18-year-old Central Florida student found dead near trail

Poinciana student found dead near Winter Haven trail

An 18-year-old Poinciana woman was found dead Monday morning alongside a trail that runs through Winter Haven, and investigators say she was murdered.

Alicia Barnett was found about 15 to 20 feet off the Chain of Lakes Trail in front of Carefree Cove.

"There were obvious signs of trauma," Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester said. "Based off of some of the reports we got from the individual who located the victim, there's no doubt in our mind that we have a homicide here."

Investigators are not specifying how she was killed.

Barnett was a student at New Beginnings High School in Winter Haven.

"At this point, we can't rule out that it was a random act. But we certainly can't rule out that it wasn't someone who knew her and was potentially known to her," Hester told Fox 13 Tampa just hours after the murder.

They say Barnett was on her way to New Beginnings, a charter school about half a mile away from where she died.

After school officials found out about the slaying, they locked down the school and canceled afternoon classes.

"Not only did she have a positive attitude, she was a joy just to be around," principal Ashlee Wright said.

Police are beefing up patrols on the trail, advising people who use it to be extra cautious and to report any suspicious activity.

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