On the day Gena James would have turned 20 years old, her boyfriend was booked into a Miami-Dade jail Friday charged with her murder.
James, an Atlanta native who had recently moved to Miami to attend beauty school, was found dead in grassy field in the West Little River neighborhood in October.
A pedestrian walking by noticed her body next to a chain-link fence and called police. Her underwear had been pulled down, her dress hiked up to her chest. Her cell phone was missing. Detectives found she been shot once in the head with a .40-caliber bullet.
What followed, according to an arrest warrant released Friday, was a nine-month investigation and manhunt that led investigators from Miami to Chicago and back to Miami Beach, where Antone Hendricks, 34, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
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The arrest warrant lays out an intriguing circumstantial case against Hendricks, who has an extensive criminal history, including local arrests for robbery and burglary, although he has only been convicted here of minor crimes such as selling marijuana.
At the time, James had been living with Hendricks, drifting from motel to motel in Miami.
The woman’s mother told police that James confided that Hendricks “owned a gun and that he would play with the gun in front” of her whenever he was mad at her or if she talked about leaving him. James’ sister also told police that James had told her Hendricks “was physically abusive towards her, but [she] was not sure how to get away from him and end the relationship.”
About 10:45 p.m., the night before she was discovered slain, James spoke with her sister via phone. James said that she and Hendricks were out on the town. His voice could be heard in the background.
About 3 a.m., James again called her sister, saying that Hendricks “had left her somewhere” but was going to pick her up soon. At 5:30 a.m., James called yet again, saying that she was “at a gas station” waiting for him. They spoke several more times until their last conversation, at 6:29 a.m., when James said Hendricks “was beeping in.”
Hours later, James was soon found dead.
Soon after her body was discovered, according to the warrant, Hendricks called Miami-Dade homicide detective Juan Segovia, claiming he had been hanging out on Miami Beach that entire night and had never heard from his girlfriend.
Phone records showed that Hendricks, for 36 hours after her death, logged call after unsuccessful call to James, as though he were a worried boyfriend trying to get a hold of her.
But during those days after her body was discovered, Hendricks himself was in possession of her cell phone – phone records showed her mobile device in the exact same geographic location as his phone during the many calls he placed from various spots around town.
And both phones were traced to the area by the gas station, near the 900 block of Northwest 71t Street, from where James was believed to have last called her sister, the warrant said.
Detectives found that Hendricks and James had been staying at the nearby Budget Inn Motel. But the morning James was found dead, an employee told police that he arrived and left “in a hurry with all his belongings” – without his girlfriend.
Soon after the murder, Hendricks moved back to his native Chicago, where he was staying with his mother. Detective Segovia made plans to interview him there. But according to the warrant, when Segovia arrived in Illinois and called Hendricks, the man “immediately became irate and belligerent,” refusing to be interviewed.
Federal agents finally traced Hendricks Thursday to a home in Miami Beach.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Robert Luck signed off on an arrest warrant, but another judge, William Thomas, agreed that a “probable cause” hearing would held Saturday in court.