Hernando County Al Nienhuis announced Wednesday that four suspects are in custody in connection with the murder of Preston Talley of Gainesville. Nienhuis identified the four as Kayla Ja’Nae Morrow, 25; Joshua Dewayne Gardner, 24; Andrew Christopher Abbott, 19; and Brandon Joe Harrelson, 24.
The group lured Talley,35, into the Withlacoochee State Forrest using a dating site called Plenty of Fish, beat Talley to death and robbed him of $20 and some meth, the sheriff said. Detailed account from investigators is below.
“Our information is the minute he got out of the vehicle, one of the suspects began to hit him with a bat,” Nienhuis said. “(The culprits) beat him viciously in the head to the point where he was obviously deceased.”
Talley’s body was found Sunday morning inside a vehicle.
All four now charges of first-degree murder and robbery in connection with Talley’s death, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis announced at a Wednesday news conference.
“They took a life, probably for less than $100,” Nienhuis said. “It was a pretty heinous act, and it was definitely calculated, there’s no doubt about that.”
The sheriff called the plot “cold and calculated.”
The exchange of messages was believed by Talley to be from Morrow with promises of sex and smoking the methamphetamine. Behind the messages was Gardner, setting up the messing at the corner of U.S. 301 and State Road 50. They talked for a very brief time, the sheriff said, before she asked him to follow her, in his car, into the woods near McKinney Sink Road in Ridge Manor.
Gardner, Abbott and Harrelson waited with a bat, beat him “viciously” in the head until he died, Nienhuis said. The attack took place sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. Saturday.
The group then tried to clean up the crime scene and removed Talley’s clothes.
All four people arrested admitted that they were involved in Talley’s death, the sheriff said.
State records show Gardner and Harrelson, both of Dade City, have long and violent criminal histories.
Gardner has been arrested 19 times on charges ranging from domestic violence to strangulation. He served a year in prison sentence for a 2010 battery with a deadly weapon charge.
Harrelson has been arrested 13 times on charges ranging from domestic battery to armed burglary. In 2011 he served a 3-year sentence for armed burglary.
Gardner was also wanted on a 2013 charge of aggravated assault out of Pasco. All four were booked into the Hernando County Detention Center where they were being held without bail.