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Polk County woman charged with murder of man found in orange groves

Polk County

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has arrested and charged a Lakeland woman for first-degree murder in the death of a 21-year-old man in Polk County.

Heather Tyler, 28, is accused of killing Joseph Wayne Witherington Thursday in an orange grove in Alturas.

Deputies said Tyler, admitted to detectives that the flip flops found at the scene belonged to her. She also said that she was with Witherington at the time of his death. 

Tyler told detectives Witherington drove a friend’s blue Kia to her home on March 27. They hung out for a few hours, then drove to a local convenience store, and eventually out to 80 Foot Road in Alturas.

An autopsy revealed Witherington was shot twice in the back of the head. Grove caretakers found the body around 7:45 a.m. off of Mud Lake Road near 80 Foot Road.

Detectives say Tyler stole Witherington’s wallet and fled the scene, leaving her shoes behind. Then she burned her bloodstained clothes. Tyler did not give detectives a clear motive for the killing.

Regardless of Heather’s many reasons and excuses, we know that she executed Joseph Witherington by shooting him in the back of the head while he was driving down a dirt road between orange groves and that is first degree murder and we have charged her accordingly. Clearly the evidence, witnesses, and her admissions confirm that she committed cold blooded first degree murder. Joseph’s family and friends are in our prayers. If not for the vicious act by Heather Tyler, he would be alive and well today.  Grady Judd, Sheriff 

Tyler is charged with first-degree murder, tampering with evidence and grand theft of a firearm. She was booked into the Polk County Jail late Friday and is being held without bond. 

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