Missing Lakeland teen found dead in Green Swamp; death investigated as homicide

Polk County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A teenager who was reported missing in Lakeland on Wednesday has been found dead in a Sumter County wilderness preserve, authorities said.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office said its deputies were investigating the death of 18-year-old Charlie Roberts as a homicide.

Courtesy William Gamble

“Really just wanna know why. What would cause you to want to kill a child?” asked his cousin, William Gamble.

Gamble told 8 On Your Side his cousin was known for his warm smile and caring spirit.

“Smart, caring. Cared a lot about his family. Cared a lot about his brothers and sisters,” he said.

Roberts was reported missing in Lakeland on Wednesday morning by his family members.

“There [detectives] met with a family member who said they had lost contact with him somewhere around 11am the day prior,” said Lakeland Police Department public information officer Robin Tillett.

His body was found in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve later that day. Deputies with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office used drones, ATVs, K9s and helicopters to locate his body.

“We were certainly hoping for a different outcome. This is every parent’s worst nightmare,” said Tillett.

Since his body was found in Sumter County, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office is handling the homicide investigation.

Officials have not said how Roberts died, where exactly he was found or how he ended up in Sumter County.

 “I want the person to be prosecuted to the fullest of course. This was a family member, this was a child. Nobody deserves death,” said Gamble.

An investigation into his death is ongoing. Authorities are asking anyone with information to call the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at 352-569-1680. To remain anonymous, call Crimeline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477).

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