A former local elected official and her husband, both long-time residents and well-loved in their Florida community, were brutally murdered in their home in what police say appears to have started out as a random robbery gone wrong. Edith “Edie” Yates Henderson, 67, a former Lakeland City Commissioner, and David Henderson, 63, an attorney and real estate investor, were found stabbed to death in their lakefront home in the city of Lakeland, Lakeland County Police said.
The couple’s bodies were discovered by police on Nov. 10, after their son reported that he was unable to reach his mother by text and calls throughout the day, and contacted the authorities to conduct a welfare check, according to an affidavit filed by police. When the son arrived at the home, he found the home had been ransacked and called the police. When the officers arrived that is when they discovered the bodies of Baylis’ mother, Edith Henderson, and his stepfather, David Henderson, in a master bedroom, the affidavit said. The couple was already deceased when their son found them, said Lakeland County Police Chief Garcia during a Nov. 12 news conference with members of the Lakeland Police Departments Criminal division.
According to the police affidavit, Edith was located lying on the bed in the master bedroom upstairs. She had clear blunt force trauma. David was located on the floor in the bedroom with clear upper body trauma.
“This has been close to a 48-hour investigation. As you can imagine, the crime scene was horrific,” said Chief of Detectives Sam Taylor, who announced at the news conference the arrest of Marcelle Waldon, 36, in the double homicide on Thursday.
Waldon was taken into police custody at the Lakeland motel where he was staying on Nov. 11 and charged with 10 felony counts and first-degree capital murder.
The chief said Waldon had a history of domestic violence charges, burglaries, trespassing, resisting arrest, and some driver license charges that included driving with a suspended license. According to Taylor, Waldon was released from prison in 2016.
Police alleged that Edith was attacked and killed Tuesday morning while her husband was out of the house getting breakfast. David was killed when he returned to the house and went looking for his wife. Taylor said the couple’s breakfast was still sitting on the kitchen table when police arrived, Fox News reported.
“We think it was a random act,” said Taylor. “We do not at this point in the investigation have any reason to believe he [Waldon] knew either one of the victims at all.”
Taylor said they received information from a source, who knew the suspect, who was able to provide detectives with information on Waldon. “There was some items taken out of the home that only this person would know,” Taylor said.
“These were the items the suspect removed from the house that led us to believe that this was a robbery. Jewelry and personal items that is our theory right now it was a robbery.”
Taylor called the crime “an unspeakable tragedy.”
Fielding questions from reporters during the conference, Taylor said there was no forced entry.
“He [Waldon] denied ever being in the house,” said Taylor. “We believe he found the house and went into the house in an unlocked or unsecured door.”
The chief said that Waldon stole one of the vehicles that was at the house. When officers arrived, Taylor said there was a red Mercedes at the house, but the white Audi had been missing.
“We were very interested in locating that Audi and that is where we were focused on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. We were able to locate the Audi by Tuesday evening it had been set on fire,” said Taylor.
He said that he believed Waldon tried to set the house on fire. “When the officers entered their residence. All the appliances were gas. The stove is gas. Every single burner was on in the house. The oven was on. We think he left it at that way to burn the house down and attempt to cover all the evidence that was there.”
He said Waldon made some admissions on using the couple’s credit card and burning the car but no significant statements were made from him on the homicide. During the conference, Taylor read a statement from the grieving family, who wanted to thank the community for their outpouring of support.
“These were two folks that had ties in the community and were very well-loved,” said Taylor. “They went to Lakeland High School, graduated from Lakeland High School. I knew her personally, so it’s tough. I worked with her when she was on the city commission. This is a gut punch. This hurts.”
Edie Yates Henderson served on the Lakeland City Commission for three consecutive four-year terms, ending in 2018. The couple, along with their two sons and another business partner, were co-owners of the city’s historic luxury Terrace Hotel, which they purchased this past August, The Ledger reported.
Taylor reassured the Lakeland community that they are still a very safe city and they “should not let this tragic incident define us.”
“I’ve been doing this almost 32 years and I can count on one hand the number of times the victim has no relationship between the victim and the suspect, so it is extremely rare for something like this to occur,” he said. “This was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that he just picked that house. It’s a very rare act most of the time the victim knows the suspect in some way.”
The City of Lakeland posted on its Facebook page. “Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences go out to the friends and families of Edie and David.”
Waldon has pleaded not guilty. He has been appointed a regional council as his legal representative. His next arraignment is on Dec. 16, according to the Polk County Court.