INDIANAPOLIS — It was just before dawn on Monday, March 9, 1994, when a wrecker driver noticed he hadn’t been able to reach dispatcher John Garner at Hix Towing on Bluff Road.
When the driver went to investigate, he found Garner dead behind his desk with a bullet wound to the head.
“I think he got assassinated,” said IMPD Cold Case Detective Greg West. “Whoever killed him, there’s no doubt in my mind that he knew the person who killed him. The way he was shot and how he was shot, it’s from the crime scene we can tell that person who shot John, he knew them.”
Misty Villaverde describes her uncle as a “big teddy bear” with a heart of gold.
It was that big heart that likely led Garner to be involved in something he shouldn’t have been because he needed cash to support Misty and her family.
“My father got sick, and my uncle promised my mom and my grandparents that he would take care of me and my sister and my mom and dad as far as like paying the bills, getting us Christmas and just being there for us,” she said. “It was over money. It was over something that he was doing because he had so much on his plate just from taking care of us, taking care of his family, that he was doing something that he shouldn’t have been doing.”
Detectives think knowledge of Garner’s murder has been a closely held secret for 27 years, limited to those on a need-to-know basis.
“The original detective spent a lot of time on the investigation,” said West, “and he looked at some people inside the business, also people outside, looking at different angles on it. He developed a person of interest. That person today is still a person of interest. We haven’t cleared him out whatsoever.
“We’ve added some more pieces to the puzzle on this investigation.”
Villaverde hopes that before more memories fade, a secondary witness will come forward, no longer intimidated by Garner’s killer, with information to solve the mystery.
“I think they’ve moved on. I think they think we’ve forgotten about this and let it go. Some of them are probably ill,” she said. “We want you to come forward. There’s no reason to be scared. There’s no reason to be afraid to come forward.”
West recalls Garner’s murder nearly three decades ago was “a high profile case,” but one that can still be solved today.
“27 years since it occurred, people are gonna keep talking,” he said. “They don’t forget.”
If you have information about the murder of John Garner in March of 1994, call Crimestoppers at (317) 262-TIPS.
Even though it’s been nearly 27 years, there’s still a $1,000 reward available to the person who provides the information that solves this case.