One day last February, a 17-year-old girl walked into the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office to report that she’d been raped. The next day, she answered a knock at her front door and encountered a barrage of gunfire. She was shot in her back and died.
On Thursday, almost nine months after the crime, Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced in a news conference that a federal grand jury indicted three people last week in a murder-for-hire plot that targeted the girl.
She is identified in the indictment only by her initials, “I.S.” She reported the rape in early February and identified her assailant as Lenard White. They knew each other, the sheriff said.
White, 36, who federal officials say goes by the names “Len,” “Stick” and “Mike Williams,” posted on social media shortly after the teen reported the rape that he had a “cleanup job to do,” the sheriff said.
“He said that $5,000 would be available to anyone that would be available to help him, as well as some cocaine,” Nienhuis said.
Ultimately, a plan took shape wherein White paid close to $10,000 to two other men — Sheldon Robinson and Keshawn Woods — to kill the 17-year-old girl, the sheriff said.
Robinson, 21, and Woods, 22, went to the girl’s home late on Feb. 7. Investigators did not disclose exactly where she lived. When the door opened, investigators believe, Robinson and Woods shot the girl and one of her relatives. The girl was hit four times. A fatal wound to her back indicated she was shot as she tried to run for cover, officials said. Her relative, whose name and relationship to the girl were not disclosed, survived.
Both men are believed to have fled the crime scene on foot. Nearby, investigators found a single shoe, which underwent forensic testing and yielded a DNA match to Woods. In the ensuing months, federal and local law enforcement officials executed more than 70 search warrants related to the investigation.
In Woods’ home, they found $4,000 cash, a gun and some illegal drugs.
At Robinson’s home, they found a gun and ammunition consistent with the murder weapon and ballistic evidence from the crime scene. They also found Robinson had about $6,000 in cash.
“Murder investigations are never easy,” said Roger Handberg, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Florida, whose office is prosecuting the case. “In this case, several of the defendants undertook efforts to conceal their involvement and obstruct the investigation.”
When the killing occurred, Handberg said, White took an “unplanned and spontaneous trip” to Georgia in what investigators suspect was an effort to create an alibi for himself.
White, Robinson and Woods are each accused of conspiracy to commit murder and murder-for-hire, among other charges. White and Robinson are also accused of tampering with a witness and obstruction of justice.
Want breaking news in your inbox?
Subscribe to our free News Alerts newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
White has been jailed in Hernando County since shortly after the fatal shooting on a sexual battery charge involving the 17-year-old victim, officials said. Robinson, likewise, has been jailed in Hernando County since February on drug and gun charges. Woods was arrested last week on the federal murder charges and is being held in the Pinellas County Jail, which holds federal prisoners awaiting trial.
The three could potentially face the death penalty, though federal prosecutors have not yet indicated whether they will pursue capital punishment.
Robinson’s mother, Janet Williams, is also charged with making false statements to federal law enforcement agents in the investigation.
Nienhuis described the 17-year-old as “a true victim.”
“We have every reason to believe that she was not engaged in any high-risk activity,” he said. “She was a good kid with a very bright future. To see her life cut short is heart-wrenching, to say the least.”