Sheriff: In one day, 7 children in Polk County lost a parent to suicide

Image 1 of 3

Within one day, three deadly domestic situations in Polk County left seven children without at least one of their parents, prompting the sheriff to plead for domestic violence victims to search for help.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd described the latest incident as "bizarre" after standoff involving a Lakeland man ended up with him committing suicide. Before 6 p.m., his wife called her mother, living in Pinellas County, to tell her that her husband was being abusive. 

During a press conference, Judd said her mother heard what sounded like a physical altercation, and called 911. Two Polk County deputies responded to the Lakeland home near Skyview Drive and Goodyear Avenue to conduct a welfare check, and from there the night of events escalated. 

When deputies arrived to the home Thursday night, the husband, Michael Manning, was inside refusing to open the door, they said. Their children, a 14-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, arrived on bicycles. One deputy approached then and the teen boy fled, and the teen girl stayed but refused to answer any questions.

Grady said the deputies tried to protect the teen girl as at least six bullets flew on the dark street. The deputies said they heard a seventh "muffled" shot, and didn't hear any projectiles striking anything outside.

Surrounding homes were evacuated and a SWAT team entered the home to find Michael's body. Grady said he died from a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Deputies also found two shotguns and 1,700 rounds of birdshot.

The wife and her 14-year-old child were nowhere to be found, deputies said, and they were concerned about their welfare. Her cell phone was left inside the home. Grady said the teen daughter didn't want to cooperate. It turned out the son went to a friend's home nearby and the wife left their home during her argument to buy dinner at a nearby store.

Grady explained that when she returned, there was a police presence from the standoff, but she didn't realize it was involving her husband. The roads to her home were blocked off, so, Grady said, she parked at a nearby parking lot and fell asleep in her car. That's where they found her.

There was a conflict of information on whether the couple argued regularly, but Grady said if there is a ongoing domestic violence issue, report it. It was the third deadly domestic incident within 25 hours in Polk County.

On Halloween night, a Lakeland husband fatally shot his wife and turned the gun on himself. The murder-suicide occurred in front of their 21-year-old son while their two younger children were waiting outside to go trick-or-treating.

On Thursday morning, a husband and wife were arguing that spilled from inside their home and onto the driveway, which is near Mulberry High School. A teacher stopped to ask if they were OK, and noticed a gun. The woman breaks free from her husband, and he kills himself. 

"That left two more children without a father," Grady explained.

He explained that each couple, including the husband and wife involved in the Lakeland standoff, were married between 18 to 25 years.

“These were all people who were not kids, not really old, had been in long term relationships, and we ended up with three suicides in 25 hours," Grady said. "If you’re having domestic problems get help because we don’t want you to die. We don’t want your wife or husband to die, and we don’t want your children orphaned."