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On January 1st, at approximately 5:30 a.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to a disturbance call in the 600 block of W. 9th Street. A neighbor next door called 911 and reported that he could hear a female screaming, “Give me the gun” and he could also hear things being thrown around. The neighbor continued to tell the 911 operator that could hear a female saying “don’t do that” and he could tell she was crying. Responding officers could still hear the female pleading for help saying, “ Oh God, don’t do that”. Fearing the females’ life was in immediate danger, the officers announced to the dispatcher and responding officers that he was going to do forced entry. 

Shortly afterwards, the female ran out the back door and was quickly escorted off to the side. The suspect came running out the same back door with a firearm and Officer John Renew, was at the north east corner of the house. Officer Renew, using his flashlight to illuminate the suspect spotted an object being concealed under his clothing.  The suspect then produced a firearm and Officer Renew ordered him to drop it. The suspect began to turn towards Officer Renew with the firearm ignoring the officers’ commands to drop the firearm. At this time, Officer Renew fired one round at the suspect in fear of his life. The suspect was not hit by the round and he immediately dropped his weapon at which time he was taken into custody. The firearm, a semi-automatic, was found on the ground with one round in the chamber.

The victim has been dating the suspect for 2 months and they live together.  She stated that during the argument, the suspect point the firearm at her head, threatened to kill her and at one point, tried to strangle her.

The suspect is identified as: Martino A. Souffrant, Jr., dob, 10/6/80, West 9th Street, Lakeland. He has not been charged yet. 

The Violent Crimes Unit and State Attorney’s Office responded to the scene to investigate the shooting. The investigation is still ongoing at this time. 

The officer involved in the shooting has been identified as: Officer John Renew, 38 years old, employed since September, 2014. Per department policy, the officer will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.




Arrested Just In Time to Celebrate News Years in Jail

Murder suspect, Marquell Howard was taken into custody today by the U.S. Marshals, Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force and delivered to the Lakeland Police Department. He was arrested without incident at 1233 Rawls Drive in Lakeland. 

The U.S. Marshals received a tip on his location and acted swiftly in taking him into custody. We would like to thank of all you who called in the many tips through Crime Stoppers and directly to LPD. Getting this fugitive off the streets was a top priority for LPD. One of the many reason for us to celebrate a Happy New Years with Howard off the street. 

Update on Infant Death from December 23, 2014

On December 23rd, the Lakeland Police Department investigated the tragic death of infant, Betsey Kee Stephens. The 22 day old infant died while in the custody of her parents who went to the Golden Corral to eat.


The Violent Crimes Detectives have worked endlessly on this case conducting interviews, background checks, reviewing evidence and preparing search warrants. The Medical Examiner findings revealed that the infant died of malnutrition as a result of starvation. Both parents have been taken into custody at this time and charged with First Degree Murder. 



On December 23rd at 6:10 p.m., the Lakeland Police Department responded to assist EMS with an unresponsive infant at 4705 US Hwy 98 North (Golden Coral). A 22 day old infant, Betsey Kee Stephens, was discovered by the parents in the car seat unresponsive and they had called 911.

The parents advised they came from Indiana to visit family in the area. They had earlier checked into the Comfort Inn (3520 US Hwy 98 North). The mother advised that she had checked the infant’s feet and they appeared to be cold so she covered the infants’ feet with a blanket. After checking into the hotel, they drove to the Golden Coral restaurant to meet and eat with family members.

After arriving at the Golden Coral restaurant, the mother checked the infant’s feet again and noticed her feet were unusually cold and she got no response from the infant. At this time, the parents called 911. The Lakeland Fire Department and Polk County Fire Rescue responded and the infant was transported to the Lakeland Regional Medical Center (LRMC). The infant was later declared deceased at LRMC.

Also present in the vehicle were the infants siblings, a 1 year old male and 2 year old female. They were sitting in their car seats and both appeared to be in good health. Both of the siblings are in the custody of the Florida Department of Children and Families.

The Medical Examiner ruled the manner of death for Betsey Kee Stephens as a homicide.  Preliminary investigation indicates the infant was deceased for at least 3 ½ hours prior to the mother calling 911. The parents have not been charged at this time.  This is still an ongoing investigation and detectives are working with the State Attorney’s Office and Medical Examiner’s Office as this case unfolds.


1.     Ruby Angeline Stephens, 23 years of age, 113 Oak Street West, Tennyson, Indiana.

2.     Roy Allen Stephens, 48 years of age, 113 Oak Street West, Tennyson, Indiana.

3.     Deceased – Betsey Kee Stephens, 22 days old. 113 Oak Street West, Tennyson, Indiana.