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Family members accused of threatening witness released on bond

By CJ HADDAD - | May 14, 2024

Three family members accused of interfering with a teen homicide investigation by threatening a witness have been released from the Lee County Jail.

The mother, father and aunt of Christopher Horne Jr., the second of two teens arrested in the homicide of 15-year-old Kayla Rincon-Miller, who was shot on March 17 while walking to McDonalds with two friends after seeing a movie at the Coralwood Shopping Center, have each been released on $50,000 bond.

Between May 9 and 10, Christopher D. Horne, 39, and Shanice Stewart, 36, Horne, Jr.’s parents, and his aunt, Varaka Stewart, each were charged with obstructing justice by threatening, tampering with, and coercing a witness.

Cape Coral Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit detectives say the victim reported that the day after Kayla was shot and the day before the arrest of Thomas Stein, the first teen suspect; Horne Jr. and his parents came to the victim’s home. According to the police, the parents told the victim that Horne Jr., known as “Buster,” and Stein were involved in the fatal shooting. They allegedly told the victim to follow them and to bring along Stein. The victim told police that they had a “sinking feeling” they would be killed.

Police say the victim and Stein said they feared for their lives and felt they had no choice but to follow them to the area of Gator Circle in Cape Coral. It was there that the victim told police she and Stein were “threatened to keep quiet and not cooperate with law enforcement” and that she was “surrounded” by several subjects who were there at the park in other vehicles when she arrived.

The victim stated she was told that they wanted Stein to “take the fall” and not reveal that “Buster” was involved.

The victim stated that at one point, while he was speaking to the victim, “Buster’s” father had his hand on a small black revolver pistol on the center console. The police report states he threatened the victim to make Stein keep quiet about his son’s involvement in the murder.

Police also say the victim said they were also threatened by another black female who was at the location when they arrived. That female was later identified as Varaka Stewart, 38, the sister of Shanice Stewart and Buster’s aunt.

The victim was then directed to continue the conversation in an unfamiliar area because there were too many other people a the park, and she complied due to fear.

When they arrived at a residence, they spoke in the driveway but never entered the home. The victim recalled being threatened by Stewart, who the victim said that if she “took one of my children, they would take one of hers.”

The victim stated she was told if she did not stay quiet, that “they could kill her.” She also told police she heard Horne Jr. being questioned by one of his parents and admitted involvement the murder and inferred there were others involved.

According to the victim, she heard Steward say they were going to find and speak with the other families involved as well.

The victim told police that they were threatened repeatedly that if they did not comply and stay silent, they would be killed.

The next day, March 19, detectives arrested Stein. The victim reports that Shanice and Varaka Stewart came to her house and again told the victim to keep quiet and keep Stein quiet. During this meeting, the victim said she was “promised money to keep quiet.”

Between March 25 and April 17, the victim says she received a number of phone calls, during which the female caller, believed to be Shanice Stewart, “implored the victim to keep quiet and not to cooperate with law enforcement and assure that Stein did the same.”

The victim says the caller threatened and intimidated her, indicating that she, Shanice Stewart, “had people on the inside and the outside that could get to them.” During one call, the victim says the caller thanked her “for protecting her ‘baby.'”

On April 17, Horne Jr. was arrested in connection with Kayla’s death, and later that day, the victim told police she received a call from the same person who stated, “‘they got my son’ and that she was not playing games.”

Christopher D. Horne, Shanice Stewart and Varaka Stewart are charged with one count each of tampering with a witness, a first-degree felony.

Horne Jr., 16, has been charged as an adult with one count of homicide without premeditation and three counts of robbery with a firearm.

Stein, 16, also has been charged as an adult with one count of homicide without premeditation and three counts of robbery with a firearm.

Both are being held in the Lee County Jail without bond.

The investigation is continuing.

Cape police say the case was developed and investigated to protect the witness in the murder investigation of Kayla Rincon-Miller. They say the department was assisted by The Florida Caribbean Regional Fugitive Task Force – Fort Myers Office, who were crucial in locating and arresting all the suspects.

“We would also like to thank the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the State Attorney’s Office,” the police reported.