AUSTIN, Texas — Gavin Roberts has been charged with murder after the body of missing Domain resident Justin Haden was recovered in Williamson County.
The Austin Police Department, in conjunction with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, has been investigating after a body was found near Ronald Reagan Boulevard and Interstate 35 in the Georgetown area. The Travis County Medical Examiner determined the cause of death to be sharp and blunt force trauma, and the APD confirmed Haden's identity using fingerprints from an autopsy.
The U.S. Marshals confirmed to KVUE that 26-year-old Gavin Mcloud Roberts was arrested on Nov. 23 at a residence in Thornton, Colorado, by the District of Colorado Violent Offender Task Force.
Roberts is charged with murder, as well as tampering with physical evidence of a human corpse. He was booked into the Travis County Jail on Dec. 13.
Haden, 34, known to friends as "Justice," was reported missing in early November and was last seen on the 3100 block of Esperanza Crossing in the Domain.
According to search warrants for Haden's apartment, investigators found bloodstains in his apartment after he was reported missing.
Court documents state that the law firm of Gunter, Bennett and Anthes called 911 on Nov. 4 regarding a welfare check of their client, Haden. At the time, Alan Bennett told police that it had been three days since he or family members had heard from Haden.
When no one responded at the door, police received assistance from management at the Griffis at The Domain apartments to enter his residence. Upon entering, police noted what they believed were wine stains on the wall next to a bed. Police said that management then changed the locks on the unit's main door, and the keys were retained by the property management so that Haden's key could no longer be used to gain entry.
On Nov. 7, Haden's father called police from out of state to officially report Haden as missing. At that time, he stated that the last time he or his wife had spoken to Haden was on Oct. 26, noting that they usually speak to him on a near-daily basis. As the executor of Haden's trust fund and bank account, he also stated that activity on his accounts stopped on Nov. 1.
His lawyer also noted that Haden lived alone, did not own a car and was not suicidal.
On Nov. 9, a private investigator entered Haden's unit after obtaining a key from Bennett and apartment management. As a former law enforcement officer, the investigator said he believed that the wine stains could actually be blood. He also noted that he pulled back the covers on the bed, finding reddish-brown stains on the mattress and running down to the floor.
He then called 911 to report the discovery of evidence that suggested a violent crime had occurred. Police arrived later that day to conduct a test on the reddish-brown stains, which came back positive for human blood.
As officials were on the scene on Nov. 9, a neighbor approached an investigating detective stating that she had called 911 on Nov. 1 to report a male screaming "Oh, my God!" in the hallway. Based on police records, that call came in around 7:56 p.m. Police responded but could not locate the persons involved.
Officials executed a search warrant on Nov. 10, where investigators seized evidence such as the bedding, DNA swabs, a laptop computer and security footage. The footage shows Haden leaving the apartment with then-unidentified male on Halloween evening.
Based on a receipt found in the apartment also dated Oct. 31, investigators believe Haden may have traveled to Whole Foods at the Domain on that day. Officials obtained footage showing Haden and the then-unidentified male at Whole Foods together, where the unidentified male is seen handling their bag of groceries.
Apartment video shows them both arriving later that evening at the residence, where the man is seen holding what appeared to be the same bag.
Later that evening, police said the footage shows both men leaving the residence in what appears to be "Game of Thrones"-themed costumes at around 8:35 p.m. They return the next morning at 1:44 a.m.
On Nov. 1, surveillance footage shows a man wearing a long-sleeve white hoodie, white pants, blue latex gloves and what appears to be a medical mask over his face exiting the apartment around 3:03 p.m. The man is also carrying two large trash bags in one hand and what appears to be a cardboard box and crushed brown paper in the other. Police noted that he kept his head down and face turned away from the camera. He's later seen walking inside the parking garage and back toward Haden's apartment with his face still concealed.
Later, at around 4 p.m., the same man exits the complex dragging a large blue plastic tote bin with a large black duffle bag on top. Officials said he appears to struggle with the items, which led investigators to believe that they were likely quite heavy.
Garage footage shows a blue, 2-door Honda sedan with no rear bumper driving into the garage at 5:11 p.m. The trunk is open with a large plastic tote inside, matching what was described previously. It parks in a guest parking space.
At 5:12 p.m., the same male walks from the vehicle to Haden's apartment. He then exits the garage in the Honda at 5:16 p.m. with the tote still visible.
Using Haden's phone records, investigators discovered one of the last known contacts to him was Gavin Roberts. Upon calling Roberts, documents state that he told police that he last spoke to Haden on Nov. 1 on the phone and that he went to drop off a set of kitchen knives, but Haden was not home when he arrived, so he left. Police noted this did not match what was seen in surveillance footage.
After searching records, police noted that Roberts is the owner of a blue 2007 Honda Civic with a Colorado license plate. The vehicle was later spotted at a McDonald's on Nov. 1 at 7:46 p.m. in Jarrell with the same plastic tote still in the trunk.
On Nov. 17, the APD announced it was searching for a person of interest in the case. The person of interest was described as follows:
- 25-35 years of age
- 5 feet, 8 inches tall
- 140 pounds
- Brown hair
- Tattoo on left forearm
- Last seen wearing black pants and a gray shirt
The APD also provided a description of the person of interest's car:
- 2-door, blue, Honda Civic
- No rear bumper
- No front license plate
- No registration sticker on the windshield
On Nov. 18, police said Roberts called the missing persons line to report that he saw his photo on the news and wanted to speak with detectives about Haden. He reported that he drove the Honda back to Colorado on Nov. 15 and that he was currently in Denver. Police said he admitted to going to Whole Foods with Haden and going out at the Domain that night in their costumes. He said they then spent the night at Haden's apartment.
Regarding the plastic bin seen on camera the following day, Roberts stated that it contained miscellaneous items, such as full beer cans, which he said he later dropped off at a friend's house for safekeeping and later picked up to take with him to Colorado. Police noted that he could not explain why he exited the apartment wearing latex gloves.
Court documents state that when a detective asked Roberts at the time if he disposed of Haden's body, he responded, "If you want to assume that, yeah." When asked about the inconsistencies in his statements and video surveillance, Roberts then reportedly said he was late for a meeting and asked to call back in an hour. He then ended the phone call and did not call back.
On Nov. 23, the U.S. Marshals confirmed that Roberts had been arrested in Thornton, Colorado. He was later charged with the first-degree felony of murder and a second-degree felony charge of tampering with a corpse. He was booked into the Travis County Jail on Dec. 13.
According to an affidavit obtained by KVUE on Dec. 13, Roberts admitted to police that he stabbed Haden in the neck and chest, then hit him in the face several times with a cast iron skillet after an argument the two had at Haden's apartment.
"They confess that they committed the ultimate act that caused the death, but they have some type of justification or reasoning behind committing that act. Here, Mr. Roberts says he was acting in self-defense," said Charlie Baird, a former Travis County District Court Judge in reference to Roberts' confession.
Roberts also told police that after he killed Haden, he went to a nearby coffee shop before returning to the apartment to clean up and load the body into his car.
APD Chief Joseph Chacon told KVUE that he has been informed about the initial police response in Haden's disappearance and that the department is reviewing officers' actions.
"Right now, I do not have enough information to comment further. I am aware of it, and we are actively looking into it," he said.