The deaths of three Florida teenagers may be linked to “wannabe gangs,” the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
The teens were all friends, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said, according to The Daily Beast. And while Woods wouldn’t release any information about the teens or who potentially killed them, he did say that police have “more than one” suspect they’re looking into.
Woods added that he has assigned 15 detectives to the case. The sheriff wouldn’t go into detail about why authorities believe the teens’ deaths were linked to a “wannabe gang,” saying he couldn’t reveal a potential motive. He said it was unclear what the teens were doing when they were shot or if they were shot at the same time.
“The detectives also have information that [the triple homicide] is possibly tied to what we classify as ‘hybrid gangs,’” Woods continued. “’Wannabe gangs’ is what they are.”
“Let’s be frank, anybody who associates with a gang, at some point in their life, they’ve done something wrong — whether they’ve been arrested or not,” Woods said on Tuesday. “It’s not a gang because it’s unicorns and everything else, it’s a gang because they do illegal stuff.”
Woods added that detectives were building a case and that the killer or killers would be arrested soon.
“We’re gonna get ’em,” Woods said. “Their ass is going to be right over there, in that jail.”
Sheriff’s Office had previously ruled out the possibility that a serial killer is on the loose, though few details about the murders had been released outside of how the victims died and where they were found.
Last Thursday, sheriff’s deputies found 16-year-old Layla Silvernail lying in a dumpster around 11 p.m. She was rushed to a local hospital and remained in critical condition until Tuesday, when officials confirmed she had died after being taken off life support, WCJB reported.
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“She loved the game of softball, was a great pitcher and could play any position her team needed. She uplifted all of her teammates! She has been taken from us too soon and will be greatly missed,” said a GoFundMe account for Silvernail.
On Friday morning, around 8 a.m., police responded to a call and found the body of a 17-year-old boy lying on the side of the road. Nearly five hours later, the body of a third victim – a 16-year-old girl – was found in a vehicle later determined to belong to Silvernail. The vehicle was partially submerged in a lake near Malauka Loop, The New York Post reported.
The names of the other two victims have not been released.
“Now, we are looking for help,” Woods said on Monday in a video posted to Facebook. “We are looking for help for the families who have lost a loved one, and there are folks out there that know.”
Woods also dismissed concerns that a serial killer was on the loose.
“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,” he said.
“Someone out there knows something. Word travels fast, but we want you to have accurate information and not rumors. Limited information is available right now because this case is active,” he added.