HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – For the first time, Christopher Brown and Javon Gibbs stood before a judge Saturday morning after being arrested and spending the night behind bars, and on Monday, new details about the case were made available by police.
Police say the two men kidnapped Zachary Malinowski, from his home in August 2013, when he was 19, then took him to the west side of Horry County and killed him. They have both been charged with kidnapping and murder. On Monday, police released the arrest warrants detailing the facts in the case.The Horry County Police arrest warrants state that probable cause in the arrest of Gibbs and Brown is based on a detailed statement by a witness who provided intimate details on the crime by one of the two men charged. The information was corroborated with evidence found at Malinowski's residence and property, as well as from his car, which was found burned on Valley Forge Road in Aynor.
"It's accomplishing something that we actually reached that level of probable cause that we could make an arrest in a murder case that has been open for a year," said Lt. Raul Denis, of the Horry County Police Department. "That's a significant thing."
Gibbs was actually serving a sentence for armed robbery at the time of Zack's disappearance, but he was only on house detention without a tracking device. He had to check in with the jail once a week until December 2013, Lt. Denis said.
The witness came forward very recently and helped complete the overall picture for investigators, he said.
"I started getting calls from neighbors and this, and it was on Facebook, I didn't know,” said grandfather James Marcus after he heard the news. Marcus had been waiting for a break in the case since Zack went missing. No body has been found, but soon after he went missing, Malinowski's car was found in the woods off Valley Forge Road, torched.
Ever since that day, the family has hoped someone would come forward with information about what happened. While there are now
, Malinowski's family still only wants one thing; having their son back.
"That's the only grandson that I've got, that's the only grandchild I've got, and it just tears my heart apart every day of my life,” said Marcus.
Brown and Gibbs may now be in custody, but it could be a long time before Malinowski's family gets any answers.
The suspects will be back in court this week to determine if they could be released on bond. To get a murder conviction, prosecutors will have to prove in court that Brown and Gibbs are responsible for killing Zack, even if police haven't found a body.
"It's not as complete of a case I guess you would say without the body, but it's not impossible," Lt. Denis said. "Many cases have been tried without a body ever being found."
Horry County Solicitor Jimmy Richardson says it has been done in previous cases before but it's much harder to do. He says it's hard to prosecute a murder case without a body because a body serves as a second crime scene.
Richardson says instead of using the body as proof of the death in this case, prosecutors will have to prove to the jury that a 'change of life' happened.
In past cases it has been done by showing a victim stopped showing up to work, stopped paying bills, or even something as simple as they weren't making regular phone calls anymore.