A 16-year-old Frostproof High School student was killed by his father Monday morning at his grandfather’s home in Lake Wales, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
“In eight days, we have another parent who killed their child,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a Monday afternoon press conference at the scene.
Stephen Thomas Rodda, 37, was arrested a mile west of the 60 State Road crime scene. Judd said he fled the area. He lived with his father, Thomas Rodda, 65, in the 2500 block of Old Bartow Road in Lake Wales. His son, Stephen Lee Rodda, 16, also lived in the residence, Judd said.
The 16-year-old was in 11th grade at Frostproof High School and was due to start working at Burger King next week so he could buy a car, Judd said. He studied to be an electrician, ‘his dream in life’.
Judd said the younger Rodda “was a great kid.”
“Not just a good kid, a great kid. In fact, he lived with his grandfather to help him out while his grandmother was in rehab. That’s the kind of kid Stephen was,’ Judd said.
His father, Stephen Thomas Rodda, showed up about a month ago, Judd said.
“We ask, ‘Where has he been?’ He’s been to DC, he’s been to South Carolina, he’s been to Ohio, he’s been to Texas, there was even an outstanding warrant for Stephen Thomas Rodda in South Carolina, but South Carolina wouldn’t extradite, so he couldn’t be arrested.’
Judd said Thomas Rodda left around 8 a.m. to visit his wife in rehab. When he returned around 11 a.m. on Monday, he was met outside by his son, the suspect.
“His quote was, ‘I wouldn’t go in there if I were you. I killed someone. Maybe you should call the police,'” Judd said. The sheriff said Thomas Rodda told detectives that “it wasn’t unusual” for his son to make outlandish statements.
Thomas Rodda entered the house and found his grandson dead in the dining room. Judd said it appears in the early stages of the investigation that an angle grinder was used to kill the teen.
Judd said investigators don’t yet know the motive for the attack. But he said the family said the suspect had used methamphetamine since high school and had a history of psychotic episodes.
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“We lost a great young man today. And we’ve got a bad, bad man in custody,” Judd said.
It was the second time in just over a week that a child was killed by a parent. On August 27, the Sheriff’s Office found Brandy Hutchins, 43, of Waverly, dead, along with her 10-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter. Her husband, who lives in Maine, had been given custody, and detectives said Hutchins killed herself and both children.
This article originally appeared in The Ledger: 16-year-old Frostproof student killed by father, Polk sheriff says