May 21, 2024

Palm Bay detectives say two people are charged with fatally shooting a 30-year-old man they randomly met at a gas station before dumping the body in an area called “The Compound” nearly two weeks ago. The decomposed remains of the man, later identified as Nicholas Mitchell of Palm Bay, were found Friday by police in a wooded area just inside the Compound, police reported.

A shot up warning sign warning that firing firearms is illegal in the compound. FILE.

A shot up warning sign warning that firing firearms is illegal in the compound. FILE.

An autopsy to determine how Mitchell was killed and how long the remains were left in the undeveloped area was conducted Monday.

More: Crime, deaths and desolation: Palm Bay City Council set to discuss troubled ‘Compound’

Police who used car tag tracking devices to pinpoint Mitchell’s last known location also refuted reports misidentifying the victim or linking the case to a potential hate crime.

“There is no evidence the victim was a target of a hate crime based on their gender identity. Based on the investigation, this is a tragic and isolated incident and the suspects responsible for this heinous crime are in custody,” said Lt. Mike Roberts, spokesperson for the Palm Bay Police Department.

“We don’t have any evidence to support that,” said Roberts, whose agency reviewed driver license photos and attended the autopsy.

On Sept. 5, Mitchell was reported missing and endangered because of unspecified physical ailments, police said. His roommate told officers that Mitchell was last seen on August 30.

More: Mother ‘prays’ for those responsible for killing son at Palm Bay Compound

Officers, reviewing surveillance video, said that Mitchell was last seen at a Circle K gas station talking with a man and woman.

“From everything that we gathered it was random,” Roberts said.

“He was just getting gas and struck up a conversation. The male got in (the) car with victim and woman’s followed in pickup truck to the Compound.”

Palm Bay police said that Mitchell was shot multiple times and his body dumped along side the roadway near the intersection of Warbler Avenue and St Andre Boulevard.

Officers later searched the Compound where Mitchell was last thought to be. While police determined that the car’s tag was pinged in the Compound, a computer search on the victim’s vehicle showed that it was in Alabama on Sept. 2.

Two days later, police learned that Mitchell’s car was involved in a high-speed chase in Alabama. Police in Gunnersville said Robert Paul Lanning III, 28, was the driver of the vehicle. Lanning’s girlfriend, Rene Lemos, 41, pulled up to the crash site a short time later. Lanning was arrested on charges related to the pursuit in Alabama and was jailed.

Lanning was arrested in Marshall County, Alabama, and charged with first-degree murder in connection with Mitchell’s death and grand theft of a motor vehicle, Palm Bay police reported.

Lemos was tracked to Kennesaw, Georgia, and charged with accessory after the fact to first degree murder and grand theft. Both are awaiting extradition back to Brevard County, where they will be booked into jail on the charges.

Detectives interviewed Lanning and Lemos, who both said they met with the Mitchell at Circle K in Palm Bay. The incident was captured on surveillance cameras. The pair later left the area in her truck and the victim’s vehicle.

The case would be the fourth reported homicide to be connected to the Compound, an overgrown, vacant 12-square mile area in southwest Palm Bay, since December 2022. The case would also be the 35th reported homicide in Brevard County this year.

In recent months, protests and public discussion have grown over what to do with the untamed area, used mostly by partygoers and off-road enthusiasts. The area has a history also of being a dumping ground and cover for criminal activity, from drug use to homicide.

In December 2022, two teens were found shot to death there on Christmas. No arrests have been made in that case. In March, the burned, dismembered remains of a missing 44-year-old Indian Harbour Beach woman were found. An arrest was made in that case.

The city council also studied proposals on handling access the Compound, which is mostly private land.

J.D. Gallop is a criminal justice/breaking news reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Gallop at 321-917-4641 or jgallop@floridatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Two arrested in death of Palm Bay man whose body was found at Compound

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