TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Central Florida investigators believe the deaths of three teenagers killed in separate incidents may be connected.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, deputies were called to the area of Forest Lakes Park on SE 183rd Avenue Road in Marion County Thursday where they found a 16-year-old girl lying beside the road with a gunshot wound.
The teen, identified as Layla Silvernail, was rushed to an area hospital in critical condition but later died as a result of her injuries.
A day later, on Friday, deputies were called to SE 94th Street and SE 188th Court after a 17-year-old boy was found lying beside the road. Authorities said the boy died as a result of a gunshot wound.
On Saturday, Silvernail’s vehicle was found partially submerged at the edge of a body of water in the area of Malauka Loop and Malauka Loop Trace.
When the sheriff’s office Underwater Recovery Team searched the vehicle, the body of a 16-year-old girl was found inside. Deputies said the girl also suffered from a gunshot wound.
“We are devastated for the families of these three teens, and we are dedicated to bringing whoever is responsible for these heinous acts to justice,” the sheriff’s office said in a Facebook post. “I know this is a rural, tight-knit community and many of you are very concerned. Someone out there knows something.”
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said the teens, who were all friends with each other, may be tied to a “wanna-be gang.”
So far, detectives identified “more than one” person of interest and several suspects. Further information was not immediately provided.
Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Ryan Stith at (352) 368-3542. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of Marion County at (352)368-STOP (7867) and reference 23-22 in your tip.