MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a tip that the shooting deaths of three teens is possibly tied to “hybrid gang” activity, according to the sheriff.
Sheriff Billy Woods said the three teens were friends and were “together leading up to the incident itself.”
“There’s information that we’re being given that there’s a possibility of hybrid gangs, and that’s about it. I can’t tell you who’s associated, what gangs associated with or anything like that,” he said.
The three teens were found on Thursday, Friday and Saturday in different locations in rural Marion County. A 16-year-old girl, Layla Silvernail, was found shot on the side of the road Thursday in the area of the Forest Lakes Park neighborhood on SE 183rd Avenue Road. She was taken to a hospital in critical condition, where she later died, according to the sheriff’s office.
The next morning, a 17-year-old boy, whose name has not been released, was found shot to death less than a mile away near SE 94th Street and SE 188th Court.
The sheriff’s office said another teen, a 16-year-old girl, was found dead with a gunshot wound on Saturday in a vehicle partially submerged near Malauka Loop and Malauka Loop Trace. The vehicle belonged to Silvernail, according to deputies.
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The sheriff also said there are persons of interest in the case but did not specify how many, saying, “I can tell you it’s more than one.”
Woods discredited a couple of rumors he said were circulating social media, including claims a serial killer is the culprit.
“That is far from the truth. Now, I have the facts of what we know right now and I can give you that assurance, so do not speculate on social media. Because one of the things I want each of you to think of and try to remember when you start to type is that there are family members out there reading it,” he said in a Facebook video. “And some of you, you make s*** up. And it’s devastating to that family, and you need to stop.”
The sheriff’s office provided an image on Wednesday of the vehicle belonging to Silvernail.
The sheriff also said that there’s no information to indicate additional victims.
Anyone with information is asked to call 352-368-3542 or call Crimeline to remain anonymous at 352-368-7867.
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