Prosecutors in Polk County charged Christopher Whaley of Lake Wales with first-degree murder this weekend after he allegedly confessed to stabbing and killing his 69-year-old grandmother in the mobile home they shared.
Authorities say Whaley told them he had an argument with family members during a trip to Daytona Beach but that he was so intoxicated he couldn’t recall why they argued. There was some suggestion by the sheriff’s department that the 23-year-old wanted to stay in Daytona a bit longer but his relatives wished to return home to Polk County. When they arrived home in Lake Wales, he allegedly decided to kill his grandmother, Barbara Denmark, and his aunt, who lived nearby.
According to detectives, Whaley slashed and stabbed Denmark with two knives while she was in the bathtub. Leaving her with at least 25 wounds. He reportedly told police that he decided not to follow through on his plan to kill other relatives and dialed 911 instead.
“Come get me,” he said to the 911 dispatcher. Whaley was inside the home when deputies arrived and was kneeling over his grandmother’s body, cradling her head. He surrendered without incident.
Whaley has been charged with first-degree murder. The State will have to decide soon whether or not to seek the death penalty. Prosecutors have 15 days to file a notice if they intend to seek the death penalty. The notice is filed as part of a procedure for cases that have elements that might make the death penalty appropriate.
If they choose not to do so, Whaley faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of first-degree murder. Under Florida law, murder in the first degree is the unlawful killing of a human being “when perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being.” The law does not fix the exact period of time that must pass between the formation of the premeditated intent to kill and the killing. The period of time must be long enough to allow reflection by the defendant. A jury might also consider several lesser-included offenses including second-degree murder or manslaughter.