Sheriff Rick Staly today said the January killing of 16-year-old Noah Smith and this week’s killing of 16-year-old Keymarion Hall are related, and that Terrell Anthony Sampson, 18, of 404 Church Street in Bunnell, was arrested in connection with Smith’s killing. Sampson faces an unrelated charge of possessing a weapon as a delinquent.
“We also believe that the murder of Keymarion Hall is directly linked to this case,” he said of the Smith shooting. “There are rumors of pressure being made to keep potential witnesses silent in both cases. In many cases, the people that have information or related relatives or distant relatives or have friendships.” Both shootings took place on South Bunnell streets. “And certainly the intertwining witnesses and suspects, whether it’s family or related family, cousins, you name it. South Bunnell is a very small community and very interrelated. And so our detectives are going through that now.”
But there is no clear motive in either shooting yet. “There’s lots of rumors in the community,” Staly said, speaking at a news conference at the foot of a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for Smith’s killing. “Who MURDERED Me?” the billboard reads in bold red and black letters, with a selfie of Smith.
Staly spoke alongside members of Smith’s family, including his father, Keith Smith, and State Attorney R.J. Larizza, along with a few local elected officials, Bunnell Police Chief Dave Brannon. The reward is being underwritten by Crimestoppers in Northeast Florida and the Florida Sheriffs Association.
“We’re trying to sift through what’s rumor and what’s factual,” Staly said. “Everything we know about Noah, he was a great student at Flagler Palm Coast High School, was just a great all around kid. Probably in the wrong place at the wrong time.” He said he would not go into details about the connection between the two murders, but “I will tell you that that some of the players involved seem to be involved, or witnesses could be witnesses in both cases. So that’s where we believe there is a linkage.” He did not abide the words “gang-related,” preferring the word “relationship,” suggesting that those involved knew each other.
Staly said that while the charge against Sampson is unrelated to the shooting of Smith, it’s “an arrest that we know is connected to this case.”
Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies in fact detained Sampson the night of the shooting: “Law enforcement was notified by witnesses in the area that the shooting incident involved Terrell Anthony Sampson (suspect) and occupants of a dark colored vehicle,” Sampson’s arrest report states. Sampson “was later located and secured by law enforcement due to his reported involvement.” But that night Sampson was only one of several suspects in law enforcement’s sights.
Sampson admitted in an interview at the State Attorney’s Office that he had a gun and fired at the dark-colored vehicle as it passed in front of the area of 405-409 South Anderson Street. He claimed self-defense. He then took law enforcement officers to the area of the shooting and turned over his Taurus .40 caliber semiautomatic pistol, which he had wrapped in a white towel, according to his arrest report. Sampson told Bunnell Police Department Sgt. Shane Groth that he’d equipped himself with the gun because he was in fear for his safety. Three spent .40 caliber cartridge casings were found at the scene and subsequently linked to Sampson’s gun through a lab analysis. That analysis was completed on April 24.
Sampson had been adjudicated delinquent three times in reference to felony charges as of November 2, 2020, which means the possession of a firearm by a delinquent ranked as a second degree felony. He was arrested at his home at 3:36 a.m. Thursday, taken to the courthouse for an interview with sheriff’s detectives, declined to speak, and was booked at the county jail. Bond was set at $100,000.
Bond is unusually high, considering the charge. “I know our detectives worked with the State Attorney’s Office and we went to the judge and sometimes we luck out and get really high bonds in his county,” Staly said. “Most of the time we don’t, but in this case, we did.” (Bond is set by a schedule, but not without judges’ discretion, depending on the severity of the offense. In this case, bond was up to the judge, as the offense–a second degree violent felony–is not listed on the schedule: the judge could have imposed a no-bond.
“This young man has already wasted his future and will probably spend most of his life in a state prison if he’s not killed on the streets, if he doesn’t change his behavior,” Staly said, reciting Sampson’s seven felony convictions, including for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence cases. “And he’s only 18 years old.”
The higher bond, set by Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, is a reflection of the importance law enforcement places on Samson’s detention in connection with the Noah case, even if he is not necessarily the prime suspect: there is no indication so far that the bullets from his guns have been tied to the bullet or bullets that killed Smith, or that the sheriff’s office even has that evidence.
Rather, today, in an event planned before Sampson’s arrest, Staly’s offer of the $15,000 appeared to underscore the need for additional information necessary to build a case winnable in court.
“Every day we get closer to catching the killer as forensic information and data comes in from the search warrants and subpoenas,” Staly said, as the investigation has so far logged over 900 investigative hours and resulted in 18 search warrants and 11 subpoenas. “To help solve this case, Crimestoppers in Northeast Florida has installed this billboard and raise the reward. Now it’s time for anyone that has the information to do their part. We know who did it and so do you. We need your information to make a rock solid case for the state attorney.”
Larizza spoke of the “damn shame” of having to resort to a billboard to draw out information, and the “shame that we have trouble getting folks to come forward. You know, a lot of people speculate about why is it. Because folks are afraid? Is it because folks don’t trust law enforcement? Is it because folks just don’t know anything? Maybe it’s a combination of all that. But we have to do better.”
Smith’s father listened as he clutched members of his family, some of them weeping or sobbing at times.
“We don’t care about who you’re scared of, just give us some information,” Smith’s uncle, Stacey Smith, said. “If you’ve got video, send it in. We want to find out who did this to my nephew. He was a great child. He had a great future ahead of him. We just want to have some peace. If you could just give us some peace by giving us more information so we can–.” He paused, sighed. “We’re just praying that you guys just send some information. This is all we want. We want our city to thrive from this, not to just be in turmoil from this.”
Keith Smith said he wasn’t going to speak, but decided to after all. “But it ain’t just the kids. It’s these parents, too,” he said.
From the Sheriff’s Office: If you have anything information that could help in the investigative efforts, please contact the FCSO or Crime Stoppers. Contact the FCSO by calling 386-313-4911, email [email protected] or call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS. To be eligible for the cash award your tip or information must be provided through Crime Stoppers.