Florida deputy murders wife, daughter, and granddaughter before killing himself in front of fellow officers
58-year-old Terry Strawn killed his wife, daughter, and granddaughter with his service handgun before turning the weapon on himself in front of fellow deputies near a high school
A Florida sheriff's deputy killed his wife, daughter, and granddaughter before then killing himself in front of his fellow deputies this past Wednesday, December 19. The 58-year-old, Terry Strawn, a veteran of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office who was once named 'officer of the year', used his service handguns to carry out the triple murder-suicide, with the victims identified as his wife, 54-year-old Theresa Strawn, daughter, 32-year-old Courtney, and granddaughter, six-year-old Londyn.
The officer's cousin, Jimmy Strawn, posted about the tragic killings on his Facebook page, writing, "This morning my cousin, Deputy Terry Strawn, killed his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, then killed himself. We are truly devastated and are still trying to wrap our heads around it."
He said the family had experienced an "unimaginable and catastrophic loss" and that they were all "emotionally devastated". He continued, "Please.. if you are considering suicide, REACH OUT!! We would have done ANYTHING for Terry, Theresa, Courtney, and little Londyn... We miss you and love you all."
The Tampa Bay Times reported that sheriff's officials first learned about Strawn's killing spree at around 6:42 am on Wednesday when the officer spoke over a sheriff's radio frequency and confessed he had killed three family members, giving directions to where their bodies could be found.
He said he planned to kill himself at Plant City High, near one of the murder scenes. A communications supervisor reportedly tried to talk the 58-year-old out of taking the drastic step, and when three deputies found him just east of the school, they begged him to not hurt himself. But their words fell on deaf ears and Strawn took his life in front of them.
No students or staff were in the area at the time with the Plant City Police Department writing in a Twitter post that the "major police presence" on the Maki Road side of Plant City High School was not due to a school incident. "At one point he said he had to go, he wanted to be with his family," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.
Strawn killed his wife and granddaughter at their home in a gated community at 1512 Emerald Hill Way in Valrico before then going to his daughter's duplex just outside the high school and killing her as well. Detectives and forensic technicians were going through both homes, as well as an area just outside Plant City High Campus for evidence.
There were no indications that the 58-year-old, who had been with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office since 1991, was facing any problems.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, despite having retired two years ago, Strawn had been very happy to be re-hired over the summer on a full-time basis as part of the sheriff's partnership with the Hillsborough County School District to improve security in local elementary schools.
However, Chronister said Strawn admitted to struggling with financial and health problems over the radio transmission. He and his wife reportedly filed for bankruptcy protection in federal court in 2011, estimating in the petition that their assets — consisting of a jeep, two trucks, a boat, and a 9mm Smith & Wesson firearm — were valued at less than $50,000 and their liabilities were greater than that.
This is not the first time this year that a Hillsborough deputy was involved in a domestic violence-related murder-suicide either. This past September, Deputy Kirk Keithley shot and killed his wife at their Land O' Lakes home before turning the gun on himself with their four children present.
"We have to change the culture," Chronister was quoted saying. "We have to make sure everyone knows that it’s OK to ask for help. It’s not a sign of weakness to say, 'Listen, I’m having a difficult time, I’m having a hard time, I need some help'."
If you’re thinking about suicide, are worried about a friend or loved one, or would like emotional support, the Lifeline network is available 24/7 across the United States. Call 1-800-273-8255.