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Lake Wales Murdered On Thanksgiving Day At His Home

Polk County Sheriffs Office Press Release

Winter Haven man arrested on Thanksgiving for first-degree murder that occurred in Lake Wales

On Thursday, November 22, 2018, PCSO deputies arrested and charged 38-year-old Steven Nicholas Hunt, DOB 12/11/1979, of 1030 31st Street NW in Winter Haven, for first degree murder (F-C), and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (F-2), in the shooting death of 45-year-old Stephen Edward Roberts, after Hunt fatally shot Roberts in Roberts’ home on Lake Buffum Road in Lake Wales.

“While most people in the county were enjoying a holiday meal with their families and loved ones on Thanksgiving day, a senseless murder was taking place in Lake Wales. Our deputies, detectives, and crime scene investigators worked throughout the day and well into the night on this case. We are grateful that this violent convicted felon was taken into custody swiftly and without further injury to anyone else. Our condolences go out to the victim and his loved ones.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff

Hunt’s criminal history includes 16 previous felony and 10 misdemeanor charges; 7 felony and 6 misdemeanor convictions; and numerous previous arrests for: battery domestic violence, resisting arrest, burglary, larceny, grand theft of a firearm, dealing in stolen property, possession of meth, possession of marijuana.

His most recent arrest was November 7, 2018, for battery domestic violence. He was released on probation November 14th.

He’s being held on no bond until first appearance tomorrow, Saturday, November 24, 2018.

The following is an excerpt from the affidavit, and is self-explanatory – any identifying information about the witness has been redacted, per FSS 119:

On November 22, 2018 at approximately 1430 hours, the witness called 911 and reported the victim, Stephen Edward Roberts, was shot at his residence, 5564 Lake Buffum Road, Lake Wales, Florida. The witness was driving in the area and just left the suspect, Steven Hunt, at the Circle K gas station located at 7695 Highway 60 East, Bartow, Florida. Deputies responded to the incident location and found the victim obviously deceased with an apparent gunshot wound to his head. Deputies also located the witness and Steven Hunt.

An interview was conducted with the witness. She and the victim drove to the suspect’s house in Winter Haven to take him to Walmart. After Walmart, they all returned to the victim’s residence, 5564 Lake Buffum Road. Later in the day, the witness took a shower in the master bathroom which was connected to the master bedroom. She heard the suspect and the victim talking as she was in the shower. She exited the shower and observed the victim on the bed talking to the suspect, who was standing in the doorway of the bedroom. She did not remember what they were talking about. She walked past them to another bedroom and observed the victim holding a handgun. While in the other bedroom, she heard a noise that sounded like a firecracker and realized it was a gunshot. She ran back to the victim’s room and observed the victim with significant trauma to his head. The suspect then grabbed the victim and told her he shot the victim. The suspect then reached over the victim and picked up the handgun from the bed. The suspect told the witness “he (victim) was tired of hurting all day long and he didn’t want to hurt like that.” The suspect told her he was dead and to get in the car to go with him.

The witness stated the suspect entered the truck and told her to leave with him. She entered the truck and observed the handgun on the floor of the vehicle. The suspect then picked up the handgun and held it with him. She saw the suspect moving around in the passenger seat and believed he threw the gun out of the window after leaving the residence. The suspect told her to drive to the Circle K, and so she did. While at the Circle K, the witness found an opportunity to drive away from the suspect, and called 911. She then continued driving around in the area until a deputy made contact with her.

Steven Hunt was located at the Pilot gas station across the street from the Circle K gas station. He was read his Miranda Rights and interviewed at the Southeast District substation. The suspect initially stated he went to the Circle K with the witness and was not aware of what happened at the residence. He then stated he suddenly remembered he was with the victim and the witness at the victim’s residence when the victim was shot. He was talking to the victim in his bedroom when the witness exited the shower and walked to another room. The victim asked the suspect to shoot him and tried to hand the suspect the handgun. The victim asked him to put him out of his misery. The victim eventually told the suspect to leave and close the door. The suspect closed the door and took a few steps down the hallway when he heard a gunshot. The witness exited the other bedroom and ran to the victim. The suspect grabbed the witness from behind to calm her down. He saw blood on the victim’s face and the victim’s chest was moving up and down like he was breathing. The suspect then picked up the handgun and pulled the trigger two or three times, but the gun did not fire. The suspect then pulled the trigger again and the gun fired, however he did not know where or if he shot the victim. He put the handgun in his left pocket and exited the residence with the witness. He traveled with the witness in her vehicle to the aforementioned Circle K. He stated he did not have the handgun when they arrived at the Circle K and did not know what he did with the handgun.

A search warrant was obtained for the residence and it was searched for evidence. The victim was observed in the southern bedroom at the end of a hallway. The victim was observed lying on the bed near the doorway with his legs hanging off the bed. The victim’s arms were bent and pulled up to his chest. Two gunshot wounds were observed on the right side of the victim’s face. A pillow was located next to the victim’s head with a bullet hole through it. A projectile was recovered from another pillow on the bed on the left side (south) of the victim. Two spent .40 caliber shell casings were recovered near the victim. One was on the right side (north) of the victim’s head underneath a pillow with a gray pillow case (same pillow with the bullet hole in it). The other casing was located on the bed south of the victim.

During a clarifying interview, the suspect then gave another description of the shooting. He maintained the victim continued to ask him to shoot him (the victim). The suspect told the victim he did not know how to shoot a gun. The victim demonstrated the handgun had a safety and how to pull the trigger for it to fire. The victim pulled the trigger two or three times to show it will not fire if not pulled correctly. The victim told the suspect to “rack the slide” to charge the weapon and the victim then do it himself. The suspect retrieved the firearm from the victim as the victim laid down and pulled the pillow over his head. The suspect put the gun into the pillow on the victim’s head. He pulled the trigger and shot the victim. The suspect stated that he placed the handgun on the bed where the victim told him to and he began walking away from the bedroom. The witness then exited the other bedroom and she told the suspect the victim was still breathing and asked him to help him. He believes he fired another shot at the victim.

The suspect was previously convicted of seven felonies in the State of Florida including burglary of a dwelling (February 16, 2011), burglary of a structure and grand theft (August 20, 2002), burglary of a structure and grand theft (December 20, 2001) and grand theft of a firearm and possession of methamphetamine (January 28, 2000).

The suspect knowingly and intentionally shot the victim in the head twice causing his death. Probable cause exists to charge the suspect with First Degree Premeditated Murder of the victim, Stephen Edward Roberts, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon.

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Staff Reporter

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