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Investigators searching suspect's computer in 2011 murder at Kilgore adult store

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KILGORE/GREGG COUNTY (KYTX) - More details have emerged in the ongoing Kilgore Police Department investigation into the murder of Renee Garrett at an adult video store in January 2011.

Kilgore investigator Trae Portwood obtained a search warrant Friday for two Dell laptop computers allegedly taken from the store during the Jan. 10, 2011, robbery and murder of Garrett, who was working as a store clerk.

The computers are at Kilgore Police Department tonight, after they were confiscated from the suspect's mother.

On Feb. 23, 2012, a Gregg County grand jury returned a two-count indictment for Samantha Gonzales Lara, 22, of Kilgore. The indictment contained one count for murder and one count for aggravated robbery.

According to the search warrant obtained from the Gregg County Clerk's Office in Longview, Kilgore Adult Video and DVD store owner Robert Duggan and manager Amy Foster said currency, a digital video recording device and a laptop computer were taken during the robbery. Duggan and Foster told investigators that Lara was a former store employee who was fired, but was seen at the store on Jan. 9, 2011 -- one day before the murder - according to the warrant.

"Detectives recovered video from Star-Tex, located just east of the business where the crime occurred," Portwood wrote in Friday's search warrant. The video from Star-Tex showed video of an SUV used in the crime, according to the warrant.

Investigators interviewed Lara Aug. 30, 2011, and she said was involved in the robbery, but she was "unable and unwilling to identify the male suspects," according to the warrant. She also said her olive green 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee was used in the incident, according to the warrant.

After Lara was booked into the Gregg County Jail on Feb. 24, 2011, she made a phone call to "an unknown individual," in which a jail supervisor overheard Lara instruct the person to wait until her husband had left her house, "then go in the house, and in a metal box under Samantha Lara's night stand there are three DVDs" that she wanted destroyed, according to the warrant.

More than 17 months after Lara was indicted, arrested and charged with Garrett's death, Portwood interviewed Lara in the presence of her attorney. According to the warrant, Lara said only she and her husband, Juan Isaias Lara, were the only two people involved in the robbery, and that her husband fatally shot Garrett. She went on to say she told two people about the incident, including her mother, Charlotte Sherman.

On Aug. 7, Portwood interviewed Sherman, who confirmed that her daughter said she was involved in the homicide, and that she was holding a laptop for her daughter and son-in-law "because Samantha Lara told her that there was information related to the murder on the computer," according to the warrant. The laptop was voluntarily surrendered to investigators, who obtained a warrant Friday to search the equipment.

The following was released by Kilgore Police Department on Feb. 24, 2011:

On Feb. 23, 2012, a Gregg County grand jury returned a two-count indictment for Samantha Gonzales Lara, 22, of Kilgore. The indictment contained one count for murder and one count for aggravated robbery.

The indictment was a result of an ongoing investigation into the murder of Renee Garrett by the Kilgore Police Department. Renee Garrett was murdered during a store robbery on January 10, 2011 while employed as a clerk at the Kilgore Adult Video Store, 1907 Industrial Ave., Kilgore, Texas. The Kilgore Police Department has been actively investigating this crime along with assistance from the FBI, Texas Rangers, Smith County Sheriff's Office Crime Scene Unit and the Gregg County District Attorney's Office. During the course of the investigation, Samantha Lara was established as a suspect in the murder and robbery.

On Friday, February 24, 2012 at 4:14 p.m. Samantha Lara was arrested at her residence by Kilgore Police Detectives. Lara was transported and booked into the Gregg County Jail. At the time of this press release no bond has been set. The investigation is continuing and further arrests are anticipated.

If anyone has information in regards to the murder of Renee Garrett please contact Kilgore Police Department Detective Trae Portwood at 903-983-1559. You may also give information anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at 903-236-STOP. A reward of $15,000.00 has been established by the Gregg County Video Corporation for information leading to the arrest of person(s) responsible for this crime.

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