3rd suspect arrested in connection with toddler killed in Athens

Kyron Zarco, 3, was shot and killed on March 8.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Kyron Zarco, 3, was shot and killed on March 8.

A third person has been arrested in connection with a March shooting that killed a 3-year-old Athens boy and left the community calling for an end to gang violence.

Desmontrez Mathis, 22, was arrested Thursday in Augusta and faces multiple charges, including felony murder and malice murder, after Kyron Zarco was killed as he watched TV with his 9-year-old brother on March 8. The details of Mathis’ involvement were not released.

On the day of the shooting, Athens-Clarke County police were called to the Hallmark Mobile Home Park on Spring Valley Road and found both Kyron and his brother shot.

While Kyron died at the scene, his brother was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

“His brother held him while he took his last breath,” Kyron’s mother, Shanita Smith, told Channel 2 Action News. “That was my miracle baby. That was my COVID baby. He beat all the odds, just for somebody to take him away from me in seconds.”

According to authorities, the gunfire came from outside the home and evidence suggests it was gang-related.

Days after the shooting, more than 100 community members gathered for a balloon release in honor of Kyron, wearing baby blue shirts featuring his nickname, Baby Dro. Athens Commissioner Tiffany Taylor and police Chief Jerry Saulters were also there and expressed their concerns.

“We don’t carry our babies nine months just to bury them at 3 and 4 years old,” Taylor said to the crowd. “We don’t carry our babies nine months just to visit them in the prison system for the rest of their lives. We’ve got to take accountability as mamas, as fathers, as community leaders.”

Hundreds attended a balloon release in honor of Kyron Zarco on Wednesday March 13, 2024 at the Heard Park in Athens.

Credit: Fletcher Page

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Credit: Fletcher Page

In addition to the murder charges, Mathis also faces four counts of aggravated assault and violation of the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. Mathis also faces a federal charge for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Details of that charge were not provided.

Two other suspects, 17-year-old Julian Cubillos and 16-year-old Jayden Brown were arrested in March and face the same charges as Mathis. Police are still searching for a fourth suspect, 18-year-old Dakious Echols.

According to an arrest warrant previously obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cubillos provided transportation for other “individuals to intentionally shoot” at two people. The warrant did not state if Kyron, his brother or anyone else in the home were the intended targets.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Sgt. Scott Black at 762-400-7058 or by email at scott.black@accgov.com. Tipsters can remain anonymous by submitting tips to Crime Stoppers at 706-705-4775. A reward of up to $2,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest of the Echols.