A woman murdered her two children before fatally shooting herself after losing custody of her young son, according to the local sheriff.
The mother, identified as 43-year-old Brandy Hutchins, killed her 19-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son before killing herself on Sunday afternoon following a custody dispute with the boy’s father, who lives in Maine, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) in Florida.
A judge had issued an order directing Hutchins to turn over her 10-year-old son to a PCSO district station by 6 p.m. on Friday, but she failed to show up with the boy as ordered, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference on Sunday just before 6 p.m. ET.
“There was no indication that there should be any violence, but it was violent,” Judd said. “This was a domestic event, a court ordered event where she had to turn custody over to the ex-husband, and she wasn’t going to do that. So, she murdered the 10-year-old. The 19-year-old daughter was there, and she murdered her as well.”
Judd said he wanted to “underscore” at the media briefing that authorities had “absolutely zero evidence” there was any threat of violence or danger. He said that Hutchins had no criminal history.
When she failed to turn over the 10-year-old boy to his father, Judd said PCSO deputies worked through the weekend to locate the child with the help of family and friends who utilized social media. The sheriff said investigators received information about the mother’s whereabouts and discovered the “horrific” incident on Sunday afternoon.
Around 12:30 p.m., PCSO deputies were called to a mobile home in the Waverly area of Lake Wales, Florida, where they found Hutchins and her two children dead from an apparent double murder-suicide, the sheriff said during the press conference, which was streamed on PCSO’s Facebook page.
“I can’t imagine a more horrific set of circumstances,” Judd said. “My heart breaks for all of the family. We are devastated for this 10-year-old child all because mom did not want to turn the child over to the rightful father pursuant to a court order.”
The sheriff said that Hutchins fatally shot herself but did not provide information on how the 19-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son were killed.
Brian Bruchey, PCSO Public Information Officer, told Newsweek in an email on Sunday that the sheriff’s office would not release that information until autopsies determine the official cause of death.
Hutchins did not live at the mobile home where the suspected double murder-suicide occurred, Bruchey told Newsweek. He said that the mother did have a residence in Polk County but could not provide any additional details about the crime scene or why Hutchins was at the mobile home with her children.
“It was a mobile home in a small residential neighborhood,” Bruchey said. “At this time, I don’t know if the home belonged to a family member or friend.”
“There’s a lot of investigation to still occur,” Judd said. “But I can tell you this. We’re heartbroken and devastated over this horrible, horrible event.”