MARION COUNTY, Fla –A teen and a pre-teen have been arrested and authorities are searching for a third juvenile suspect in connection with a shocking triple homicide in Florida that left a trio of teenagers dead in a rural area of the state last week, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced on Friday.
Sheriff Billy Woods said the victims and the accused killers were known to each other prior to authorities discovering the string of bodies. The emotional sheriff said the group of six individuals had been participating in burglaries before the homicidal violence exploded, the New York Times reported.
“There’s no honor among thieves,” Woods said. “At some point, these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them.” The sheriff also promised, “I’ll get him,” when speaking of a third murder suspect who remains on the run.
The sheriff’s office provided the following investigative overview:
On Thursday, March 30, 2023, at approximately 10:52 pm, Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies responded to the area of Forest Lakes Park on SE 183rd Avenue Road in response to an injured female laying on the side of the road suffering from a gunshot wound.
The victim, later identified as Layla Silvernail (DOB: 10/31/2006), was transported to a hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries. The following morning, March 31, 2023, at approximately 7:55 am, deputies responded to SE 94th Street and SE 188th Court in response to a report of another person lying on the side of the road. When deputies responded, they discovered a male juvenile deceased from an apparent gunshot wound. On Saturday, April 1, 2023, at approximately 12:28 pm, following up on a tip, deputies located Layla Silvernail’s vehicle abandoned and partially submerged in a small pond near Ocklawaha, Florida. The vehicle was approximately 9 miles away from the location where Layla Silvernail was located. When detectives searched the vehicle, they located a female juvenile victim deceased from an apparent gunshot wound.
Through various investigative techniques and numerous tips from citizens, detectives were able to develop three suspects in this case. Robert Le’Andrew Robinson (DOB: 12/31/2005), Christopher De’l Atkins (DOB: 6/21/2010) and Tahj Brewton (DOB: 6/15/2006). Robinson and Atkins have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder while Brewton is still at large.
Sheriff Woods stated, “This investigation has been a success because of several factors. Our law enforcement partners with the FBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, State Attorney Bill Gladson’s Office, FDLE, the Ocala Police Department, my deputies, detectives, and forensics professionals, and finally, our citizens who provided numerous tips all along the way.”
MCSO declined to give a detailed timeline of events, but said all six juveniles were traveling in Silvernail’s vehicle together at some point.
The sheriff said a witness heard gunshots, and investigators believe the victims were likely killed at the same time.
Layla Silvernail’s body was dumped on the side of the road. (Courtesy of family)
Robert Robinson, 17, was taken into custody while he was being detained at a juvenile facility Thursday due to participating in a brawl at his school. Christopher Atkins, 12, (he will turn 13 in June) was picked up at his home. The third suspect, Tahj Brewton, 16, remains outstanding.
Woods said all six of the teens had gang affiliations and had participated in crimes together prior to the homicides taking place.
Although investigators are still trying to determine why the killers turned on their cohorts in crime, they believe robbery likely played a role. Furthermore, the sheriff laid to rest any fears that a serial killer was on the loose.
Woods also said the gun that was used in the murders was taken during a vehicle burglary.
As a segment of society clamors for more guns laws following something of this magnitude, the sheriff pointed out that additional firearm statutes do not prevent crimes.
“The gun laws we have in place didn’t prevent it,” he said of the triple homicide. “Neither will any new ones. Because here’s the fact. The bad guy is going to get the gun no matter what laws you have in place.”
Woods urged the public to be alert as Brewton remains on the run, and asked citizens to notify the sheriff’s office with information regarding his whereabouts.