GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Three persons of interest in a North Carolina murder were arrested in Tallahassee on Monday for breaking into a Gainesville apartment, using duct tape to tie up the victims then ransacking the residence, authorities said.
According to the Gainesville Police Department, the two men and a woman were seen hanging out outside an apartment at Arbor Lofts Apartments on Northwest Third Place near the University of Florida on Sunday.
Someone in the apartment then went outside to grab a skateboard and when he returned, the three suspects, one armed with a handgun, forced their way inside, police said.
"It makes me a little worried, you know. I'll always be looking over my shoulder just keeping a look out never thought that would have happened in a million years," said Zachary Smith, who lives nearby.
The trio then tied up the victims with duct tape and snatched wallets, iPhone and cash inside the apartment before stealing a Hyundai Elantra from the apartment complex and taking one of the victims to an ATM to get money out, investigators said.
"It's definitely a surprise I would never think about just walking around or living here. It would never cross my mind that something could happen like that," said Esteban Araya, who lives in the neighborhood.
When they returned to the apartment, the suspects took off with a female victim to make sure the other victims did not call police after they left, police said, but they eventually dropped of the female victim at North Florida Regional Medical Center.
"They dropped her off at North Florida Regional Medical Center and told her that it was her lucky day," said Ben Tobias, GPD spokesperson. "And it certainly was her lucky day."
The suspects then headed to Lake City and continued west on Interstate 10, but police were able to track an iPhone stolen from the female victim that was left on, which prompted law enforcement agencies along the 1-10 corridor to begin checking hotels.
About 3:30 a.m. Monday, Leon County Sheriff’s Office deputy found Quintae Edwards, 23, inside the stolen Elantra, which was parked outside a Baymont Inn in Tallahassee near I-10 and U.S. Highway 27, GPD said.
Edwards’ room key then led to Kwame Fernanders, 22, and Kayla Black, 18, police said.
Investigators learned the three suspects, who are all from South Carolina, had driven to Gainesville in a Subaru SUV stolen out of South Carolina.
The three were also identified as persons of interest in the death of Destry Horne, 51, of Lilesville, North Carolina, who was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound inside a truck Saturday morning.
"If you look at the track record these folks started in South Carolina with a homicide, and they have very violent pasts from what we understand, it’s an absolute miracle the Gainesville residents involved in this were not seriously injured or killed," Tobias said.
Black is being held on seven charges, including, kidnapping a minor for ransom, kidnapping with intent to commit a felony, false imprisonment, home invasion with a firearm and two counts of fugitive from justice, according to jail records.
Edwards faces charges of false imprisonment and home invasion with a fire arm and grand theft auto.
Fernanders has also been charged with fugitive from justice.
All three are being held in the Leon County Jail.
Investigators are still working to determine why the suspects targeted Gainesville.