Three juveniles, aged 12, 16, and 17, have been arrested as suspects in the murders of three other teens.
At an April 7 press conference, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said his department had received a phone call from the Forest Lakes Park area on Thursday, March 30. When deputies arrived, they found 16-year-old Layla Silvernail laying on the side of the road. She had been shot. She was transferred to a local hospital where she later died of her injuries.
According to an April 3 Marion County Sheriff Department Facebook post, Silvernail was found on SE 183rd Avenue Road.
“The following morning, deputies responded to SE 94th Street and SE 188th Court in reference to a 17-year-old male lying beside the road, and he was found to be deceased from a gunshot wound,” the Sheriff’s department said during a press conference. This was about a half-mile away from where Silvernail was found.
Woods said deputies located Silvernail’s 2015 Chevy Cruze on Saturday, April 1, “abandoned and partially submerged in a pond about nine miles from the location” where Silvernail was located.
A third victim, 16-year-old Camille Quarles, was found in the trunk. She too had been fatally shot.
Woods then thanked those who came together “in an almost perfect collaboration” to solve the case.
Those entities include the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Marshalls Service, Ocala Police Department, his own deputies, detectives, forensic professionals, Marion County’s citizens, and, in his opinion, “probably the best State Attorney in the State of Florida for the Fifth Judicial Circuit, Bill Gladson’s assistant State Attorneys.”
Woods also thanked the media who helped his department by getting information.
‘No Honor Among Thieves’
According to Woods, “Investigators were able to determine that this group of juveniles was involved in committing burglaries and robberies, which they referred to a ‘lick.’” He added that each one of the suspects as well as the victims were associated with a gang “in some shape or form.”
“Basically, in simple terms, there is no honor among thieves,” Woods said. “And at some point, these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them.”
Two of the apprehended suspects—17-year-old Robert Le’Andrew Robinson and 12 -year-old Christopher De’l Atkins—were pictured on screen during a press conference.
Woods addressed efforts to “blame the one thing that has no ability or the capacity to commit the crime itself, and that’s the gun.”
“The bad guy’s going to get a gun no matter what laws you put in place,” Woods said later.
“These individuals committed the crime,” Woods asserted.
Woods also suggested that juvenile crime is a failure of society.
“We do not hold our juveniles accountable,” he said. “We minimize their actions,” a response he called “a disservice and frankly stupid.”
Woods also addressed negligence in the education system.
“Our school districts—not just here, across this state and across this nation—need to stop minimizing the actions of their students,” he admonished. “Hold them accountable. That’s where the failure is.”
A photo of the third suspect—16-year-old Tahj Brewton—was then shown on the screen.
“Some of you know him, ” Woods said, addressing the viewers. “You know where he is and you need to turn him in.”
According to reports, the U.S. Marshals, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced a combined offer of a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Brewton, who they considered “armed and dangerous.”
According to a Facebook post from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Brewton was captured by the U.S. Marshals Service the next day, April 8, with assistance from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
Marion County’s Facebook page also revealed that Brewton was arrested on outstanding warrants for carjacking with a firearm, aggravated assault, grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or attempt to elude a law enforcement officer, and tampering with an electronic monitoring device.
Juveniles and The Law
As previously reported by The Epoch Times, 27 states—including Florida—have no minimum age for juvenile adjudication. Prosecutors and judges in these states often have discretion—based on the severity of the crime, accountability of the child offender, and any safety concerns the juvenile may pose to the public—as to whether a minor will be prosecuted through juvenile courts or be remanded to social service systems.
North Carolina, the state with the lowest set minimum age for which a minor can be tried in juvenile court, has set this age at 6 years old. California, Massachusetts, and Utah have the highest minimum age requirement, which is 12 years old.
There are 23 states, including Florida, that have no set minimum age for which a child offender can be transferred from juvenile to adult court. Iowa and Wisconsin have the lowest set age minimum at 10 years. California’s minimum, set at 16 years, is the highest.
According to the website of the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Rudenberg & Glasser, “The state of Florida only allows prosecutors to decide whether a juvenile will be tried as an adult; this is called direct file. In direct file, the minimum age a minor can be tried as an adult is 14 years old. However, no minimum age is set for capital offenses, which are offenses punishable with the death penalty or life imprisonment.”
According to Florida Statute 985.557, direct file is an option “when in the state attorney’s judgment and discretion the public interest requires that adult sanctions be considered or imposed and when the offense charged is for the commission of, attempt to commit, or conspiracy to commit” any one of 19 severe crimes, such as arson, sexual battery, and murder.
Michael Glasser, cofounding attorney at R&G focused on the crime rather than the age of the perpetrators.
“Generally, in my experience, the state prefers to charge people accused of murder as adults, whether they’re minors or not,” Glasser told The Epoch Times in a statement.
The Epoch Times has reached out to State Attorney Gladson’s office for comment.
“Our office and State Attorney Gladson have been in constant communication with the Sheriff’s Office regarding this horrible crime and will aggressively pursue the prosecution of all the involved defendants,” Cindy Harper, Division Chief for the Office of the State Attorney, Fifth Judicial Circuit responded in a statement by email. “Given the recency of the arrest and the fact that we have not yet filed formal charges, we are limited in what we can publicly comment on at this time. Accordingly, Mr. Gladson is not doing any interviews or releasing any statement on the case at this point. However; as I said, we will aggressively pursue the prosecution of all defendants responsible for these heinous crimes. I expect we will release a statement when our office files formal charges.”