MARION COUNTY, Fla. – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office released an image of the vehicle that three teens found shot to death were believed to be in before they were killed.
In a Facebook video posted Wednesday, Sheriff Billy Woods shared a photo of a white Chevrolet Cruze that belonged to 16-year-old Layla Silvernail, who was found on the side of the road Thursday last week 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 following 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 the Chevrolet Cruze, which was partially submerged near Malauka Loop and Malauka Loop Trace.
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Woods said the three victims were friends and were “together leading up to the incident itself.” In an interview with CNN, the sheriff said the teens were believed to be in the car, but he did not say whether they were all shot at the same time.
The sheriff’s office confirmed to News 6 there are more than two suspects. The sheriff’s office also said it is believed the suspects drove off in the vehicle from the location the first teen was found.
In the interview with CNN, the sheriff said there are “good leads to a couple suspects that hopefully will lead us to an arrest.”
“We have a pretty good idea at some point in the investigation when evidence, testimony, witnesses -- all that begins to line up, and we’re confident that an arrest will be forthcoming,” he said.
He said the vehicle was seen in the area of Forest Lakes Park near SE 93rd Place and SE 183rd Avenue Road on Thursday, March 30, around 10:40 p.m. Then, the car was found at 1 p.m. near Malauka Loop and Maluaka Loop Trace.
Woods told News 6 on Thursday said witnesses saw the white Chevrolet Cruze near the area where Silvernail’s body was found.
“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.
“I also mentioned that one of the key pieces of evidence, which we have, is we have surveillance video that depicts our victim’s car just moments prior to the event and the moment just after the event,” he added.
He urged people to call in with any tips or information.
“Somebody has seen something, somebody has been around. Not only if they saw something, if they got, if they live in the neighborhood that have like Ring cameras on the exterior of their homes, if they have any of that reach out to us,” Woods said.
Earlier this week, the sheriff said a tip was being investigated that the deaths were possibly tied to “hybrid gang” activity.
“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.
A GoFundMe organized by the softball community for Silvernail, who was described as a gifted player, said in an update that the teen showed no sign of brain activity and her family planned to donate her organs to help others.
This week, Woods discredited a couple of rumors he said were circulating social media, including claims that 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.”
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