Details emerge in teen deaths
As probable cause affidavits shed light on hours leading up to murders, family members and others struggle to comprehend what happened.
As Marion County continues to reel two weeks after being stunned by the murder of three teens allegedly at the hands of three other youngsters, more details are emerging about the hours leading up to the deadly shooting spree.
Layla Silvernail, 16, died April 4 after being shot and critically injured March 30 on SE 183rd Avenue near Forest Lakes Park, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. A 17-year-old male was found shot to death on March 31 along SE 188th Court, and Camille Quarles, a 16-year-old girl was found dead from gunshot wounds in the trunk of a partially submerged vehicle near Malauka Loop Trace.
Authorities say they are withholding the names of the one male victim based on the family’s request under Marsy’s Law, which provides protections for crime victims and their families.
Three males, ages 17, 16 and 12, are being held on charges of first-degree murder in connection to the case. The MCSO said that “at this time, the homicide investigation is ongoing and additional charges are forthcoming.”
While the investigation continues, information from arrest affidavits is shedding some light on the hours leading to the tragedy.
Thursday, March 30
An unidentified female witness told authorities she was with the teen victims as they drove around Marion County in Silvernail’s 2015 Chevrolet Cruz. They stopped at various locations, including the homes of the 12- and 17-year-old male suspects, “rapping and listening to music.”
The female friend, who would later identify the suspects and their homes to investigators, said she was dropped off at her home around 6 p.m. by the victims, who had plans to meet up again with at least two of the suspects.
The father of the unidentified male victim said that around 6 p.m. he saw his son at The Moose Lodge in Ocklawaha with Layla Silvernail and another female teen in the Chevrolet Cruz. It would be the last time the man saw his son alive.
Meanwhile, an unidentified male, who deputies say knew at least one of the victims, met around 6:30 p.m. with the 12- and 17-year-old suspects to get a gun he had arranged to buy via the social media site Snapchat. Once in the backseat of Silvernail’s vehicle, one of the suspects pistol-whipped the teen on the left cheek and then shot at him as he fled the vehicle. Nearby home surveillance video records one shot and neighbors report a white sedan leaving the area at a high speed.
At approximately 10:30 p.m., deputies responded to a call from neighbors who said they found a teenage girl bleeding on the side of the road. The teen, later identified as Silvernail, was still breathing when Marion County Fire Rescue transported her to HCA Hospital.
Neighbors reported hearing four or five pops that they believed were gunshots and then seeing a sedan speed away after hitting one of their garbage bins. A search is initiated for Silvernail’s Chevrolet Cruz.
Friday, March 31
At 8 a.m., MCSO receives a report of a dead 17-year-old male found a quarter mile from where Silvernail was found. The victim is wearing gloves, a ski mask and a hoodie covering his head and tied under his chin. The father of the teen arrives, identifies his son and tells authorities about the last time he saw his son alive.
Meanwhile, using a photographic lineup with an unidentified male who investigators say was trying to purchase guns, deputies identify two suspects: a Black male, age 12, and another Black male, age 17.
Saturday, April 1
Deputies receive a tip around 12:30 p.m. that Silvernail’s Cruz has been found partially submerged in a pond in Ocklawaha, east of Lake Weir, about 9 miles, or an 18-minute drive, from where Silvernail was found. The location also is also about a half mile from the home of the 17-year-old suspect.
After a tow company pulls the vehicle from the water, the body of a white female, age 16, is found in the trunk. Deputies move the sedan to the sheriff’s office for evidence preservation and processing. Included in the vehicle is one cell phone.
Sunday, April 2
The MCSO underwater recovery team returns to the pond body and locates two cell phones and several spent shells.
Meanwhile, the female friend of the victims who was with them prior to their deaths identified the 12- and 17-year-old suspects through a photo lineup. Investigators found the 12-year-old at his home. The affidavit said the investigators did not ask the minor questions because no adult relative was present.
