BROOKSVILLE, Fla. (WFLA) – Detectives made four arrests in a grisly Hernando County murder.
A man walking in the woods Sunday spotted a car with a naked body lying near it and called authorities. Deputies spent hours at the crime scene off of State Road 50 in the eastern part of the county, processing the scene and gathering evidence. Their investigation revealed the victim had been in contact with three men and a woman on the dating site Plenty of Fish.
The victim has been identified as 35-year old Preston Talley, of Gainesville.
Investigators believe Talley thought he was speaking with 25-year old Kayla Morrow, of Dade City. In reality, he was communicating with 24-year old Joshua Gardner, who lived at the same address as Morrow.
“Her and Mr. Gardner and two other individuals were actually attempting to lure our victim into Hernando County … for what he thought was going to be either sexual acts and/or consuming drugs, specifically methamphetamine,” Sheriff Al Nienhuis said.
Talley drove to the area and met with Morrow. The two spoke briefly before he followed her to an isolated wooded area off of the highway. There, the three other suspects were hiding and waiting.
“Our information is the minute he got out of the vehicle, one of the suspects began to hit him with a bat… (They) beat him viciously in the head to the point where he was deceased,” Nienhuis said.
Morrow, Gardner and the two other suspects, 19-year old Andrew Abbott and 24-year old Brandon Harrelson, allegedly took $20 and meth from the victim. At some point, the four allegedly removed Talley’s clothes and disposed of some of their own clothing. The sheriff believes they did so to destroy evidence.
Authorities say the suspects then left the state, heading for the Jackson, Mississippi area. After making their way back into Florida, there were arrested in the Gainesville area.
One or more of the suspects spoke told friends or relatives what happened, detectives said. Authorities interviewed those acquaintances.
Morrow, Gardner, Abbott and Harrelson are charged with robbery and first-degree murder. They will be transported from Alachua County to the Hernando County Jail.