ATLANTA - Instead of prison, the FOX 5 I-Team tracked down what accused killer Jayden Myrick was doing in the months leading up to the murder: helping rehab a home in Southwest Atlanta under the supervision of a non-profit diversion program called Visions Unlimited. These pictures show Myrick cracking concrete with a sledgehammer in the backyard.
Myrick is charged with the shooting death of Christian Broder, a Washington D.C. restaurant owner in town for a wedding at the Capitol Club. While waiting for an Uber ride after the ceremony, Broder was robbed, shot in the stomach and later died.
Myrick is 17 years old. When he was 14, he was implicated in an armed robbery and spent more than two years in juvenile detention. Rather than send him to adult prison, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs last year referred Myrick to a diversion program. He was in that program at the time of Broder's murder.
"My reaction was anger," declared Leonard Dungee, son of Visions Unlimited's founder and the main mentor for the program. "I was angry at the situation. I was angry at him. He knows better."
The last time Leonard Dungee laid eyes on Myrick, the teenager was struggling to learn construction at that renovated home in Southwest Atlanta. It was part of his program to get tough love, real structure and eventually a GED from Visions Unlimited.
Instead, Myrick is looking at the possibility of prison for decades, if not the rest of his life. Meanwhile, a family grieves over a father and a husband they will never see again.
"It's just tragic," agreed Dungee. "It's not what we do. It's not what we're about it. At the same time, we can't be everywhere all the time."
Myrick lasted only two weeks at the job site before the non-profit decided he'd be better off just going to school each day, classes taught by the non-profit's founder Gwendolyn Sands in local libraries around Atlanta. They say he never missed a day, right up until the weekend of the murder.
"My mom's devastated by this situation," Dungee explained. "She looks at these youth like her own."
He says Myrick never mouthed off. Was always respectful. He was on track to get his GED.
"We are no way responsible for the decisions he made," stressed Ms. Sands. She said she had turned over all her records on Myrick to the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.
But the murder has brought rare scrutiny to Visions Unlimited. The IRS revoked its charity status after multiple years of missed tax returns. Dungee says the family-run organization stopped taking donations and funds the program on their own. He says all their services are free.
Dungee uses participants to help in his home restoration company, but he says each is paid $10 an hour. They learn skills to get fulltime jobs after they complete the program. Among the hundreds of people who have come through the program, he says Myrick set off no red flags.
"This wasn't his line of interest," he explained. "He didn't want to be in construction. So I don't want to make him do something he doesn't want to do. There's another path for him. Or there was another path for him."