POLK COUNTY, Fla. – A 19-year-old Lake Wales man was arrested Thursday in the shooting death of his mother, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Judd discussed the homicide at a news conference, where he also spoke about the arrest of a volunteer sheriff’s service officer who allegedly took advantage of his position to sell Oxycodone while wearing a PCSO uniform.
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Addressing a crowd gathered at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Operations Center, Judd said he found it difficult to describe the horror of the woman’s death.
“We do a criminal history (check), not one blemish on anyone’s name: mom, dad, the four kids. This is truly a wonderful family next door. And he kills his mom,” Judd said.
Thursday morning, when Settle was confronted by his mother for smoking a cigar in their house, Judd said the teen shot the door after his mother closed it, sending a bullet through her heart.
Settle ran away without calling 911, Judd said, leaving that to his 24-year-old brother who found their 52-year-old mother unresponsive. A police response was canceled due to EMS’s determination that it was a medical event because no wound nor blood was initially found, Judd said.
“Only later when they’re preparing to move mom did one of the nurses notice all of a sudden there’s a small amount of blood. And in fact, what happened, she was shocked,” Judd said. “The medical examiner did the investigation this morning and what he determined, this in-and-out wound went directly through her heart, her heart immediately quit beating, so there was no blood to pump out.”
Settle was arrested and taken to the sheriff’s office, where Judd said he confessed to the shooting, yet “colored the event in his best interest.”
“He said that ‘Mom opened the door to get onto me about smoking and I was holding a gun to my head and she told me to put the cigar out and close the door and the gun accidentally discharged.’ We don’t believe that,” Judd said.
Following deputies’ hours-long search for Settle’s two guns, going off his initial claim that he threw them away in a wooded area after the shooting, Judd said Settle had actually asked a friend to hold on to the firearms. Neither were reported stolen, instead having been bought “off the street,” Judd said.
“The whole case is bizarre, but it rips your heart out because this was truly a wonderful mother and a wonderful family. It’s as sad as it gets,” Judd said.
Settle now faces a second-degree murder charge, as well as charges of discharging a firearm on a residential property, tampering with evidence and five counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.