Tuesday, April 4
An MCSO digital forensic technician extracts data from one of the victim’s cellphones to ascertain the dates, times and locations of the victims’ travels. Included are photos and videos from previous weeks during which at least one of the female victims is shown posing with the suspects and with firearms and ammunition.
Tuesday, April 4
Sheriff Woods holds a press conference to share that Layla Silvernail has succumbed to her injuries.
Thursday, April 6
MCSO transports the 17-year-old suspect to the sheriff’s office from a juvenile detention center, where he was being held for another incident after the murders. His mother is called to the sheriff’s office, waives their right to legal counsel and the suspect reportedly confesses.
Later that day, MCSO executed a search warrant on the 12-year-old suspect’s home and found a gun. The suspect is taken to the sheriff’s office. At around 10:30 p.m., investigators say they have obtained a confession from the minor after his mother waived his right to legal representation. The boy tells authorities he was coerced into shooting one of the victims by an older suspect who threatened to harm the 12-year-old’s family.
Friday, April 7
Woods holds an emotional press conference announcing the arrests and requesting help from the public in locating the third suspect. “At some point, these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them,’’ he said.
At the press conference, Woods indicates that all six of the teens knew each other and said they all were associated with gangs. “You know you’ve got three victims that are all juveniles. You already know that we are suspecting that it will be gang related,’’ Woods said. He added the weapon used in the shootings was obtained “from car burglaries.”
Saturday, April 8
The third suspect, a 16-year-old male, was arrested in Lake County by U.S. Marshals and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. He is being held on outstanding warrants including charges of carjacking with a firearm, aggravated assault, grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement and tampering with an electronic monitoring device. He had eluded authorities after removing an ankle bracelet he was on wearing on house arrest.
The community mourns
While the investigation continues, the families of the six teens involved struggle to comprehend how so much could go so wrong in such a short span of time.
Lisa Windsor, the grandmother of Layla Silvernail, described her as a generous and good-hearted young lady.
“She was a loving, caring person and she was my world,” Windsor said, her voice breaking with emotion. “Layla was an all-around good kid; she was never in a gang.”
Windsor said the other kids may “have used (Layla) because of her car.”
Windsor pointed to Silvernail’s passion for playing softball, noting that two weeks before she was murdered, Layla had asked Windsor to help her find a team she could join because she missed playing softball.
Silvernail, a Florida native, was living with Windsor. She was being home schooled and had completed 10th grade, with plans to complete her 11th grade studies this summer.
“Layla wanted to be an attorney,’’ Windsor said. “She absolutely would’ve been a good one. She was a good talker.’’
Windsor said she was overwhelmed by the large crowd who gathered at a vigil for her granddaughter.
Pastor David Houck, who has ministered to residents of the Ocala National Forest since 1993, knows members of at least two of the victims’ families, and spoke at the memorial.
“Layla was not a ‘gangster.’ She was a giving and generous young lady who was very involved in baseball,” he said.
Houck said Layla’s donated organs will be a great lifesaving gift to someone. He said that will be her “legacy” of generosity and a comfort to the family.
As for the reaction within the community, Houck said, “(The death of the teens) is a very sensitive issue here. There are so many stories floating around.’’
Houck operates the HELP Agency of the Forest, which provides food, clothing and other assistance to the needy, and SOZO Kids, a camp where youth can come for meals, sports, and mentoring.
“The Ocala National Forest is an amazing place with hundreds of lakes, alligators and bears,’’ he said. “Some amazing people have come out of here, but like any area, it has it’s bad neighborhoods,” he said, noting a gas station where the “meth heads come out after dark.”
Houck said he sees a heavy influence of social media among teens in the Forest area. “It’s an Instagram and TikTok type of world out here,” he said.
Houck said he sees posts of some kids “holding guns” on social media, but “they’re not in gangs.”
“They must prove themselves and it makes them the most dangerous,” he said.
Houck said his SOZO Kids (sozokids.org) is about “prevention.”