A Florida father was arrested on Monday for allegedly killing his teenage son with an angle grinder, which is a heavy-duty saw, inside a mobile home in Polk County, according the sheriff’s office.
Stephan Thomas Rodda, 37, was taken into custody after leaving the scene in the 2500 block of Old Bartow Road in Lake Wales and attempting to flee the area. He is accused of murdering his son, 16-year-old Stephen Lee Rodda, who was an 11th grader at Frostproof High School.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd described the elder Rodda as “evil” during a news conference announcing the arrest.
“It breaks our heart, there aren’t adequate words to explain how horrific this event is,” Judd said.
The teenager was staying with his grandfather, 67-year-old Thomas Rodda, at the mobile home to help him out while his grandmother was in rehab. Thomas, who left the home Monday morning to visit his wife in rehab, encountered the accused killer when he returned at around 11 a.m.
“I wouldn’t go in there if I was you. I killed someone. You may need to call the police,” Stephan allegedly told Thomas.
Judd said the grandfather told investigators it was not uncommon for the suspect to make “bizarre” comments.
Thomas told detectives that when he entered his mobile home, he found his grandson’s body in the dining room area. Judd said a preliminary investigation revealed the suspect used an angle grinder – a type of power tool used for cutting, grinding and polishing objects – to kill his son.
“To have this worthless individual murder his son is inexplicable,” Judd said.
The motive for the murder remains under investigation.
The suspect has an extensive criminal history, the sheriff said, and he moved to Lake Wales about a month ago after living in several states, including Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
“There was even an outstanding warrant for Stephen Thomas Rodda in South Carolina, but South Carolina would not extradite, so he was not able to be arrested,” Judd said, adding that this is not uncommon when the warrant is for a minor charge.
The sheriff said the suspect also has a history of using methamphetamine dating back to high school and has had prior psychotic episodes.
“Our prayers are with the family, and I want you to know that the world lost a great young man today,” Judd said. “And we have an evil, evil man in custody, and we’re going to do our best to see that he spends the rest of his life in prison.”