Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods confirmed the arrests in a press conference Friday. Police believe all six individuals were in the car at some point before the suspects turned on the victims. Both the suspects and victims were part of a gang that committed robberies, according to police.
The three suspects are Robert Le’Andrew Robinson, 17, Christopher De’l Atkins, 12, Tahj Brewton, 16. Robinson and Atkins have been arrested while Brewton is still at large.
“We are shocked that the murderers were juveniles as well,” Woods said.
The first victim was 16-year-old Layla Silvernail, who was found shot near a dumpster. Her partially submerged car was found near her body with the third victim found in the trunk. Police said evidence from her cellphone indicates she was there of her own free will.
The second victim, a 17-year-old boy, was found on the side of the road dead from a gun shot. Police have not released the names of the second and third victims, though family members told local station WCJB that the third victim was 16-year-old Camille Quarles.
Initially, some speculated the deaths were the work of a serial killer but investigators ruled out that possibility and say the deaths are gang related.
Although the three suspects fled the scene, investigators said they left ample evidence behind.
Police confirmed all six knew each other, but have no specific evidence that a rivalry caused the deaths. Woods also dismissed the idea that stricter gun laws may have prevented the incident.
“We cannot blame the gun,” Woods said. “It was these individuals who committed the crime.”
Woods blamed society for failing the teens, as well as saying schools need to stop minimizing their actions of their students.
“Last night, I had to stare into the eyes of two mothers. It was not their fault. I saw two mothers who were willing to give their sons everything,” Woods said.
Woods said the probable cause affidavit will be released in a short time and the teens are expected to be tried as adults.
Anyone with information on Brewton’s whereabouts is urged to come forward.