afternoon, Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher released the results of the autopsies on the four. Those results showed that Marissa Reynoso died from multiple gunshot wounds to her chest. Her son Elijah, 4, died from a gunshot wound to the back and Ezra, 1, died of a gunshot wound to the chest. The murderer Chavez, died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.
The Sheriff’s Department has released a statement that said, "Based on our investigation, Jorge Luis Chavez shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, Mariassa Reynoso, and their two children, Elijah and Ezra, with a 9 mm semiautomatic handgun before taking his life with the same gun." Sheriff Koon said the pistol used in the killings had been stolen out of Clinton, SC several years ago. Investigators don't know how Chavez eventually ended up with it.
On Tuesday night, Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said that he and his department appreciated the fact that the community was praying for his deputies and the other first responders that had to deal with this tragedy. He continued by saying that any time a call involved children, it made things much harder, but this was especially difficult given the fact that it took place during the time of the year that was normally a joyful time for children and their parents.
Sheriff Koon said that his department had procedures in place to help deputies through the process of dealing with this type of tragedy. Supervisors are specially trained to recognize the signs of stress and deputies are debriefed and offered assistance in dealing with their feelings and thoughts following an incident such as this. Assistance to the first responders is provided at no cost to them.
Sheriff Koon also expressed his department’s determination to help Reynoso’s remaining child, who was not home at the time of the shooting, as well as the other surviving victims cope with the tragedy. He said his staff would continue to provide support and assistance to the victims' families in the days and weeks ahead. Help is available to all victims of crimes through special programs and victim’s advocates.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department is continuing in its investigation into this case.