A 32-year-old man is in custody after being charged in the murder of a musician whose body was found this summer in a barrel at Malibu Lagoon State Beach.
Los Angeles County sheriff’s detectives arrested Joshua Lee Simmons earlier this month. He is accused of murdering Javonnta Murphy, who authorities say was fatally shot before her body was dumped in the lagoon in a 55-gallon plastic drum.
Prosecutors say Simmons shot Murphy to death on July 27, three days before a maintenance worker first spotted the barrel in a shallow water creek.
The maintenance worker went out in a kayak and pulled the container to shore, but did not open it. The next day, a lifeguard saw the same barrel – now back in the lagoon – and swam out and brought it to the beach, where he opened it and discovered the body.
Simmons is also accused of making criminal threats against a second man on the same day he is charged with Murphy’s murder. That man, Brandon Gray, was arrested at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station on Oct. 5, but was not charged.
Prosecutors say an accomplice, Dennis Eugene Vance, helped cover up the fatal shooting and have charged him with accessory after the fact.
Simmons is also the suspect in an attempted robbery at Meza Jewelry in El Monte that was foiled by a store owner. Surveillance cameras captured the burglary suspect around 2 p.m. on September 2 as he walked down Main Street – dressed in black, wearing a mask and carrying a cardboard box. Israel Mesa was sprayed with bear spray by the suspect.
A video identifying Simmons as a suspect was released by detectives seeking to apprehend him just days after the attempted robbery.
Simmons and Vance were arrested on October 3. Two days later, Simmons was charged with murder, criminal threats, attempted robbery and two counts of criminal threats against the store owner.
Simmons is being held on $3.275 million bail in the Los Angeles County Men’s Central Jail and is due back in court on November 3. He has not yet entered a plea. Vance was released on $50,000 bail and is also expected to appear in court that day.
Simmons has a history of violent offenses, including a 2019 conviction for assault with a deadly weapon in connection with a 2013 crime.
Murphy, 32, was living in Sylmar at the time of his killing and was pursuing a career in music, according to authorities and a family friend. He grew up in South Los Angeles with his four brothers — two older and two younger, said Patrick Nelson, 46, a family friend who dated Murphy’s mother and considered himself something of a beau. -father for Murphy.
After the death of Murphy’s grandmother, who was the pillar of their family, Murphy moved into his own apartment in Sylmar, Nelson said. He was pursuing a career in rap and dreamed of becoming a successful artist, Nelson said.
Murphy spent his free time lifting weights and running, Nelson said, and was the father of a young son.
“He was a good kid, a good person. He didn’t have a gang bang. What happened to him, I just don’t understand,” Nelson said.
Murphy’s naked body was inside a barrel that contained markings suggesting it came from a printing press.
Los Angeles Times