Relatives turn in teen robbery suspects

MACCLENNY, Fla. – Two Baker County teenagers are in jail after deputies said family members turned them in for robbing a convenience store.

Deputies said the 14- and 15-year-old robbed the Kangaroo store in Macclenny late Monday night.

On Tuesday, one of the boy's fathers went down to the store, watched the video and knew right away it was his child and grandson, so he called deputies.

Willie and Zelda Graham, the father and mother of one boy and grandparents of the other, said they turned them in because they don't want to see the kids go down the wrong road. And they wanted to share their story with everyone to encourage parents to be more involved in their kids' lives so they don't turn to crime.

Willie Graham (pictured) said his suspicions grew Tuesday morning when his daughter told him he should give money to the boys if they ask for it. Zelda Graham said she didn't understand what that meant, but after the store was robbed, she and Willie had gut feelings the boys had something to do with it.

Willie Graham
Willie Graham

The couple said it was a very hard decision to make to turn them in, but they said after seeing the reaction on the clerk's face in the surveillance video, they knew the boys needed to learn a lesson. They said many people will look down on their decision because they snitched on their boys. But they say they'd rather do that than see them shoot someone or get shot by someone and die.

The parents said they love the boys more than ever and would call deputies again if they had to.

"I don't even second-think about what we had to do. If I had to do it again, I would," Willie Graham said.

"Nobody wants to tell on their child, but by them being so young, I'd rather tell on my child now than have my child become an adult and say, 'He done this and he got away with it,'" Zelda Graham said. "When you get away with something, it becomes a habit for you, and then you continue to do it. And to see my son in the grave or to see him kill somebody or someone kill him -- if I've got to send him to (the Department of Juvenile Corrections), if they've got to do whatever they've got to do to get him correct before he turns into an adult, then I'd rather see that."

The Sheriff's Office said the boys were taken to Gainesville and will be in jail at least for now, charged with armed robbery.

"This absolutely does not happen very often. I'd say it's extremely rare," Maj. Gerald Gonzalez said of relatives turning the suspects in. "It's going to take folks like that doing what they did to make a difference and stop things that we are seeing in our community as it relates to violence and young people."