Police in central Florida say they have arrested two juveniles in the shooting deaths of three Marion County teens, found in three separate locations last week.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said detectives have identified a third suspect but have not yet located him.
Woods displayed photographs of all three suspects, with their names, but never said the names or ages during his press conference. A post on Facebook after the press conference said they were being charged with first degree murder, but it’s not clear if they’re being charged as adults. CrimeOnline will publish their names if and when they are.
WKMG said that one of the two arrested is 12-year-old and the other is 17. According to WESH, the third suspect is 16.
The sheriff said the victims and suspects had all been involved in robberies and car burglaries and “at some point these three individuals turned on our victims and murdered them.”
Woods had said earlier that investigators believed the shooting may have been gang-related, but he walked that back on Friday, saying they had no evidence to back that claim although “each and every one of them is in some shape, way, or form is associated with a gang.”
Woods told CNN earlier this week that they had “good leads to a couple suspects that hopefully will lead us to an arrest,” WKMG reported.
Woods said that witnesses saw 16-year-old Layla Silvernail’s car Thursday night shortly after 10:30 p.m. near the area where Silvernail was found critically wounded later that night.
“They heard gunshots then witnessed and saw the victim’s vehicle slowly drive into a dumpster. This is where our first victim’s body was out on the ground, and then the vehicle left the scene very rapidly,” Woods said.
Silvernail later died from her injuries, CrimeOnline previously reported. On Friday morning, a 17-year-old boy was found dead from a gunshot wound about a half mile away. And on Saturday afternoon, Silvernail’s car was found partially submerged in a pond about nine miles away with another 16-year-old girl’s body inside.
Because one of the suspects has not been apprehended, Woods said he couldn’t share as much information as he would like, although he did say that the victim who was found in Silvernail’s car was found in the trunk and that based on interviews and digital evidence — including from her cell phone — “she was there of her own free will.” He provided no other information about that.
The sheriff said the two suspects who have been arrested confessed to shooting the victim found in the trunk of the car. He said all three victims were shot at the time the witnesses reported hearing gunshots.
Woods spent much of the press conference explaining that gun safety legislation could not have prevented the murders.
“All the gun laws we got in place didn’t prevent it,” he said. “Neither will any new ones.”
These juveniles shouldn’t even possess a handgun,” he said, pointing at the photo of two of the suspects,”but they did.”
Florida law bars gun dealers from selling weapons to people under 21, but it does not prevent minors from 18 to 21 from possessing a handgun. Legislators in many states — Florida included — have been pushing to eliminate laws that prevent those under 18 from owning guns.
Woods also complained that the media would not publicize names and photos of minor suspects in crimes and blamed school districts for “minimizing the actions of their students,” saying that societal failures were the reason for gun violence.
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[Featured image: Marion County Sheriff’s Office]