After her body was discovered in floating near the Coconut Cay community last month, the suspect in Kameela Russell’s murder is now in custody.
Childhood friend and former Miami Norland Senior High School Assistant Principal Ernest Roberts is in custody for the alleged murder of Russell, a test proctor and teacher, also at Miami Norland.
Since her disappearance, the community was called upon to help look for Russell and were encouraged to share any information involving the case. An investigation led by different agencies including Miami Gardens police found that Roberts had plans to chop up Russell's car and made an extensive effort to clean up the scene of the crime. The investigation culminated with the State Attorney issuing a warrant and arresting Roberts Friday night. Russell's death was felt throughout the Miami Gardens community and abroad.
Following his arrest, the school system has begun to terminate Roberts' employment. He is facing first-degree murder charges in connection with Russell's death and is currently held at Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center with no bond.
Meanwhile, her family is left to mourn and try to make sense of what happened the Wednesday evening, May 15. Russell's funeral is set for noon Saturday, June 22 at St. James Catholic Church, located at 13155 NW Seventh Ave., in North Miami.
"My daughter was my best friend and confidante, a loving and dedicated mother to her two girls," Her mother, Linda Russell told The Miami Times. "Her loss has left a void in our family both here and in the Bahamas, and a hole in my heart that can never be replaced. We will miss her.”
Russell, a mother of two, was reported missing that day by her family, after abruptly leaving her aunt’s house in Coconut Cay and failing to take her daughter to gymnastics practice. She was last seen leaving in her black Audi A6 that evening, wearing a “Norland Wrestling” shirt and dark-colored jogging pants. She was then seen going to Roberts' residence, which was in the same community. At that time, Roberts and Russell no longer worked together. Roberts was transferred to Linda Lentin K-8 Center in North Miami seven months before Russell went missing.
After failing to contact Russell that evening, her aunt reported her missing, according to the warrant affidavit.
In the days following the missing person's report, several leads suggested Roberts may be involved in Russell’s sudden disappearance.
On Monday, May 20, a Miami-Dade County Public Schools employee at Linda Lentin K-8 Center reached out to investigators about a note left for him by Roberts. The two knew each other from working at the school and had previously exchanged numbers, the affidavit reads. That morning, Roberts called the employee and told him to look in a specific cabinet file where he would find a hand-written note and set of Audi car keys.
“Do you know anyone that can chop a car up?” the note read. “It is behind the speedway racetrack on 441 by County line,” Roberts allegedly wrote, instructing the employee to throw the note away.
The employee recalled seeing Russell’s missing persons report and out of concern reached out to the Miami Gardens Police Department. The employee met with investigators that same day and recalled an erratic conversation he had with Roberts a few days prior.
On May 15, Roberts called the employee saying “I did something crazy,” according to the affidavit. Roberts said he confronted an intruder at his mother’s house and hit him in the head with a baseball bat, and requested they speak in person. Roberts subsequently admitted to the employee that he killed the intruder and said he wrapped up the body in a tarp and dragged the body through his mother’s house, leaving blood stains in various rooms. He asked the employee how to rid the house of bloodstains. The employee suggested Clorox, though he believed Roberts was kidding about the incident at the time.
Following this lead, investigators went to the address listed in the handwritten note and found a black Audi A6 near a Speedway Gas Station. Records check revealed the car was registered to Russell.
Continuing the break in the case, investigators went to Roberts' residence and noticed apparent blood stains in the front door of the home, which was owned by his mother who lived out of state. Police were issued a search warrant was granted, which revealed several blood-stained items in the house. The smell of bleach permeated throughout the house. Detectives said there were efforts to clean the wood floors, and found a mop head that tests results indicated had traces of blood.
On Saturday, May 25, a body was found floating in a canal on 207th Street and Northwest 15th Avenue, part of the Coconut Cay community. It was Russell. Blunt force trauma caused her death. She had been killed. Her blood was found at Robert’s residence.
Roberts had shut down his home surveillance cameras prior to Russell’s arrival to his house in the evening of May 25, investigators discovered.
Other surveillance footage shows Russell arriving at Roberts' residence at 6:03 p.m. that evening. She is walking toward Roberts' front door. Later, Roberts is seen entering Russell’s vehicle alone at 6:54 p.m and backing her Audi closer to his front door. He is seen entering and leaving the residence and walking toward the trunk of the car several times with no signs of Russell. At 7:10 p.m. he is seen driving away in Russell’s Audi. Later video shows him walking back to his home. Russell was never seen leaving Roberts' home residence. She was not seen again until her body was discovered in the canal 10 days later.
Russell’s death was felt throughout the Miami Gardens community and abroad.
Hundreds of people left condolence messages on her Facebook page.
“I was hoping you were found safely. So sorry that someone took your innocent life so violently and senselessly. You had so much to offer the world,” a user wrote. “I don't know you personally but I haven't stop praying since I heard the news,” another user wrote.
“Norland Senior High and the Miami-Dade County Public Schools are tremendously affected by the senseless, horrific loss of this beautiful black queen who was a mother, daughter, family member, colleague, and a friend,” said Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Member Steve Gallon III. “Although I did not have direct contact with Kameela, the accounts that I have received from students, staff, parents, and members of the community described her as a caring, committed, and compassionate educator,” he said.