Indictment in high-profile homicide is latest move in years-old case

A man incarcerated in a state correctional facility was indicted on murder Wednesday in the 2018 homicide of a 16-year-old girl in Fairfield Twp., the latest high-profile, years-past case to see charges brought in Butler County.

Markeylnd Townsend, 22, is accused of killing Sydney Garcia-Tovar of Hamilton in July 2018 and firing at others in the vehicle she was driving. He was arrested two weeks later on an unrelated aggravated robbery charge in Hamilton and sentenced in April 2019 to three years in prison on the second-degree felony.

According to court records, Townsend was charged after he took money and marijuana from the victim, but he claimed the victim stole from him and he was attempting to take the items back when a witness saw the crime. Townsend attempted to hit the victim with a handgun, according to the 2018 Hamilton police report.

Townsend is now charged with murder with a gun specification, which adds years to a sentence if he is found guilty, for Garcia-Tovar’s slaying. A felonious assault charge alleges Townsend fired a gun into a car full of people that included Garcia-Tovar at the wheel. Passenger Joseph Goolsby, 21, was also shot and has recovered from his injuries. The felonious assault charge also carries a gun specification.

Arraignment is set for May 5 in Butler County Common Pleas Court Judge Greg Howard’s courtroom.

This case is the latest example of charges filed in older cases. The persistence paid off as “people finally started cooperating,” said Fairfield Twp. police Sgt. Brandon McCroskey.

Some cases catch a break by luck.

An arrest in the 2016 Hamilton homicide of Jaylon Knight ― a Fairfield High School senior found dead in a car on Charles Street ― was made nearly five years later in December 2020 because of a traffic stop. The suspect, Mychel King, was a passenger in a vehicle when he was taken into custody. The case against King, who faces five counts including murder and aggravated murder, is still being adjudicated in Butler County Common Pleas court.

There are even older cases in the county that haven’t been solved.

McCroskey said the investigation into Garcia-Tovar’s homicide remains active and cannot comment if investigators are looking at anyone else related to this murder investigation.

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said two groups of people are believed to have met up in the parking lot of an apartment complex for criminal activity and Garcia-Tovar was shot in the back of the head while she was driving away from the gunfire.

Credit: Provided

Credit: Provided

Garcia-Tovar was fatally shot at about 10:25 p.m. inside the car outside the Tyler’s Creek Apartments on Wildbranch Road in Fairfield Twp. She was transported to UC Medical Center in Cincinnati by medical helicopter and was pronounced dead the next day.

Stephanie Garcia-Tovar said the arrest in her daughter’s homicide is both a relief and the start of a new, stressful journey. She said she knew an indictment was coming soon, but hearing Townsend had been indicted made it real, she said.

“It wasn’t really a shock to me. When you actually see it, it’s more like, ‘Oh, crap’ it’s real and it’s on,” she said. “It is starting a whole new journey in her case. And it’s more raw, it’s like going back to the very beginning. The whole thing has taken a toll on me mentally, emotionally and physically.”

Garcia-Tovar said she is thankful for McCroskey and his partner for the hard work during the investigation.

“Sydney’s case was not just another file on their desk, they worked relentlessly and they tried to keep me in the loop as much as possible,” she said.

The mother said her daughter did not know any of the people involved in what was happening the night she died.

“I know she had a brain because she was trying to get away ...,” Garcia-Tovar said.

She added she is always “wondering what she (Sydney) could have been. It really hurts.”

Townsend’s expected prison release date for the robbery charge is March 7, 2022. At a March 2021 parole hearing, it was recommended he be paroled prior to his prison term ending, which could have been up to six months before his expected release date.

Townsend petitioned Butler County Common Please Judge Michael Oster, who presided over his robbery case, for an early release. It was denied.