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Florida father is charged with killing his teenage son in Polk County

Stephen Rodda, a 16-year-old Frostproof High student, was found dead at his grandparents’ home in Lake Wales.
 
At a news conference Monday, Sept. 4, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd shows a picture of Stephen Thomas Rodda, accused of killing his 16-year-old son Stephen Rodda.
At a news conference Monday, Sept. 4, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd shows a picture of Stephen Thomas Rodda, accused of killing his 16-year-old son Stephen Rodda. [ Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff's Office's Facebook page ]
Published Sept. 4, 2023|Updated Sept. 4, 2023

LAKES WALES — A 37-year-old father has been charged with killing his teenage son, who was found dead at his grandparents’ home in Polk County, authorities said Monday.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that Stephen Rodda, a 16-year-old 11th grader at Frostproof High School, had moved in with his 65-year-old grandfather, Thomas Rodda, a few months earlier. The teen came to help while his grandmother was rehabilitating an injury.

“He was a great kid,” Judd said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “Not just a good kid, a great kid ... He was to start work next week at Burger King to earn money to buy a car ... He was also studying to be an electrician. That was his dream in life.”

The teen’s father, Stephen Thomas Rodda, showed up at the house on Old Bartow Road in Lake Wales about a month ago after bouncing around the country recently, Judd said. He’d been in Washington, D.C. and Ohio, and had an outstanding warrant in South Carolina, the sheriff said, although Judd did not say what the warrant was for.

The grandfather told authorities it was “not uncommon for his son to talk bizarre,” that his son used methamphetamine and that he had “psychotic episodes,” Judd said.

When the grandfather returned home around 11 a.m. Monday, his son was waiting outside, advised him against going in and suggested that someone call the police, Judd said. The grandfather then found Stephen Rodda “deceased in the dining room area.”

The murder weapon is believed to be an angle grinder, a handheld tool that can cut through metal, Judd said. He did not say how the weapon was used.

The father tried to flee the county, but deputies caught him on Highway 60 about a mile from the house, Judd told reporters. The specific charge against him was not immediately available Monday afternoon.

Judd said they did not have a motive for Stephen Rodda’s murder.