Larnell Sillah, from left, Achiel Morgan and Romaine Stewart
LAWRENCEVILLE — Three teenagers — including a pair of 15-year-olds — have been arrested in connection to the murder of Grayson High School freshman Paul Sampleton Jr., a crime police have now confirmed was driven by a sneaker collection.
Gwinnett County police announced late Friday afternoon that 15-year-old Larnell Sillah, 15-year-old Achiel Morgan and 18-year-old Romaine Stewart had been detained in the case. Only Sillah was charged with murder. Both minors have been charged as adults.
Sampleton’s father, Paul Sampleton Sr., discovered the teen bound and shot to death on Dec. 19, after the boy had come home to his mother’s Haynescrest Drive townhome following a half-day at school. Even on that day, it was postulated by friends and schoolmates that the killing was related to the younger Sampleton’s affinity for nice sneakers.
Police confirmed that theory for the first time Friday.
“Detectives believe the motive for this crime was robbery,” Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said. “The suspects knew that Paul Sampleton traded in high-end sneakers and possessed nice clothing and electronics.”
All three suspects also attended Grayson High School.
The police investigation was given a boost after witnesses reported seeing a silver BMW near the victim’s home on Dec. 19 and the days leading up to it. Detectives followed up and tied the car to a house at 3001 Farmstead Court — less than half a mile from the incident location.
On Dec. 21, detectives and a SWAT team served a search warrant at the home.
“No one was charged at that time,” Smith said. “Due to sensitive circumstances surrounding this investigation, no information was released on the search warrant at the time.”
Subsequent investigation led authorities to Stewart and Morgan, who were charged in the armed robbery of Sampleton but not specifically with murder, Smith said.
On Thursday, detectives served a second search warrant at the home on Farmstead Court and Sillah was taken into custody. A warrant for homicide was obtained Friday morning. No other details about the actual crime have been released.
“Aspects of this investigation are still ongoing,” Smith said. “Further information will not be released at this time.”
Friends speculated early on that Sampleton’s murder may have been tied to his involvement in a website called “Addicted to All Things Fresh,” where those interested often arrange meetings to swap sneakers, music and other items.
The homicide is now confirmed to be linked to shoes, but, given that all three suspects were schoolmates of Sampleton, it is unlikely the website played any role. Police did not provide further comment.