Teen suspects arrested
Three teens have been arrested in connection with the death of 15-year-old Winter Park High School student Roger Trindade, who was found unconscious in Winter Park’s Central Park on Oct. 15 after a mysterious altercation.
Police had been treating the investigation as a “suspicious death” but have officially named the case as a homicide, according to an update released on Wednesday. The Orange County Medical Examiner’s Office has concluded that the death was a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma.
Two of the three juvenile suspects, both 15, face charges of manslaughter and battery, while a third, 14, faces a charge of tampering with a witness. The Observer is not naming the suspects because they are minors.
Two of the three suspects were arrested in Orange County. The youngest was arrested in Virginia.
The announcement came suddenly for friends and family of the slain teen, who had been waiting nearly two months for the results of a medical autopsy investigation.
“It brings us a little relief I think, [because] at least we know they are not walking free and living [their] lives while we are stuck and suffering every day,” Roger’s sister, Laura Thomé Koch said.
Family friend Mariley Nascimento, who had attended vigils for Roger that had become protests over the slow response to arrest suspects, had been on the phone with Roger’s mother, Adriana, just moments before the arrest announcement came Wednesday afternoon. She was still waiting, Nascimento said.
Roger’s parents were about to book a flight to Winter Park from their home in Brazil, once the announcement came.
“This is not a happy moment,” Nascimento said. “But I think this starts the healing.”
The circumstances of the altercation leading to the teen’s death are still a mystery. Police were told that a fight broke out that night in October after a group of teens allegedly sprayed Trindade with some type of “odorous spray” – not mace or pepper spray, said Winter Park Police Chief Michael Deal. Trindade was reportedly sitting on a park bench with friends and stood up to confront the group.
What happened next is unclear, but there are reports that Trindade was savagely beaten by the group of teens. He was transferred to a local hospital, where he was pronounced brain dead and taken off life support two days later.
In a release, the Winter Park Police said the department and the Joint Homicide Investigation Team are working with the State Attorney’s Office and the Medical Examiner’s Office on the case.
Winter Park Mayor Steve Leary also released a statement Wednesday night expressing his condolences to the Trindade family.
“Regarding the arrests made today, I would like to thank the Trindade family for their patience," Leary said in his statement. "They have been, and continue to be, in our thoughts and prayers. I also want to thank the community for their patience and support of the Winter Park Police Department, whose thorough investigation led to today's charges. Hopefully the family and community can find solace in knowing that although the process seemed lengthy, it was necessary so as to provide the State Attorney's office with sufficient information to proceed.”
Nascimento said she hopes there will not only be healing, but trust restored in local police.
“I think if it goes well, it’d be quite nice for the community being able to trust the police,” Nascimento said. “We’ll see how it goes.”