The sheriff in the small Florida town, rocked by a triple teen murder, today vowed to track down the third suspect in the murders.
“I’ll get him,” Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said at a news conference as he revealed that Christopher Atkins, 12, and Robert Robinson, 17, had been arrested in connection with the murders outside Ocklawaha, Florida.
Layla Silvernail, 16, Camille Quarles, 16, and an unidentified 17-year-old boy were shot together in a car last week before being discovered dumped in several places within a 5-mile radius over the span of three days.
Woods explained that the victims and the alleged killers were all “connected in some way to a gang” involved in a spate of robberies and burglaries.
“There is no honor among thieves, and at some point these individuals turned on and killed our three victims,” the officer said. He said the three suspects “fleeed the scene but left behind a lot of evidence.”
Woods fought back tears when he described having to “stare the mothers of the young suspects in the eyes.” He said, “I put myself in the shoes of those mothers because I heard one of them say, ‘I wish I had known what these did and who they were, because my child would never have interacted with them.’
Christopher Atkins, 12, and Robert Robinson, 17, remain in custody on charges related to the murder of three Florida teenagers
A third perpetrator, Tahj Brewton, is wanted by police in connection with the shooting
Detectives were able to determine that prior to their murders, the three teenage victims were together in a Silvernail-owned vehicle before being dumped at different locations over a three-day period.
A witness at the time heard a series of gunfire, leading detectives to believe the teens were all killed at the same time, the sheriff said.
Sixteen-year-old Silvernail was still alive when she was discovered last Thursday night, shot in the head and left in a dumpster near Forest Lakes Park. She later died in hospital.
The gruesome discovery was followed hours later when an unnamed 17-year-old victim was found on the side of a road less than a mile away. A third victim, 16-year-old Camille Quarles, was found Saturday in Silvernail’s car, which was partially submerged in a pond.
After revealing that Quarles was in the trunk of the car, Sheriff Woods said cell phone evidence suggested she was in the vehicle “of her own free will.”
The arrested suspects confessed to shooting Quales in the vehicle, Woods said. They obtained guns from car thefts, he explained, but declined to comment on the number of guns used in the murders.
When asked about the motive, Woods said, “We have nothing to say that rivalry or anything like that was the cause. However, each of them was somehow connected to a gang. … There is no honor among thieves, and at some point these individuals turned on our three victims and killed them.”
Woods sometimes became emotional when he described having to “gaze into the eyes” of the suspects’ mothers, who were “willing to give their sons everything” before their arrest on Thursday.
“I’m a father and I can’t fathom what they went through,” he said. “These mothers and the mothers in this country need all your help because this is what enrages me.
‘The fact is: society is letting them down. We do not hold our youth accountable. We minimize their actions,” he said.
He went on to argue that stricter gun laws would not have prevented the tragedy. “There are people watching … who want to blame the one thing that is incapable or incapable of committing the crime itself, and that is the gun,” Woods added.
Layla Silvernail, 16, was shot in the head and left in a dumpster but was still alive. She later died in hospital, before police found two more teenage victims: a 17-year-old boy and another 16-year-old girl.
Camille Quarles, 16, was found on Saturday in Silvernail’s car, which was partially submerged in a pond
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods announced at a news conference Friday morning that arrests had been made
Woods said the alleged murders by the three young boys were messy and they left evidence all over the place.
The arrest of the suspects comes after the proximity of the victims’ bodies initially raised fears that a serial killer was on the loose in the small town of Ocklawaha, but police were quick to rule that theory out.
An urgent investigation was launched following the gruesome discoveries, with law enforcement officials describing the killings as an “isolated incident.”
The sheriff told Fox News Digital on Thursday that he was investigating multiple suspects in the case, adding that he believes the perpetrators knew the victims.
“There are several suspects. More than two,” he said, insisting the suspects may be gang related.
After Silvernail and Quarles were identified as the victims, the third victim’s identity has not been released as their family enacted their right to the Marsy Act, which allows crime victims or their families to request that their names be concealed from public records .
As rumors swirled as the murders made headlines in the small Florida town, Woods called for calm during the investigation, insisting that the idea of a serial killer on the loose is “far from the truth.”
“I know this is a very tight-knit community and many of you are very concerned,” he said.
“Someone out there knows something. We want you to have truthful information and not hearsay.’
Silvernail was found, still alive, in this dumpster in Marion, County Florida
This is the location where a schoolgirl found one of the 17-year-old victims on her way to school
One of the unidentified victims was later found to have been wearing all black clothing with a black mask covering his face when he was found dead.
The 17-year-old boy was sprawled on the side of a dirt road where a student says she stumbled across the horror on her way to a school bus early Friday morning.
“I was walking with my brother and I found the man… he wasn’t breathing,” the student, who would only give her name as Khatia, told DailyMail.com.
He was lying on his side wearing a black hoodie, black shirt, black pants and black shoes. He had the hoodie over his head and he had a black mask over his face. I couldn’t see his face. You could only see his eyes.’
Layla Silvernail’s friends and family have paid a heartbreaking tribute to the teen, who they say was “taken from us too soon and will be greatly missed”
Silvernail was described as a talented softball player by her friends and relatives
Camille Quarles was found in the trunk of Silvernail’s car, but Sheriff Woods claimed she was in the car ‘of her own free will’
Tributes have poured in for Silvernail after she was named as the first victim in the case.
The 16-year-old was described by her friends and family as a talented softball star. Her family decided to donate her organs “so she can help others in the wake of this tragedy,” the teen’s softball league wrote on its fundraising page.
“She is the definition of a team player and a great athlete,” they said.
“She loved softball, was a great pitcher, and could play any position her team needed. She lifted all her teammates!
“She was taken from us far too soon and will be sorely missed.”