A man with “all the earmarks of a serial killer” is under arrest but Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives are asking for the public’s help finding the witness to a disturbing crime, Polk County Sheriff Judd said.
During a press conference Friday Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd revealed more details of the violent crime.
Polk detectives say the man hit a female jogger with his pickup truck, then got out of the truck and tried to hit her in the head with a hammer. Investigators say the female victim was jogging on the shoulder of the roadway at about 6:30 a.m. on Thursday in the area of Old Lake Wilson Road in Davenport when she was struck by a red 2011 Chevrolet pick-up truck.
Investigators say 58-year-old Frederick Eugene Whitten of Haines City was driving the truck and hit the victim from behind, causing her to fall to the ground along the shoulder of the road. Whitten allegedly stopped his vehicle, got a hammer from his truck and walked toward the victim. He then sat on the victim’s legs and attempted to strike her in the head with the hammer.
Investigators say the victim was able to pull the hammer from Whitten’s hand as she defended herself. The victim told detectives that Whitten placed his hands around her throat causing her breathing to become impeded. She pretended to black out but Whitten continued to apply pressure to her throat. The victim told detectives she scratched Whitten’s face in an attempt to make him stop choking her, according to the affidavit.
She grabbed his hammer and his keys and that “saved her life,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said at the press conference.
Whitten then allegedly began to push the victim toward a patch of tall grass in the area. She told deputies she thought he was trying to push her into the grass to hide her from passing vehicles.
After several minutes of struggling, detectives say a vehicle stopped and asked if help was needed. Whitten stood up and walked to the passenger side of his own vehicle at that time. The victim then asked the witness to call 911.
The victim, who does not speak English, told deputies that the only thing she could understand the suspect saying was “I’m sorry,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said Whitten has a “squeaky clean record.” He is now charged with second-degree attempted murder and kidnap to inflict bodily harm/terrorize victim. He was booked into the Polk County Jail on no bond.
Detectives say he told them he was driving 35 to 45 miles per hour when he reached for his coffee cup and hit her with his truck. He told detectives the hammer fell out of his truck when he opened the door.
Detectives say Whitten initially did not give an explanation about why he had grabbed the hammer. He only stated ‘I was scared’ and “I made a stupid mistake,’ ” according to the arrest affidavit.
Sheriff Judd said during his press conference Friday, that Whitten told detectives he hit the victim with his car accidentally and then tried to finish her off with a hammer so that he could flee. Judd said this story doesn’t add up.
The victim’s left leg was fractured and she suffered scratches and abrasions.
Detectives are now asking for the public’s help in locating the witness who had stopped and asked if help was needed.
If you know the witness or have information that can help detectives call the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at (863) 298-6200 or 1-800-226-0344.
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