After a father was arrested in Florida on Labor Day and accused of murdering his teen son with a power saw, his history of psychotic episodes and use of methamphetamine since high school came into focus. In his first court appearance since, Stephen Thomas Rodda claimed he had a different name, identified himself as the owner of the NFL, and told a judge he has a “pardon from Montana.”
Rodda, 37, made the series of odd statements at a hearing that ended Tuesday afternoon with his continued detainment without bond, raising serious questions about his competency to stand trial moving forward.
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by Law&Crime, defendant Rodda used a “handheld angle grinder” to murder his 16-year-old son, Stephen Lee Rodda, attacking the boy in the back of the head so forcefully that the saw blade broke.
The victim was living in Lake Wales with his grandfather Thomas Rodda, 65, to help him out while his grandmother was in rehab, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Monday. The Frostproof High School student was in the 11th grade and was studying to be an electrician. The brother to three siblings was going to start work at Burger King as soon as next week, the sheriff said.
According to authorities, the victim’s grandfather left the residence, described as a mobile home, at 8 a.m. on Monday to visit his wife in rehab and returned around 11 a.m. to the suspect asking for a cigarette and warning him not to going inside the home. The defendant allegedly stated he “just killed somebody” and “[you] should probably call the police.”
Inside the home, the grandfather found Stephen Lee Rodda “in a pool of blood” in the “dining area of the residence,” the affidavit said.
The victim “was missing some teeth” and had deep cuts all over his body, including to the back of his head, investigators said.
“Apparent human hair was found in the victim’s left hand,” the affidavit said. “Blood spatter was visible on the wall near [the victim’s] body and head.”
Sheriff Judd, describing the defendant as a drifter who’s been in Washington, D.C., South Carolina, Texas, and Ohio, told press on Monday that defendant Rodda showed up in Florida just a month ago.
“It breaks our heart. There aren’t adequate words to explain how horrific this event is,” Judd said. “He was just a stand-up, stellar young man.”
“To have this individual murder his son is inexplicable,” the sheriff added.
According to the affidavit, the suspect with blood on his jeans fled the scene of the crime towards Highway 60, where he was caught and arrested. The sheriff said was trying to leave the area.
“You probably need to read me my rights,” Rodda said when he was caught, according to the sheriff.
After Rodda was read his rights, the affidavit said, he made a series of incoherent rape claims and “showed no remorse or concern for the killing of [his son].”
Deputies noted that the victim had “apparent defensive wounds” and that the suspect “continued to batter the victim in the face and side of the head.”
During his presser earlier in the week, Sheriff Judd said that Rodda’s criminal history can be found “all over the United States,” including South Carolina — where he had a warrant but was not extradited.
The sheriff called the defendant an “evil, evil man” and vowed to ensure “he spends the rest of his life in prison.”
Polk County jail records showed that defendant has been booked at least two other times with his first name spelled “Stephan.” Those drug cases date back to 2022 and 2016.
Jail records contained numerous other entries under the name Stephen Rodda, with the same date of birth as “Stephan.” Numerous mug shots of Rodda spanning from 2008 to 2021 show a drastic transformation in his appearance from his early 20s to mid-30s.
On Tuesday, Rodda identified himself by a completely different — made-up — name in his first court appearance in the case.
“I have a pardon from Montana and my name is Michael [inaudible last name],” the murder defendant told the judge, who ignored the statement.
After the judge informed him he was being appointed a public defender, Rodda interjected: “I own the NFL as well, so.”
An arraignment is currently set for 8:15 a.m. on Oct. 10, Polk County court records show.
Watch the WTVT segment with footage from the Tuesday court hearing below:
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