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‘Heartbreaking’ – Mom shares Kayla’s story; asks those involved in her murder to turn themselves in

Community thanked; support, showing of love, means a lot

By CJ HADDAD - | Apr 3, 2024

Kayla Rincon-Miller's family has released a photo of Kayla. Kayla, 15, died Sunday night after she was shot in what police say was an ambush attempted robbery. Photo provided the Cape Coral Police Department

Kayla Rincon-Miller’s mom shared a message of grief, thanks and a plea for justice through the Cape Coral Police Department today.

“It’s still unreal. Heartbreaking,” Luz Rincon told Cape Coral Police Department Public Affairs Officer Lisa Greenberg in a recorded sit-down interview released to local news outlets. “It was very overwhelming, but we’re taking it day-by-day.

“I think the first few days I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat. We think about her every minute of the day. Miss her every minute. It’s just been very hard — very hard.”

Rincon said she dropped 15-year-old Kayla off at the movie theater on March 17, a theater at Coralwood Mall, where she and two friend would leave by foot to head to a McDonald’s after the show.

The girls did not make it.

Police say they were ambushed in an attempted robbery as they walked along Southeast 16th Place.

Kayla was shot in the chest. The other girls were not injured.

The vehicle, gunman inside, sped off.

Rincon then received a phone call no mother should ever get.

“I thought it was to come pick her up, until I hear the girls in the background telling me she was shot,” Rincon said. “At first I thought it was a prank until I heard Kayla’s voice in the background asking her friend if she was going to die.”

Knowing this was no prank, Rincon grabbed her keys and ran out of the house and drove to the scene.

Rincon said when she arrived at the hospital and spoke with police, things were unclear at first.

“We were just lost for words, not knowing what was going to happen,” Rincon said. “The surgeon came down and gave us the news she had passed away.”

Rincon said it’s been a whirlwind of emotions for her and all of Kayla’s family since they lost their girl.

“It’s hard. It’s hard,” Rincon said. “It’s only been two weeks. So, we’re just trying to move forward but it’s painful. Very painful.

“Every day there’s always a question in my head. We just want justice for her now, that’s what she deserves.”

Rincon said a shred of light in the darkness has been the support from the community.

“The way people have reached out — every hug, every phone call, every text message, that has really filled out hearts, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come forward and thank the community,” Rincon said. “Everybody that showed support. Went to the memorial. Every flower, every card, every postcard, every letter, every teddy bear, that meant a lot for us. It really showed how a community could come together in a time like this. So I wanted to personally come forward and give thanks.

“Someone asked me, ‘How are you standing?’ And I said ‘by the strength of the Lord and everyone’s thoughts and everyone’s prayers.'”

Rincon, fighting through tears, said her daughter always was a fighter, being born premature at 2 pounds. She described her as having a goofy, fun-loving personality.

“She was very outgoing, she was very determined — a 15-year-old girl that loved to be with her friends,” Rincon said. “She had a bunch of dreams and a whole future planned for herself.

Greenberg asked her what she would say if she could speak to those involved in the shooting.

Ricon paused.

“To turn yourself in, to turn yourself in. The damage is done and we do need to have justice for her. Whoever they are, whoever it is, if you are watching and you are hearing me, please turn yourself in. If anybody knows anything, who they are,please, please reach out, all we want is just justice now. We will never get Kayla back but we just want justice for Kayla,” she said, her voice remaining strong but also breaking throughout.

One arrest has been made in connection with the shooting.

Thomas Roy Stein, 16, of North Fort Myers, was arrested on March 19 and charged as a principal to a murder while engaged in a robbery.

He was so charged because he was “engaged in the attempt of a robbery and (his) accomplice caused the death of the victim,” the arrest report states, adding Kayla was shot by someone else.

Stein was remanded to Juvenile Detention.

According to the CCPD arrest report, one of the witnesses identified him as the driver of the suspect vehicle, the license plate of which was caught on video.

The plate came back as a rental rented by Stein’s mother.

The two uninjured girls told police “several males” jumped out of a “fancy” silver SUV and that two of them had guns. They demanded the girls’ bags, the victims told officers, with one adding she then heard three gunshots ring out and realized Kayla had been shot.

Kayla was conscious when first responders arrived.

Despite emergency treatment on scene, including military grade wound packs, she died at the hospital.

The investigation is ongoing.

The CCPD has asked that anyone with information regarding the shooting, anyone who has any surveillance videos that may help detectives, or who saw what happened, to call the Cape Coral Police Department at 239-574-3223, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).