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Woman Involved In Attempted Burning Of Nine Year Old Child In Highlands County Arrested

Woman charged in connection with deputy-involved shooting 

SEBRING — The girlfriend of a man who was shot and killed after attacking Highlands County Sheriff’s Office deputies with a metal rod yesterday is facing several criminal charges for involvement in that confrontation and the events that led up to the shooting. 

Lakenya Lavonn Phillips, 30, is in the Highlands County Jail on charges of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence and cruelty toward a child. 

At Phillips’ first appearance today, she was ordered to be held without bond. Additionally, prosecutors told the judge that the state will be seeking a felony murder charge in relation to her actions in that contributed to the death of 39-year-old Richard Myron Ham.

Deputies and Highlands County Fire-Rescue were called to the intersection of Bay Blossom Drive and U.S. 98 in Sebring at 4:07 p.m. yesterday (Dec. 19) about a several people burning debris — including live ammunition — on the side of the road. 

When deputies arrived, they found Ham armed with two metal rods. Ham refused to follow deputies’ orders and a taser was deployed. The taser did not appear to have an effect on Ham, who dropped the metal rods and pulled the taser probes from his body. At that point, Phillips picked up one of the rods and handed it to Ham, who used it to strike a deputy in the head. 

At that point, which was 4:22 p.m., one of the deputies fired his agency-issued firearm at Ham. Ham was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The injured deputy was taken to another hospital, where he was treated and released. 

Immediately after the shooting, Phillips began to push deputies as they tried to secure Ham and render aid. She was taken into custody at the scene.  

The initial investigation revealed that Ham and Phillips were burning the possessions of Phillips’ 9-year-old son because they believed he was possessed by a demon. At one point, witnesses said, Ham put the child into the fire and covered him with a blanket that was also on fire. The child was able to escape serious injury and is currently in DCF custody. 

According to the child, he had not bathed or brushed his teeth in at least 10 days as they traveled to Florida and had not been fed for at least 24 hours. He said that both Ham and Phillips had regularly been using drugs and that Ham had earlier threatened him with a large knife, as well as claiming he had used that knife to kill someone. Investigators are working with law enforcement in several states to follow up on that statement.  

Phillips and the child were listed as missing and endangered out of Wichita, Kansas on Dec. 6. It still has not been determined exactly when or why they came to Highlands County. Multiple firearms and drugs were found in the vehicle Ham and Phillips were driving at the time. 

The deputies involved in the incident have 16 years and 8 years of service and both have been trained in crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques. They have been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the 10th Judicial Circuit’s Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force. 

Note: Not all arrests lead to convictions. Everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty in court.

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Carl Fish

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