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News and Investigations

News & Investigations

News Releases and Public Information

Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.

PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at

The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.

Sep 5, 2023

Lake Wales man murders his own 16-year-old son

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

On Labor Day Monday, September 4, 2023, the Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested 37-year-old Stephen Thomas Rodda of Lake Wales and charged him with first degree murder in the homicide of his own son, 16-year-old Stephen Lee Rodda*.

Sheriff Judd gave preliminary details about the investigation on-scene - please click here to see that video.

The following is an excerpt from the affidavit, which is self-explanatory:

On September 4, 2023 at approximately 1115 hours, Thomas Rodda called 911 to report he found his grandson, Stephen Lee Rodda (16 years old), unresponsive in a pool of blood. Polk County Deputies and Polk County EMS responded to the scene and found Stephen Lee Rodda (victim) deceased in the dining area of the residence. The victim suffered a deep laceration to the underside of his left arm, lacerations to his left eyebrow and left ear, superficial lacerations to his abdomen and three deep lacerations to the back of his head. The victim was missing some teeth, which were located near his body. Apparent human hair was found in the victim's left hand. Blood spatter was visible on the wall near his body and head. A handheld angle grinder was located next to the victim, with a broken saw blade on the ground.
While on scene, I learned Thomas Rodda, Stephen Lee Rodda (Victim), and Stephen Thomas Rodda (Suspect) all live in the same dwelling as a family unit. Thomas advised on this day he left his residence at approximately 0800 hours to visit his wife at the Palm Gardens Rehabilitation Center. When he left the residence, only Stephen Lee Rodda (victim) and Stephen Thomas Rodda (suspect) were at the residence. He left the rehab center at approximately 1030 hours and returned home. When he returned home, the suspect was standing outside and asked Thomas Rodda for a cigarette. The suspect then told Thomas Rodda not to go inside the residence and that he "just killed somebody." The suspect then told Thomas Rodda he "should probably call the police."  Thomas Rodda entered the residence and found the victim deceased in a pool of blood on the dining room floor. When Thomas Rodda left (exited) the house, the suspect was gone.

At approximately 1134 hours, deputies located the suspect walking west along Hwy 60, near West Lake Wales Rd N. The suspect had blood on his jeans and a fresh laceration on the knuckle of his right hand index finger. He was taken into custody without incident.

Rodda was booked into the Polk County Jail and attended a first appearance hearing on Tuesday afternoon, September 5, 2023. He is being held without bond.

*The victim's name is being released with permission from his family.