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Central Florida investigators seek public’s help in solving shooting deaths of 3 teenage friends


By Amy Simonson and Raja Razek, CNN

Law enforcement officials in central Florida are asking the public for any information related to the shooting deaths of three teenage friends being investigated as homicides after they were discovered in separate locations.

While no arrests in the triple homicide have been made, Lt. Paul Bloom with Marion County Sheriff’s Department told CNN on Wednesday an arrest could be “imminent,” but officials don’t have a specific timeline.

Sheriff Billy Woods said Wednesday investigators have gathered some important tips.

“Where we are is we’re still working on a lot of leads that are coming in, going through a lot of digital and forensic evidence at this time. We do have some leads, good leads into a couple of suspects that hopefully will lead us to an arrest,” he told CNN’s Carlos Suarez.

The information gathered by detectives, Woods said, shows the trio was together up to what he called the incident. He declined to say whether the three friends were shot at the same time and whether they were shot by the same gun.

Investigators believe the trio had been in a 2015 Chevy Cruze belonging to 16-year-old Layla Silvernail, he added. The car was found partially submerged in a lake and one of the victims was inside, he told CNN.

Bloom said, “We have a ton of evidence from all three crime scenes.”

On Tuesday, the sheriff asked for the public’s help.

“We’re looking for help for the families who have lost a loved one,” he said. “There are folks out there that know. You’ve got information.”

Silvernail was the first victim found, located on the side of a road in the Forest Lakes Park area Thursday night. She later died in a hospital from her critical injuries, the sheriff’s office said.

A GoFundMe has been set up to assist her family with funeral and memorial expenses.

“She is the definition of a team player and an amazing athlete,” the campaign organizer said in the GoFundMe post. “She loved the game of softball, was a great pitcher and could play any position her team needed.”

The next morning, shortly before 8 a.m., deputies responded to a second report of a person on the side of a road and found a 17-year-old male who had been fatally shot, authorities said.

The third victim’s body was discovered Saturday, Woods said. The victim’s name is also being withheld at their family’s request.

“Forest Lakes Park is a community of about 1,500 people, at most,” Bloom said. “We have parents that have been concerned about letting their child leave the house.”

Authorities are not aware of any additional victims at this time, according to the sheriff.

The sheriff also urged people to avoid speculation and sharing rumors on social media. Woods emphasized that there is “nothing to indicate” that the killings were carried out by a serial killer, despite some rumors.

Woods did tell CNN on Wednesday there are leads suggesting the killings could be part of gang activity.

Fifteen detectives are working the case, he has said. Anyone with information relevant to the case is encouraged to contact the sheriff’s office or submit a tip anonymously to Crime Stoppers of Marion County.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Steve Almasy, Alisha Ebrahimji and Jillian Sykes contributed to this report.

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