Palm Coast shaken by shooting death of star student

18-year-old dead, 17-year-old charged with first-degree murder

PALM COAST, Fla. – Within 36 hours of a star high school student's fatal shooting, the 17-year-old who the Flagler County Sheriff's Office named as a suspect turned himself in at the request of his mother. A second person deputies want to question about the shooting is still at large.

Curtis Gray, 18, was shot just after midnight Saturday by Marion Gavins Jr., 17, in the parking lot of a strip mall on Belle Terre Parkway in Palm Coast, according to deputies. Before Gray was airlifted to Halifax Hospital, where he died, he managed to tell deputies that someone he thought was named Alex shot him.

Curtis Gray's mother, Carmen Gray, told News4Jax her son did not know Gavins.

"The devastation has been just, unbelievable. We’re still reeling from it. The reality that he’s not going to walk through the door, the immense loss," she said. "I try to … manage that pain as best as I can, but it’s really, really difficult."

Gray was a senior and stand-out athlete at Flagler-Palm Coast High School. Dozens of students talked with a trauma counselor Monday after learning of Gray's death. This is a small, peaceful community that rarely deals with violence and murder.

The superintendent of Flagler County schools said Gray a peacekeeper whose loss has devastated his classmates.

"By all accounts, this was a young man that was taking great strides to improve himself and prepare for an opportunity for an education past his graduation," Superintendent James Tager said.

His friends said he had a great sense of humor and had a bright future.

"(It) just left a hole in my heart. That was one of my best friends. I could just talk to him on a daily basis and just kick it with him and I can't do that no more. It’s kind of hard," said Curtis Gray's friend, Joe.

The teen is being remembered by classmates, teammates and coaches, with many posting #LLC for Long Live Curt across social media.

"He was going to get offers to go to college for track. He was doing big things," said friend Nehemiah Knight. "He was on the rise to greatness, a movement, like trying to build all the kids up, to rise up and do great things, be great, don’t be in the streets doing dumb stuff. When you’ve got talent, use it."

Curtis Gray had attended Matanzas High School for three years and transferred to Palm Coast as a senior. Despite the short time that Gray had been at the school, Tager said the teenager had brought people together.

"He seemed to always be a student that could unify other students," Tager said. "He always motivated others and he gave people advice, and everyone respected him for it."

Tager added that Gray talked about God with his athletic director, so they believe he is in heaven.

A GoFundMe page put up by Gray's family asking for help raising money for a funeral raised $15,000 in one day.

Gavins is charged with first-degree murder. According to the arrest report, witnesses said they saw Gavins point a handgun at Gray of the window of the SUV and fire once before the vehicle sped away.

Witnesses told deputies that Gavins and Teresa Salgado, the person still wanted by Flagler County authorities, were in the Blaze 'n Flame Smoke Shop shortly before the shooting took place. The report said Curtis Gray went into that store, but left quickly after leaving seeing Gavins.

The report indicates that Gavins (pictured, right) admitted being in the back seat of a GMC Yukon near the smoke shop and laundromat where the shooting took place. After his arrest, Gavins told deputies he thought Gray was armed. Deputies said no gun was found on or near the victim.

Sheriff Rick Staly said when deputies arrived at Gavins' home Sunday with a search warrant, they found a locked backpack inside that contained more than 20 grams of marijuana and a .25-caliber gun. However, Staly said they do not believe that was the gun used to kill Gray.

The Sheriff's Office has not said if the murder weapon was recovered.

Two teenagers were arrested and charged with possession of a firearm and more than 20 grams of marijuana.

The Sheriff's Office hasn't said if the murder weapon has been found.

Deputies said they are still searching for Teresa Salgado, 18, who goes by the name Alex, who they call a person of interest in the case. 

Anyone with information about Salgado's whereabouts or other information about the case is asked to call the Flager County Sheriff's Office at 386-313-4911 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477). Tipsters could be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

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