WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — A day after declaring a manhunt for an accused killer, the Polk County Sheriff's Office says deputies have their man in custody.
Robert Simmons, 42, who was considered "armed and dangerous," was captured in the Eloise area of Winter Haven, investigators said. Sheriff Grady Judd provided details of what exactly went down on Tuesday leading into Wednesday's capture.
The investigation reportedly started Tuesday afternoon around 2:20 p.m. when three people from a homeless camp came forward with information about a possible murder over the past weekend.
The witnesses were only able to describe the person killed as a man between the ages of 30 and 40 years old, deputies explained. The man who died was later identified as a 39-year-old man.
After Simmons killed the man, he buried him in a shallow grave, the sheriff explains.
But what led to the man's death? Judd says it was a build-up of events.
The incident leading to the murder began when the 39-year-old decided to masturbate in front of the group at the homeless camp, Judd explains. Simmons gave the man a warning to stop, but he didn't listen.
After catching the man inappropriately touching himself in public again, the sheriff says Simmons physically beat him and cut him. It wasn't until he was caught a third time that Simmons killed him, according to Judd.
He then reportedly placed the body of the man in a shallow grave.
After multiple tips from people hearing about the killing, the investigation got underway.
At around 5:35 p.m. Tuesday, homicide unit detectives found a shallow grave near the homeless camp, just northwest of the intersection of U.S. 17 and Snively Avenue, the sheriff's office reports. Simmons, who was walking near the camp a short time later, saw deputies and ran away.
This was when the 18-hour-long manhunt started. Deputies were able to confine Simmons to a small perimeter in the wooded area until finally the next morning he was captured.
Judd says Simmons was pushed out the backside of the campground and eventually gave up telling deputies, "I've had enough of this."
“Our suspect is no stranger to trouble, and is a dangerous person. 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," Judd said in a statement. "After sunrise, we were able to methodically close in on him and capture him."
"Our deputies did a fantastic job, and I’d like to also thank K-9 units from the Winter Haven and Auburndale police departments who assisted.”
Simmons has been charged with second-degree murder, tampering with evidence and resisting. But this isn't the first run-in with the law for the 42-year-old, according to the sheriff.
The accused killer has been to prison four times and has a list of criminal charges, Judd explained.
"Robert [Simmons]... is violent, and he's dangerous and he's a bad man," Judd said during the news conference. "Well, he's an arrested man now."
After the whole investigation, deputies from the sheriff's office went back to the homeless camp Wednesday with groceries for the other people living in the area.
"Every life is precious, every life is valuable...," the sheriff said. "We don't make value judgments on life, we just help who we can... Murder is never okay."
The identity of the man killed has yet to be revealed. An autopsy is set to be completed Thursday, Judd explains.