A man accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend's twin daughters in an alleged domestic violence incident in Lemon Grove appeared in court via video conference Monday to face murder charges.
Dwayne Edward Groves Jr., 38, pleaded not guilty to eight charges on Monday, including two murder charges, an attempted murder charge, two felony child abuse charges, an assault with a deadly weapon charge.
Groves, his attorney and a prosecutor spoke on a video conference call during the hearing. Groves wore a mask as he entered his plea, denying that he killed 15-year-old Caira and Leah Christopher.
In the middle of the day on April 15, witnesses reported hearing gunfire from the home on Central Avenue near New Jersey Avenue, then seeing a distraught woman run out of the home screaming that her children had been shot.
"I grabbed the little kids and ran out the back because I knew I couldn't do anything for my daughters," the woman who identified herself as the teens' mother said.
The woman said her ex-boyfriend, whom she had broken up with less than two weeks prior, had returned to her home with a gun. SDSO confirmed their suspect had a former relationship with the victims' mother.
San Diego Deputy District attorney Meredith Pro told the court on Monday that Groves had a plan when he entered the home. He first shot Ciara before proceeding to Leah's room. Another shot rang out. Pro said Groves then went to another room and pistol-whipped the girls' brother.
The judge found Groves a threat to the public and ordered him held without bail. The judge granted the twins mother and her three children protective orders; Groves was not to come within 100 yards of the family.
Groves was taken into custody about 30 minutes after the midday shooting, He was located in the backyard of a home about three blocks away and was uncooperative for a short time before turning himself in, SDSO said.
Inside the home, SDSO found the bodies of the two 15-year-old Christopher sisters. Two others, including a 22-year-old, were injured in the shooting.
The girls were described by friends and family as kind and caring. They were sophomores at Helix High School that did everything together, including playing for their school's basketball team.
Caira and Leah were “always happy and smiling, and so loved” by their friends and family, the girls' godsister, Mariah Drayton, said.
A GoFundMe account was created by Drayton to help the family with funeral arrangements. The page had raised nearly $22,000 by Monday and, according to an update on the page, the twins were laid to rest on April 30 "because of everyone's generosity." The family has kept the page open to raise additional funds for headstones.
Groves was scheduled to next appear in court on August 24.