Boys, 12 and 17, charged in murders of 3 teens in Marion County; 16-year-old sought

Marion County sheriff said teens found dead on 3 consecutive days last week

OCALA, Fla. – A 12-year-old and a 17-year-old have been arrested and charged in a shooting last week in Marion County that left three teenagers dead. Deputies are still looking for a 16-year-old in connection with the case.

Investigators found the three victims throughout the Ocklawaha area just outside of Ocala within days of each other but said that the three victims were shot at the same time.

News4JAX sister station WKMG reported that the first victim — identified as Layla Silvernail, 16 — was lying injured on the side of the road on March 30 and later died at a hospital. A 17-year-old boy was found dead of an apparent gunshot wound on March 31, lying on the side of a road not far from the first scene. A 16-year-old girl — recently identified by family as Camille Quarles — was found shot to death on April 1 in the trunk of a sedan partially submerged in a pond.

The car Quarles was found in was a Chevrolet Cruze that belonged to Silvernail, investigators said.

Three teens found shot to death in Marion County (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

Sheriff Billy Woods held a news conference Friday, saying the deadly shootings were a result of gang-affiliated juveniles turning on their own and attributed the killings in part to failures of society.

“We do not hold our juveniles accountable. We minimize their actions,” Woods said. “...School districts across the state and across this nation need to quit minimizing the actions of their students. Hold them accountable. That’s where the failure is.”

RELATED: Tip of possible ‘hybrid gang’ activity investigated in Marion shooting deaths of 3 teens, sheriff says

Deputies said a tip led them to the Chevy Cruze that belonged to Silvernail, which carried six individuals at the time of the shooting: the three victims and three suspects.

New details emerge in shooting deaths of 3 teen friends in Marion County

Two of the suspects were identified as Robert Robinson, 17, and Christopher Atkins, 12, who both face first-degree murder, armed robbery and other charges.

Robinson was arrested the morning after the murder, already in custody at a juvenile holding facility, and Atkins was arrested Thursday at his house via a search warrant, according to the sheriff’s office.

A third boy is still at large — Tahj Brewton, 16 — and should be considered “armed and dangerous,” the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post.

Up to a $10,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of Brewton, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said in a post on its Facebook page. The United States Marshal’s Service has offered up to $5,000, and the Florida Sheriff’s Association Criminal Apprehension Assistance Program has also offered a $5,000 reward.

In addition to being wanted in connection with the triple homicide, Brewton is wanted for several felony offenses, including carjacking with a firearm, aggravated assault, grand theft of a motor vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude a law enforcement officer, and tampering with an electronic monitoring device. Investigators said those other crimes are not connected to the triple homicide.

Marion sheriff announces arrests in shooting deaths of 3 teens (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

“I’m talking to the viewers. You, some of you know him (Brewton), you know where he is and you need to turn him in. Now, I will get him, I will find him and justice will be completed,” Woods said.

WKMG reported that, according to Woods, Robinson and Atkins both allegedly confessed to shooting the girl who was found in the trunk.

“They took a life. Are y’all comprehending that?” Woods said. “They took a life without thought. They deserve the full extent of the law.”

WKMG caught up with Woods at Gov. Ron DeSantis’ nearby news conference to ask for more specifics regarding Atkins’ involvement.

“His involvement definitely, as far as I could tell you, is that he shot the third victim, who (was) in the trunk of the car,” Woods said.

NOTE: News4JAX does not always name and show mugshots of children charged with felonies, but we have chosen to name Atkins and show his photo because of the severity of the charges, the circumstances and investigators saying he admitted to one of the shootings.

Woods said the group had engaged in burglaries and robberies before the shooting.

“Although we had out there that it was gang-related, we have nothing specific to say that it was any rivalry,” Woods said. “...However, each and every one of them in some shape or form is associated with a gang. Basically, simple terms, there is no honor among thieves, and at some point these three individuals turned on our three victims and murdered them.”

WATCH: Press play below to watch the news conference:

Detectives said they used phone records -- like text messages and pictures on the victims’ iPhones -- and tips from the community to link the suspected killers with the shooting.

When asked how the minors obtained the weapons used in the shooting, Woods said that the two arrested had acquired theirs through car burglaries.

Other details such as the exact number of weapons used in the shooting and the outlook of where Brewton may be located could not be shared Friday, given that the third suspect was still on the run, according to Woods.

Woods credited the FBI, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Marshals and Orlando police for help in the case.

If you have information on Brewton’s location, call 352-732-9111, or if you wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers of Marion County at 352-368-STOP (7867) and reference 23-22 in your tip.

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.