Lakeland, FL – A former Lakeland city commissioner and her husband were brutally murdered during a random robbery at their home on Tuesday morning, according to police.
Edith Yates Henderson, 67, served on the Lakeland City Commission from 2006 until early 2018, according to WKMG.
She and her husband, 63-year-old David Henderson, had been married since 2012.
Lakeland police responded to the couple’s Lake Morton home on Tuesday after Edith’s son called to report that he had been unable to reach his mother all day, Lakeland Police Department (LPD) Chief of Detectives Sam Taylor said during a press conference.
When Edith failed to respond to her son’s repeated text messages, he headed over to her house and discovered it had been trashed, WKMG reported.
The son backed out and contacted police.
When officers arrived at the couple’s home, they discovered an “absolutely horrific” scene in the upstairs master bedroom, Chief Taylor said.
Investigators said they believe David left the home on Tuesday morning to get breakfast for him and his wife, WKMG reported.
He left the side door of the house unlocked while he made the quick 20-minute trip, according to The Ledger.
When he got back, David set the table and headed upstairs to find Edith, police said, according to WKMG.
Chief Taylor said Edith had been tied up and stabbed to death in the upstairs master bedroom while her husband was out.
Before killing her, the suspect forced her to write two $5,000 checks, WTVT reported.
Her unsuspecting husband encountered the suspect when he got upstairs, and was stabbed to death during the ensuing struggle, according to the chief.
Investigators said the suspect then headed downstairs and turned on all of the gas burners on the stove in a failed attempt to set the couple’s home on fire.
He allegedly stole one of the Hendersons’ vehicles and fled the scene, WKMG reported.
Police later found the stolen car abandoned in Lakeland.
It had been burned.
Investigators soon received a tip from a caller who said they had seen 36-year-old Marcelle Waldon with jewelry and other items that had been stolen from the Hendersons’ home, WKMG reported.
The suspect also allegedly tried to cash the checks he’d forced Edith to write, but the business where he attempted to do so refused to hand over the money because they were unable to reach the couple to verify the checks were valid, according to WTVT.
Police ended up tracking Waldon down and placed him under arrest on Wednesday night, WKMG reported.
He has since been charged with 10 counts, including the first-degree murders of David and Edith.
Investigators said there does not appear to be any link between the couple and Waldon, and that they believe the attack was completely random.
“I’ve been doing this almost 32 years and I can count on one hand the number of times that the victim has no relationship, or we can find no nexus between the victim and the suspect,” Chief Taylor said. “This was an unfortunate set of circumstances that he picked that house. It’s a very rare act.
Waldon’s extensive criminal history includes charges of resisting arrest, trespassing, burglary, domestic violence, and driving offenses, according to the chief.
He was released from prison in 2016 after serving time on a burglary offense, WTVT reported.
Lakeland Mayor Bill Muntz told The Ledger that the Hendersons were involved community members who wanted to improve the quality of life in their city.
“Our community grieves at the horrific loss of two citizens who consistently worked to make Lakeland an even better place to live,” Muntz told the paper in a text message. “The Lakeland Commission and City Staff ask citizens to pray for the families of David and Edie Henderson in the wake of this painful tragedy.”
The victims’ families issued a statement asking for privacy following news of Waldon’s arrest, WTVT reported.
“We are comforted to know that a suspect has been apprehended, but nothing can truly compensate for the loss to our family and our community,” the statement read.