Two suspects have been arrested in the murder of 23-year-old gas station clerk Tava Woodard, Johnson City Police Department Chief Bill Church announced Wednesday.
Mark Anthony Sexton Jr., 41, and Mark Anthony Sexton III, 18, both of Johnson City, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with first-degree murder and especially aggravated robbery. Additionally, Sexton III was charged with possession of a firearm during a dangerous felony and tampering with evidence. Church said additional charges may be added later.
Mark Anthony Sexton Jr. (left) and Mark Anthony Sexton III (right) were arrested Tuesday by officers of the Johnson City Police Department and charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting of a convenience store clerk on Friday.
DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tava Woodard was killed on Friday, June 2 at her job in Johnson City when two people robbed the Roadrunner Market on North Broadway Street.
The Johnson City Police Department is still searching for the suspects and had no update to provide on Sunday regarding the case.
Woodard lived and worked in Johnson City, but her mother and stepfather live more than an hour away in Dandridge. Her mother, stepfather, brother and sister gathered at their home to remember the life Woodard lived.
“She was very spunky,” said Melissa Jones, Tava’s mother.
“She was easy to talk to,” said Addie Blazer, her sister.
“She was probably the most caring person that I’ve ever known,” said Jace Woodard, Tava’s brother.
Woodard’s family said they want people to remember the light she brought to everyone around her.
“I’ve gotten so many messages and comments and phone calls from people that I know,” said Melissa Jones. “But at least half of the messages and calls I’ve gotten have been from people that I don’t know, just telling me how important Tava was to them and what a light she was for them and how she was always so sweet and so kind and so caring.”
Jones also shared some of Tava’s dreams and aspirations.
“She wanted to write a book,” said Jones. “And she talked about going to college for English. She talked about possibly going into education for English, but she really wanted to write a book. I don’t know if she started. She may have, I don’t know. But I’m sure it would have been an awesome book that we all would have loved. It would have been a bestseller, I’m sure. She had all kinds of stories to tell.”
Woodard’s birthday was on May 25. She visited her family that week, and her mother says that was the last time that she saw her daughter.
“We sat around and talked about memories of her being young and these guys being little,” said Melissa Jones. “And I was like, this is a really cool stage to be in where you can sit and talk with my almost adult children and talk about, you know, ‘hey, mom, remember this? And. Oh, yeah, I totally stole your sweater out of the closet that day.’ ‘And. Oh, you like my purse?’ Yeah. This is the one I took from you six years ago when you had your back turned,’ you know, that kind of stuff.”
“That does really give me at least a little bit of peace and comfort just knowing that last time we saw each other, we were all happy and just enjoying loving each other,” added Jones.
Woodard’s mother says she does believe more could have been done to keep her daughter safer at her job.
“She expressed some concerns as well to coworkers and family, friends. Yeah, she expressed some concerns beforehand. She expressed some concerns that night,” said Jones.
“A couple of her friends have told me that she had texted them that night. That she hated it there and she didn’t feel safe; it was scaring her there lately,” added Jones.
Jones says that they have been in contact with GPM Investments, which owns the gas station.
“They confirmed that they’re putting up a $5,000 reward,” said Jones. “I’ve not heard when that’s going to be done. I’ve not heard when a press release or a media release is going to be done. I’ve just been told that that’s what’s happening.”
Chris Jones, Tava’s stepfather, said he thinks the crime was significant for the amount of money the alleged suspects made away with.
“These two people, they are literally so evil and dangerous and careless that they did kill a young woman for no reason for like I said, 60, 70 bucks,” Chris Jones.
Police have not yet said how Tava Woodard was killed. That information also has not been released to her family.
“They’ve not told us anything more than what’s been released, really,” said Melissa Jones.
Tava Woodard’s family pleads with the public to come forward if they have any information and to check any surrounding camera footage.
“Not just the neighboring businesses, but a street over, two streets over,” said Chris Jones. “These guys, or people, were obviously walking, so they’ve been walking through the area.
They’re on video.”
“If anybody knows anything, please reach out,” said Melissa Jones. “This was a completely senseless act. This was my child. She just turned 23 last week. She had her entire life ahead of her. She was just finding her way, and she cooperated, and she did everything they asked, and they still killed her. It makes no sense whatsoever.”
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact the police department at 423-434-6166, or Crime Stoppers at 423-434-6158 to remain anonymous or by texting 423JCPD and the tip to 847411.