Cases against pair charged with Malinowski's kidnapping and murder will move forward

Brown and Gibbs

The two men charged with the kidnapping and murder of Zachary Malinowski will have their cases presented to a grand jury after a judge ruled Friday police did have probable cause to make the arrests in December.

Horry County Magistrate Brad Mayers, after hearing testimony from a police detective, determined authorities did have enough evidence to make the arrests but defense attorneys argued the evidence police have is circumstantial, at best.

Christopher Anfony Brown, 20, of Myrtle Beach, and Javon Dion Gibbs, also 20, of Conway, were charged in December and remain jailed in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center. They appeared during Friday’s hearing by way of a video feed from the jail.

The only witness to take the stand was Horry County Police Detective Jonathan Martin.

He gave new details in the case as he explained why Brown and Gibbs were arrested.

He testified police were notified in August 2013 that Malinowski was missing.

He said Malinowski had been living with his grandmother. He testified it is believed Malinowski returned to his grandmother’s house from getting something to eat at about 1 a.m. Aug. 26, 2013 and was met by Brown and Gibbs who were waiting for him to arrive.

Martin said investigators were told by a witness — 24-year-old Marcus Smith who is in jail for attempted murder on an unrelated case — that Gibbs told him about the killing.

Martin testified that Smith told investigators Gibbs said he and Brown got into a fight with Malinowski outside his grandmother’s home. According to the version of events relayed to investigators by Smith, Gibbs and Brown stuffed Malinowski in the trunk of his car and drove to an unknown location.

Martin continued by saying, according to Smith, Gibbs shot Malinowski in the chest and then his car was set on fire.

The burned car and Malinowski’s burned cell phone were found the area of Valley Forge and Joyner Swamp roads in Aynor.

Martin said a gas can was found near the car.

When asked what other evidence police had prior to the arrests, Martin said they used cell phone “pings” to show where Gibbs, Brown and Malinowski were the morning he disappeared.

He said the phones belonging to Gibbs and Malinowski both “pinged” in the area of the home of Malinowski’s grandmother and later — around 4:30 a.m. — both “pinged” in the area where the burned car was located.

Martin was also asked about a possible motive for alleged kidnapping and murder.

He said Brown was an acquaintance of Malinowski. He said about a month before Malinowski was killed Brown had been arrested for having a stolen gun inside Malinowski’s vehicle.

“That caused some animosity cause everybody else went to jail except Zach,” Martin testified. “There was also a drug deal, for which we have records from Facebook. Multiple witnesses said Zachary had gone in on the drug deal with Christopher Brown.”

He said the deal involved $1,400 and a half-pound of marijuana but Brown “took the drugs and never delivered on the money.”

Martin said after that Malinowski “talked to a lot of people about Christopher Brown in a negative way.” He said Brown — about a week before Malinowski disappeared — was assaulted in a parking lot by one of Malinowski’s friends because of the drug deal gone bad.

Attorney Ralph Wilson, who is representing Gibbs, told the judge the case against his client should be dropped because there is no physical evidence tying Gibbs to the case.

He said he feels the state “jumped the gun” because the witnesses who came forward could have concocted his story that he told investigators by reading media accounts online while in jail.

As for the phone ping in the area of the burned car, Wilson said it is well known his client is involved in drug deals in that area so having his phone show him to be in that part of Aynor is not unusual.

The defense also argued there is no proof Malinowski is dead since his body has not been found.

Brown’s attorney said as far as anyone knows, Malinowski could be in Alaska and very much alive.

Assistant Solicitor Josh Holford told the judge Malinowski did not have money to leave the area. He said all the evidence points to Malinowski being dead.

Judge Mayers did admit he saw gaps in the state’s cases but felt there is enough evidence to send the matters to the grand jury. Holford said the grand jury may get the cases later this month.

After the hearing he said even though it is believed Gibbs was the triggerman, he feels there is enough evidence to charge both men with the kidnapping and murder.

“There is in South Carolina ‘the hand of one is the hand of all’ rule. Any individuals acting together in concert to complete and act — whether one pulls the trigger or another pulls the trigger — both are guilty,” he said.

Malinowski’s mother, Missy Jordan, and other family members were in the courtroom during the hearing.

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(1) comment

AS I WAS SAYING

I'm just curious Brown & Gibbs, at what point did going to jail for the rest of your lives seemed like a good idea????

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