LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – City leaders in Lakeland and the Lake Morton Historic District say they are shocked over the deaths of a former Lakeland city commissioner and her husband.
Edith Henderson, known publicly as Edie Yates, and her husband David Henderson were found dead in their Lake Morton Drive home on Tuesday evening, according to the Lakeland Police Department.
Detectives are referring to the incident as a double homicide.
“We’re still really early in the investigation but at this point, there’s no signs to point that it was a murder-suicide in any way,” Lakeland Police Department Public Information Officer Robin Tillett said.
Few details are being shared publicly regarding the manner and circumstances of their deaths.
“At this point, our top priority is obviously to find out who is responsible for the act but also to preserve the integrity of the investigation,” Tillett said.
Meanwhile, the community is in mourning.
“Devastating. Just hard to believe,” Lakeland City Commissioner Phillip Walker said.
Walker and Yates went to junior high school together. Decades later, they sat side-by-side on the city commission.
“She’s like a sister to me because I have been a part of her family, she’s been a part of my family all those many years,” he said.
Yates and Walker were there for each other through the good times and the hard times. They mourned the loss of their spouses together and celebrated when they both remarried.
“I was actually floored when I got the news about someone I call my friend,” said Walker.
“You wonder – could 2020 get any worse?” asked Lakeland Communications Director Kevin Cook.
Cook worked with Yates for over a decade, including her three terms on the city commission that began in 2006.
“Edie was a numbers person and she served the community well,” he said. “She was a leader as a commissioner and in the community. She’s going to be missed.”
The couple invested in the community, including a recent purchase of the Terrace Hotel in downtown Lakeland.
“We hadn’t really had enough time with them yet to really discuss what their vision was. Obviously, they’ve secured a national chain to help run that and help bring up awareness of the hotel,” said Julie Townsend, executive director of Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.
Townsend, who also serves on the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association, saw David Henderson on a walk around Lake Morton Tuesday morning.
Townsend worked closely with Yates on economic development issues in the city.
“She’s a go-getter. She was a tough lady. She knew she had strong opinions and we didn’t always agree but I think she tried to listen fairly to all sides,” Townsend said.
Police are looking for tips to find who is responsible.
Heartland Crime Stoppers is offering up to $10,000 in rewards money for information leading to an arrest in the couple’s murder. To remain anonymous, you can contact Heartland Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-226 TIPS (8477) or submitting a tip on www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com. You can also download the free “P3tips” app on a smartphone or tablet.
“Doesn’t matter what small tip it is. It could be that you saw one of our two victims [Tuesday] and a time frame for that. But certainly, if they’ve seen anything suspicious in the area, we want them to call in,” said Tillett.
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