TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Several people have been charged in connection to a “murder for hire” conspiracy in Hernando County.
Detectives said the goal was to prevent a high school student from sharing her testimony of sexual assault in court.
Back in February, the Hernando County School District identified the shooting victim as Isabella Angelina Scavelli, a 17-year-old junior at Hernando High School. She is identified in federal court documents by her initials, I.S.
“I remember her smile the most; she was always filled with joy,” Scavelli’s tennis coach Ashley Brown said.
Deputies said Scavelli was shot and killed at her Brooksville home back in February.
“Isabella was special,” Brown explained. “She was a special girl.”
“I know everyone says that, but the impact it had here was–it was hard,” she continued.
Investigators told 8 On Your Side, Scavelli was shot four times.
“The bullet that caused her death entered her lower left back area suggesting she was shot in the back as she was trying to run for cover,” United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida Roger B. Handberg explained.
As the Hernando County community continues to mourn Scavelli’s death, the wheels of justice continue to turn.
In the months that followed, the sheriff’s office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) launched a joint investigation that uncovered a “murder for hire” plot, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said in a news conference Thursday.
Federal investigators believe the men accused of shooting Scavelli – Sheldon Robinson, 21 and Keshawn Woods, 22 – “did not act on their own volition,” court documents state.
“They did so on behalf of Lenard White, the man who sexually assaulted I.S. and who paid
Robinson and Woods approximately $10,000 to murder I.S. so that White could avoid prosecution,” prosecutors wrote in documents filed in the U.S. District Court in Tampa.
White was accused of contacting Robinson to carry out the murder. Court documents state Robinson reached out to several people on social media, seeking help with “a clean-up job.”
“I need to no if u really [c]oming… u get 5 I get 5 I already got the money from the man. I told
em we [c]an do it,” Robinson told one of the individuals, according to court documents. He filmed a video of himself “displaying currency and cocaine, both of which he had received from White as payment,” prosecutors claim.
Hernando County Sheriff’s Office detectives discovered a red Nike shoe on a fence near the site of the shooting. Deputies found an identical shoe with a DNA match in the trunk of Robinson and Woods’ getaway car, according to HCSO.
A search of Woods’ home in the hours after the shooting turned up a pistol, prescription pills and marijuana, court documents state. Deputies also found $3,888 in cash, which they believe was the money White gave to Robinson.
The rest of the money was unaccounted for until recorded phone calls revealed Robinson had about $6,000 hidden in his home. He lived with his mother, Janet Williams, 44, who was also charged in the DOJ indictment.
“In recorded calls, Williams later stated, ‘they were asking me…did you come into a whole bunch of money? I said No. But, you did come into a whole bunch of money’,” court documents state. Williams was also accused of lying to ATF agents about Robinson owning guns.
A search of Robinson’s home found cocaine and ammunition with casings matching those at the site of the shooting, according to court documents. A second search revealed the alleged murder weapon in the backyard, which “Robinson tried to dispose of after the murder,” prosecutors claim.
White, Robinson and Woods were each charged with conspiracy to commit murder for hire, murder for hire, and two counts of using a firearm during a violent crime. White and Robinson were charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances and obstruction of justice.
White was charged with two counts of tampering with a witness and obstruction of justice. Robinson was charged with felon in possession of a firearm. Williams was charged with three counts of making a false statement.
According to the DOJ, White and Robinson are in state custody and are awaiting their initial federal court appearances next week.
Keshawn Woods had his initial appearance on Nov. 1 and was ordered detained.
If convicted, all three suspects face life in prison or the death penalty.
“When you have a 17-year-old, and this particular victim, we have every reason to believe she was not engaged in any high-risk activity, she was a good kid with a very bright future, and to see her life cut short was heart-wrenching to say the least,” Sheriff Nienhuis said.