WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — A murder suspect with an extensive wrap sheet was captured Wednesday after an 18-hour manhunt in Winter Haven, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies said 42-year-old Robert Simmons was captured in the Eloise area of Winter Haven Wednesday morning after authorities found the body of a homeless man in a shallow grave at a homeless camp just northwest of the intersection of US 17 and Snively Avenue.
Deputies said it all began on April 30, when an altercation broke out between Simmons and the victim. Deputies said the victim suffered a laceration on his back, but refused to seek medical treatment.
A day later, Simmons returned to the camp where a witness asked about the victim’s whereabouts. Simmons allegedly told the witness that the victim left for Avon Park.
On Tuesday, May 3, Simmons told several witnesses he killed the victim because he was “tired of seeing the victim masturbate all of the time,” according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies said Simmons warned the victim to stop the first time. The second time, he “beat him up,” and the third time he “killed him,” deputies added.
Detectives ultimately located the shallow grave near the homeless camp after a witness explained the situation to law enforcement.
By Tuesday evening, deputies spotted Simons while they were investigating the burial site. While deputies were not able to capture him immediately, they managed to keep him confined to a small area.
“Our search for him was hindered by some bad weather Tuesday, but deputies held a tight perimeter around where he was last seen, and contained him there overnight,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Nearly eight hours later, deputies captured Simmons on a business property adjacent to the homeless camp.
Simmons was charged with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence, and resisting.
“I got into it with him, I got into a fight with him but I definitely didn’t kill that man. But it’s easy to accuse somebody who’s already been in trouble for a lot,” Simmons told News Channel 8 as he was escorted out of the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Judd said Simmons handed his weapon over to deputies when he was taken into custody.
“He told the deputy on the perimeter, ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and he threw down the knife and said ‘This is what I used,’” said Sheriff Judd.
Simmons’ prior criminal history includes 16 felonies and 12 misdemeanors. He has also been in prison four times, with his most recent release coming in October 2021. His list of previous charges includes aggravated battery, burglary, grand theft, motor vehicle theft, escape, carrying concealed weapon, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, drug possessions, retail theft, and probation violation.