A father with a prolific criminal record and history of drug use has been arrested on suspicion of killing his 16-year-old son with a power tool in what Florida police said was an “inexplicable” incident.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference that Stephen Thomas Rodda, 37, was charged Monday with killing teens at a trailer home in Lake Wales. Son Stephen Lee Rodda (Stephen Lee Rodda) was detained.
The teen, who hopes to one day become an electrician, lives with his grandfather, Thomas Rodda, 67, and helps with chores at home while his grandmother recovers.
When the grandfather returned home on Monday morning to find his son Stephen outside the house, he allegedly told his son: “If I were you, I wouldn’t go in. I killed a man. You might need to call the police.”
The grandfather told investigators that the suspect had been using methamphetamines since high school and that psychotic episodes and “strange” remarks were not uncommon.
Judd said that when Thomas Rhoda entered the home, he found his grandson dead in the restaurant area.
Judd said initial investigators found that the suspect used a “heavy saw” known as an angle grinder to kill his son.
“This breaks our hearts. There are not enough words to explain how horrific this incident was,” Judd said on Monday.
“It is inexplicable for this worthless man to murder his son,” he added.
The father was soon caught by police as he fled the scene on Highway 60 and was taken into custody.
The suspect has an extensive criminal history, including a warrant issued in South Carolina, Judd said.
“This guy has been a problem in society for a long time,” Judd said. “Now, when he murders his own son and creates a series of horrific circumstances for a loving family, he turns a problematic man into a villainous one.”
Stephen Rodda Jr. is a third-year student at Frostproof High School, where he is taking an electrician class.
He will also start working at Burger King next week in hopes of saving enough to buy a car, his family told police.
“He’s just a straight up, great young man,” Judd said. “Our prayers go out to his family and I want you to know that the world lost a great young man today.”
The sheriff said the motive for the murder is still under investigation.