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News and Investigations

News & Investigations

News Releases and Public Information

Welcome to the Polk County Sheriff's Office News Room, where the Public Information Officers (PIO's) post all of the information that they release to the news media. PIO's act as liaisons between news media organizations and the Sheriff's Office. The PIO's routinely release timely and accurate information and Crime Stoppers bulletins, and respond to routine and "breaking news" media inquiries. News releases and Crime Stoppers information can be found on this page.

PCSO's full-time Public Information Officers are Brian Bruchey, Carrie Horstman, and Alicia Manautou. The Public Information Officers can be reached by sending an e-mail collectively at

The recent news releases sent out by the PIOs can be found here, and archived releases (older than 2017) can be found here.

Jul 6, 2023

Lakeland couple charged in death of toddler left in car

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

Polk County Sheriff’s detectives have charged husband and wife Joel and Jazmine Rondon, both 33 years old, of Winchester Estates Circle in Lakeland, with aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first degree felony, after the couple left an 18-month-old toddler in a car overnight when they returned home from partying, and the child died while strapped into her car seat in the extreme heat the next day.

Click here to see Sheriff Judd's comments about the investigation and arrests.

On July 4, 2023, the couple went to a Fourth of July celebration in Lakeland with three children under the age of 9 years old, and did not return home until around 3:00 a.m. on July 5th. The pair consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana while at the party. When they returned home, as they began unloading food and items from the car, Jazmine told Joel to bring the female toddler inside while she brought the two other children inside. Joel observed that one of the car doors was open at the time. Joel brought stuff inside their home, and when he went back outside, he saw all four doors to the Hyundai Elantra closed, and assumed Jazmine had gotten the toddler out. He went inside and laid down in bed with his wife. Neither husband nor wife asked each other if they had brought the victim inside. They went to sleep. 

Joel woke up around 10:00 a.m. that morning and spent about an hour getting ready for work. Around 11:00 a.m. he asked one of the kids to go “check on the baby” in the bedroom. The child told Joel that the baby was not in the bedroom, at which time Joel began looking around the house for her. He then went outside and looked in the car, which was parked in the driveway in the full sun. Inside the car he saw the victim still strapped in her car seat and unresponsive. He brought the toddler still strapped in her car seat into the house in a panic, and then he and Jazmine drove the child to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center. Despite all efforts and cooling her body down, she could not be revived and was declared deceased. At 2:42 p.m. her internal body temperature was 104.4. LRH staff notified law enforcement, and they assumed the investigation.

Around 7:00 p.m. that evening, Joel and Jazmine both submitted to drug screens by the Department of Children and Families; Joel tested positive for meth, marijuana, and alcohol; Jazmine tested positive for marijuana and alcohol. 

An autopsy determined that the victim’s cause of death is hyperthermia due to being left in a car, and the manner of death is homicide. Joel and Jazmine were taken into custody on July 6, 2023, and booked into the Polk County Jail. 

Click here to see them taken into custody.

Joel’s criminal history includes the following arrests and charges:

• September 2003 – arrested by Plant City P.D. for criminal mischief
• December 2005 – arrested by Plant City P.D. for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of paraphernalia – adjudication was withheld
• February & April 2007 – arrested by Plant City P.D. for resisting arrest
• March 2008 – arrested by Plant City P.D. for attempted murder – nolle prosequi 
• July 2009 –arrested by Plant City P.D. for resisting arrest
• November 2010 – arrested by HCSO for resisting arrest
• February 2023 – arrested by PCSO on a Lakeland PD warrant for carrying a concealed firearm, possession of meth, possession of paraphernalia