First-Degree Murder Charge Brought Against Father Who Killed Son
Suspect Had Moved to Lake Wales Area One Month Ago
Last updated 9/13/2023 at 12:48pm
Stephen Thomas Rodda has been charged with first-degree murder after apparently killing his own 16-year-old son on Monday. Rodda, 37, was booked into the Polk County Jail Monday after he was arrested by Polk County Deputies and charged with killing the teen with an angle-grinder, a power tool normally used to cut metal. He will have a first appearance hearing at 1:00 p.m. today, Tuesday, September 5, 2023.
According to the Sheriff's office, the victim's grandfather returned to their shared home about 1:00 am Monday after a visit to his wife, who is undergoing a medical treatment. He found his son sitting outside the home, who reportedly told him "I wouldn't go in there if I was you, I killed someone. You may need to call the police," according to Polk Sheriff Grady Judd.
Apparently not believing his son was serious, the elder Rodda walked in only to find his grandson dead in the dining room. The victim, Stephen Lee Rodda, was an 11th grade student at Frostproof High School. He had plans to become an electrician.
The suspect fled the scene but was captured by deputies on SR 60 only a mile from the crime scene located off Old Bartow Road.
"Rodda has a lengthy criminal history, with arrests in Florida, Louisiana, Ohio, and South Carolina," Judd said, along with a long history of methamphetamine abuse. Several of those arrests were in Polk County, he added.
Rodda was known to be prone to psychotic episodes. He had returned to the Lake Wales area only a month ago after living in a number of states including South Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Washington DC. He had an outstanding arrest warrant from South Carolina, but it was for a minor charge, according to Judd.
Polk Schools spokesperson Jason Geary told LakeWalesNews.net that the system was making grief counselors available to speak with students and staff at Frostproof High School to aid in the emotional impact of losing a student and classmate.
The tragic event is the second time is about eight days that a parent has taken the lives of their own children after a double murder-suicide that happened in the Waverly area of Lake Wales last week.