Gulfport double slaying remains open cold case

By ROBIN FITZGERALD/The Sun Herald

GULFPORT – The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit has agreed with the theory that 64-year-old Geneva Gordon was a victim of circumstance in 2004 when an unidentified killer shot her younger brother in an act of revenge and took her life as well, Gulfport police officials say.
Members of the unit have reviewed the double homicide of Gordon and 53-year-old David Garriga, and used victimology and other crime-solving techniques to reach the same conclusions as the lead detective in the case.
“We’re on the same page,” said Gulfport police Lt. Chris Ryle, who presented the case to the BAU in a workshop in 2007.
The BAU’s work includes victimology – the study of crime victims’ relationships and other aspects that could put them at risk – and creating profiles of unidentified suspects.
“Someone who knew David exacted revenge and targeted him for an unknown reason, and his sister was a victim of circumstance,” Ryle said. “We ruled out robbery as a motive. Nothing was taken that we know of.”
The siblings were shot inside Garriga’s sport-utility vehicle in Gulfport on Nov. 9, 2004.
Ryle, who now runs the police department’s forensics unit, keeps the cold case file at his desk in hopes of solving it.
Ryle said the FBI review reaffirmed his believe that Garriga’s killing was not random and Gordon was slain simply because she was with him.
Garriga, a former Gulfport firefighter, had retired early over health problems. He sold used cars, had been a patrol officer a short while and had owned a pawn shop that burned down.
Ryle doesn’t believe Garriga’s career path had anything to do with the slayings.
The detective said victimology indicates Garriga was at risk because his friends included people of questionable character.
Garriga and Gordon, among 13 siblings, both had diabetes. They had grown closer, relatives said, as Garriga’s health worsened. He was the youngest of the siblings.
Gordon was a homemaker whose husband had died two years earlier. She lived in Biloxi and had a son and a daughter. Relatives described her as “a mother hen” who worried about others and doted on her sickly brother.
Garriga, the divorced father of two sons and a daughter, lived in Bayou View in Gulfport. He had received a liver transplant in 2001 after his 21-year-old son died by suicide. The liver was his son’s.
Garriga was recuperating from recent heart surgery. Gordon cooked breakfast at his home every day for him and whoever stopped by.
“He was a homebody,” Ryle said. “He would hang out at his home and visit with those who came over.”
Garriga had a close woman friend. By all accounts, they were not romantically involved. His relatives said the woman’s father had died, but before his death, Garriga promised he would look after her.
The last morning of the siblings’ lives, Gordon cooked breakfast and they left to run errands in Garriga’s black Mitsubishi SUV.
They got flu shots at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. They bought collards at the Point Cadet farmers market and delivered them to relatives. And they drove to Creel Circle to check on Garriga’s woman friend.
“I believe the killer knew David well enough to know he would stop by to check on the woman,” Ryle said. “The killer may have followed him.”
The woman wasn’t home. She was in the county jail after an arrest on misdemeanors including possession of paraphernalia and failing to pay old fines.
Police accounts and Sun Herald interviews with neighbors revealed nothing out of the ordinary when the couple drove up to the woman’s house.
A neighbor reported seeing a white man in his 20s to 30s in the driveway as Garriga parked on the street. Gordon rolled down her window and they appeared to have a casual conversation with the man.
“Geneva was very protective of David,” Ryle said. “She wouldn’t have rolled her window down if she hadn’t felt safe.”
Garriga then drove away from the house.
A neighbor later recalled seeing two black SUVs, one behind the other, at the stop sign. He said the SUVs were so close they appeared to be touching.
Police believe the brother and sister were at the stop sign when they were shot multiple times in the upper torso through the open passenger-side window.
The SUV came to rest in a grassy area.
About 12:25 p.m., a BFI employee was collecting recyclables. He found the couple, lifeless, inside the SUV. He tried to resuscitate Gordon before paramedics arrived.
A neighbor later recalled hearing a crash, but no one reported hearing gunshots.
A crime-scene unit dusted the SUV for fingerprints.
“We found some,” Ryle said, “but there were explanations for why they were on there.”
After the killings, Ryle promised Gordon’s daughter, Kristie Gronkoski, he would work on the case as long as he’s with the police department.
“My hope has diminished a bit,” Gronkoski said, “but I have faith in Detective Ryle.”
“I just regret that my son – he turns two this month – will never know his grandmother,” she said.
Gronkoski put up a $10,000 reward in 2006, but no one has tried to claim it. She’s still willing to pay for information that identifies the killer.
A reward of up to $1,000 also is available from Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers. Tipsters can remain anonymous.
Ryle said there are a couple of persons of interest in the case, but not enough evidence for an arrest.
“What I need is someone who knows about it to talk,” he said.
“We’ve interviewed over 100 people, some more than once. New leads brought third- and fourth-hand information. But I’m certain someone knows about it firsthand.”
“They may be afraid to come forward,” Ryle said, “but it’s the right thing to do.”