Garzon Murder Defendant Admits Being In New York at Time

The defendant in the killing of Edgar Garzon made statements to police prior to his 2006 arrest that put him in New York City during the 2001 homicide.

By: DUNCAN OSBORNE | The defendant in the killing of Edgar Garzon made statements to police prior to his 2006 arrest that put him in New York City during the 2001 homicide, a police detective said at a February 7 hearing.

“It placed him in New York at the time of the incident,” said Daniel Corey, a detective with the 115th Precinct in Queens, during the hearing.

John L. McGhee, 38, is charged with murder in the second degree and manslaughter in the case. Allegedly, he assaulted Garzon, a 35-year-old gay man, during an attempted robbery in Queens. The August 2001 attack left Garzon in a coma and he died in September of that year. If convicted, McGhee could get 25-to-life in prison. The hearing, before Judge Richard L. Buchter, was held to decide if any of McGhee's statements may be used at trial.

After the alleged assault, McGhee went to London, where his wife and child live, and police located him there in 2003. McGhee returned to New York City on June 28, 2006 after he was denied a visa. British authorities contacted New York City police and told them which flight McGhee would be taking. Cory and another detective met McGhee at John F. Kennedy International Airport when he returned to New York.

A central question in the hearing was whether or not McGhee was in police custody when he made the statements and was entitled to be told he could have an attorney present, could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, or avail himself of other Miranda rights.

“I told him the incident he was here for was an assault in regards to a gay man,” Corey said under questioning by Karen L. Ross, the assistant district attorney on the case. “He told me he would never injure a gay person because he had gay friends.”

When Corey asked McGhee if he remembered what he was doing in 2001, the detective testified that the defendant said he had fought with his girlfriend and moved in with friends in the city.

Corey described the statement's value as “not much” and activists who are following the case did not see the statements as significant.

“It's probably going to be a little bit before we get into the real meat of the trial so we are just keeping our eyes open on this,” said Clarence Patton, executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project.

Corey testified that McGhee was arrested at roughly 2 a.m. on June 29. During the trip from the airport to the 115th Precinct, McGhee and the detectives discussed McGhee's life in London, but not the case, Corey testified. Once at the precinct, McGhee made a phone call, spoke privately with a girlfriend, and spoke with Corey voluntarily, the detective said.

Once police read McGhee his Miranda rights, the defendent declined to speak with them about the Garzon case or sign a document saying he understood his rights.

“He refused to sign and said he wasn't going to answer any questions about the murder because he had nothing to do with it,” Corey testified under questioning by Charles D. Abercrombie, McGhee's lawyer.

As Gay City News went to press, Corey's testimony was scheduled to continue on February 8 and McGhee was expected to testify. Buchter's ruling will come at the end of the hearing.

In other testimony, Corey said that police began looking for McGhee in December of 2002 after a witness identified him. The witness was identified only by the nickname Ya Ya during the hearing. Ya Ya may have been driving his car, with McGhee as a passenger, during the 2001 attack.

“I believed Ya Ya was in the car with him the night it happened,” Corey said. By 2003, police knew McGhee was in London and they had intermittent contact with the London police about him.

Corey said that when they first identified themselves as police at the airport, McGhee “asked what he did. What am I looking at? Three, four, five years?”