On April 15, a jogger out for an early morning run at Orlando’s Cady Way Trail came upon a grisly scene: two human bodies burning on the grass. In a 911 call, the jogger, in disbelief, says “I can’t tell if there’s two mannequins or two people burning.” The bodies were later identified as the remains of Nicholas Presha, 16, and Jeremy Stewart, 18, both Winter Park High School students. Both teens had been shot in the head execution-style and then set on fire. Three days after the bodies were discovered, WFTV reported that “sources close to the case” incorrectly told the station that Presha and Stewart had been killed over a $500 drug debt.
On Saturday, two suspects, who Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings described as “evil and dangerous criminals,” appeared before a judge and were denied bail. Hector Rodriguez, 31, and Jesse Davis, 30, are both charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, with other charges to follow. According to Demings, Presha and Stewart had planned to sell them stolen handguns, but the suspects robbed them of the guns instead, and shot the teens with one of them. Both men have lengthy arrest records which include drug-related and violent offenses. At the time the charges were filed, Davis was already in jail on charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and attempted murder stemming from an unrelated incident which took place two days after the bodies were found. According to court documents, Davis is schizophrenic and in 2009, was placed in a mental hospital. Rodriguez was arrested Friday night at an apartment complex in Winter Park.
Though students close to Presha and Stewart told WFTV that the boys were not troublemakers, they did have a fairly serious run-in with police three months prior to their deaths. On January 10, the two stole a neighbor’s Mini Cooper convertible, crashed it into a 7-Eleven store, then took off running on foot. After a chase, during which both were bitten by a police dog, they were arrested and charged as juveniles with grand theft of a motor vehicle and resisting arrest without violence. Presha was the son of Bernie Presha, an investigator for the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office and a retired Orange County Sheriff’s Office Captain.
At a press conference following the arrests, Demings dismissed rumors that the teens were drug dealers, and said, “While we are announcing these arrests, I want to say to the families of other homicide victims — we remain committed to bringing justice to those responsible for the deaths of your loved ones. Our detectives are some of the best anywhere. And they will remain relentless in the pursuit of justice to rid our streets of dangerous criminals.”