LAKE WALES, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County deputies arrested a 19-year-old Lake Wales man Thursday for shooting and killing his own mother, according to the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Grady Judd said the 52-year-old mother had returned home from taking her 14-year-old daughter to school when she noticed the smell of smoke coming from the bedroom belong to her 19-year-old son, Seth Settle.
Judd said Settle’s mother told him to stop smoking and closed the door. In response, Settle shot her through the door, striking her through her heart, according to deputies.
“I can’t begin to tell you the horror of this event,” the sheriff’s said.
Judd said that Settle ran through the house and yelled for his 24-year-old brother, who was in the bathroom and didn’t hear what he said. Meanwhile, Settle went to a friend’s house and said he accidentally shot his mother, the sheriff said.
“Fled past her, didn’t help, didn’t dial 911, hollered something at the brother on the way out of the door,” Judd said.
When the older son left the bathroom, he looked for his mother, finding her unresponsive in the home’s game room.
“He doesn’t know what happened,” Judd said. “He didn’t hear a gunshot. Seth’s fled.”
Judd said when EMS arrived, they initially told deputies the situation appeared to be a medical event. Hospital staff told the Settle family that their mother died from unknown circumstances until they discovered the gunshot wound while moving her body.
“One of the nurses noticed, all of a sudden, there’s a small amount of blood,” Judd said.
At 11:04 a.m., the hospital called the sheriff’s office, saying the mother had suspicious injuries. Deputies then responded to the Settle home while the victim’s husband and their children were mourning their mother’s death, according to the sheriff.
Deputies later arrested Settle, who told authorities that he was holding the gun to his head when his mother walked into his room. Judd said that the suspect told detectives the gun accidentally went off.
However, Judd said he doesn’t believe that story.
“We think he was angry; we think he was mad,” the sheriff said. “We’re absolutely confident with the type of mom that this is. There’s no way she would’ve have closed that door with her son holding a gun to his head.”
Settle told detectives he threw the guns in a wooded area, but Judd said another friend of Settle’s took the teen’s two guns from the home.
The friend did not know Settle shot his mother and said he was removing the guns to prevent the 19-year-old from hurting himself.
According to Judd, Settle bought the firearms from the street. Settle’s family did not even know he had the guns.
The sheriff said Settle’s family had no criminal history.
“This is truly the wonderful family next door, and he kills his mom,” Judd said.
Settle was charged with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, five counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer, and discharging a firearm on a residential property.