A passerby’s horrifying find along a Florida trail — the bodies of two teenagers engulfed in flames — has shocked residents and spurred relentless questions about how and why someone killed the close friends.
The boys’ friends have continued to visit the charred patch of grass along the Cady Way Trail in central Florida, where the bodies were found Sunday near a wooden bridge. The area was littered with bunches of daisies and carnations and four red roses and signs paying tribute to the victims, Nicholas Presha, 16, and Jeremy Stewart, 18.
“It is just horrifying to see how someone with no heart dumped these boys in a ditch,” said Tyler Winters, 17, a classmate of Stewart who visited the site Thursday.
Winters was organizing a candlelight vigil to be held Thursday evening at the site.
At 6:41 a.m. Sunday, someone following the trail in unincorporated Orange County just outside Orlando called 911 to report the macabre scene, at first unsure if it was real.
“I can’t tell if there’s two mannequins or two people burning,” the caller said.
The medical examiner’s office used dental records to identify the remains of the teens, both students at Winter Park High School.
Winter Park is a small city of about 28,000 people, just about 15 miles from Sanford, where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer in February.
While officers were processing the scene where the two boys’ bodies were found, another report came in of a small fire near a storage shed at the Sun Bay Apartments, a short distance away. Police say they believe the two blazes are somehow connected.
Officers haven’t identified a motive or any suspects and haven’t said how the teens were killed. Some residents near where the bodies were found told local media outlets they heard gunshots, but police haven’t confirmed if the teens were shot.
One of the teens, Presha, is the son of a retired Orange County Sheriff’s Office captain who is now a detective with the state attorney’s office for Orange and Osceola counties, which will ultimately handle any prosecution in the case.
Danielle Tavernier, a spokeswoman for the state attorney’s office, called it “a gruesome, senseless and shocking murder.”
Both teens were involved in the theft of a green Mini Cooper convertible in January and charged with grand theft. They entered a pretrial diversion program. But Capt. Angelo Nieves of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the crime, said investigators saw no relationship between that incident and the deaths.
Rumors are circulating about what led to the killings, but police have refused to discuss that. For now, friends of the teens are remembering them in death as they were in life — always together and happy.
“They were like brothers,” Winters said.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.