A Florida man accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl was charged along with two men he hired to kill the teen to prevent her from pursuing a criminal case against him, officials announced on Thursday.
Isabella Scavelli, a junior at Hernando High School, was fatally shot in February, and no suspect was immediately named. On Thursday, federal prosecutors said that Lenard White, 36, had been indicted on multiple charges including murder for hire after he allegedly paid 21-year-old Sheldon Robinson and 22-year-old Keshawn Woods to fatally shoot the teen.
Isabella Scavelli, a high school junior, was fatally shot in February shortly after she reported a man to the sheriff's office for sexual assault.
According to prosecutors, the teen and her mother reported White to the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office on Feb. 6, accusing him of sexual assault.
Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said the sexual assault was not random, but he did not specify how the two knew each other. The day after the girl reported White to police, Nienhuis said Robinson and Woods knocked on the door of her home and opened fire after she answered the door.
U.S. attorney Roger B. Handberg said evidence showed that the 17-year-old was shot in the back as she attempted to escape. Her mother was seriously injured in the shooting, he added, and the suspects then fled.
Investigators immediately began looking into White, Nienhuis said, and he was taken into custody on state charges of sexual battery on Feb. 15. Details about the alleged murder-for-hire plot and federal charges, however, only became public this week.
Authorities allege that White paid Robinson $10,000 to kill the 17-year-old. Robinson then allegedly turned to social media to ask for help with a “clean-up job.” He offered $5,000 along with some cocaine, which Woods accepted, authorities said.
Photo from a post allegedly made by Sheldon Robinson via Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
In the photo shared by investigators at the press conference, Robinson can be seen holding up a bag of what appears to be cocaine and stacks of hundred-dollar bills.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, K9 units tracked the suspects and found a shoe that contained Woods’ DNA, authorities said. A search of his home later uncovered $4,000 in cash along with a firearm and illegal drugs, Nienhuis said, and he was arrested on state drug and weapons charges.
Authorities also searched the home of Robinson’s mother, where they say they found the remaining $6,000 and ammunition that matched the one used in the shooting. Robinson was arrested on Feb. 9 on state charges.
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis at a news conference alongside state and federal officers.
With the new federal indictments, the three men are facing additional charges of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, murder for hire, and discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. Robinson and White have also been charged with conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, tampering with a witness, and obstruction of justice. Each face a maximum penalty of life in prison or death.
Robinson’s mother was additionally charged with making multiple counts of false statements to federal agents and faces a maximum of five years in prison, according to prosecutors.
An attorney for Woods declined to comment to HuffPost.
A celebration of Scavelli’s life was held on Feb. 18, and her obituary noted that she was planning on joining the military after graduating high school. In addition to ROTC, she was involved with student government and played tennis for her school, and local media coverage after her death described the community’s grief.
“She was energetic, joyful, and had a smile that would light up any room,” the obituary said. “Isabella was such a sweet girl that was full of personality and the best daughter, sister, and aunt.”