NATIONAL NEWS

12-year-old among suspects in killing of 3 teens in Florida

Apr 7, 2023, 11:20 AM | Updated: 4:00 pm

OCALA, Fla. (AP) — A teenager and a 12-year-old have been charged in the deaths of three teens whose bodies were found along a Florida roadside and in the trunk of a partially-submerged vehicle, authorities said Friday. Another teen is being sought.

Law enforcement officials were “shocked” by the young ages of the victims and alleged killers, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said at a news conference. The older suspect in custody is 17, and police are still searching for a 16-year-old.

The two suspects in custody are charged with first-degree murder. The state attorney’s office is reviewing the case to determine whether the suspects will be charged as adults. The Associated Press does not publish the names of juveniles unless they have been charged with adult crimes.

The shooting suspects and victims were all in a vehicle belonging to 16-year-old victim Layla Silvernail when the killings occurred, Woods said. Authorities have not released the names of the other two victims, a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old boy. Woods said the three who died were in the vehicle on their own free will.

The night of the March 30 shooting, deputies found Silvernail on the side of a road in rural Marion County in northern Florida. She later died from a gunshot wound, the sheriff said.

The next morning, deputies were called to a nearby location where a teenage boy was found dead, also from a gunshot wound, Woods said.

On April 1, investigators found Silvernail’s vehicle partially submerged in a small pond near Ocklawaha, about 9 miles (14 km) from where the bodies were found. They searched the vehicle and found a teen girl dead in the trunk.

He said all of the youths were involved in gangs, but authorities have nothing specific pointing to a rivalry. “However, in some shape or another, each were associated with a gang,” the sheriff said.

“At some point these three individuals turned on our three victims,” Woods said. “They fled the scenes, but left a lot of evidence in their wake.”

Woods said the two suspects confessed to shooting the victim found in the vehicle’s trunk. Woods said the teens got the guns while breaking into cars, but he didn’t provide many other details about the shootings or how many guns were involved.

Woods noted the quick actions of law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Marshal’s Office and the Ocala Police Department in solving the crime. He also commended local citizens for providing tips that led to the two arrests.

Woods said the 12-year-old was arrested March 31 by Ocala police following an “affray” at school, and he was already in custody when charges were filed in the teens’ slayings. The 17-year-old suspect was arrested at his home Thursday night.

Woods expressed frustration that juveniles are not being held accountable for their actions.

“We need to hold them accountable and then hope that we can change them,” he said. “They deserve the full extent of the law,”

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12-year-old among suspects in killing of 3 teens in Florida