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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.

Dec 25, 2023

Plant City man arrested for DUI Manslaughter in Lakeland on Christmas Eve

Media Contact: Carrie Horstman, Administrator

A 40-year-old Lakeland woman who was riding down West Pipkin Road in Lakeland on a motorized wheelchair was killed by a Plant City man who was then arrested and charged with DUI Manslaughter on December 24, 2023.

Howard BennettAround 6:00 p.m. that evening, Howard Bennett, DOB 1/16/1956, of Old Mulberry Road in Plant City, was heading east down West Pipkin Road approaching the intersection with Fairfield Drive in Lakeland in his 2019 silver Mazda CX5, when he struck Leslie Stone who was on her powered wheelchair mobility device heading east on the roadway.

The deputies who arrived observed Bennett stumbling while walking and using their patrol vehicle for support, and that he had bloodshot and watery eyes and spoke with slurred speech. They also detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Bennett's breath. After a field sobriety test, Bennett was taken into custody.

Bennett provided two breath samples; one measured .159 G/210 L, and the other .158G/210 L. Both samples were nearly twice the legal threshold of 0.08 G/210L.

Bennett was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with DUI Manslaughter (F2), DUI .15 or higher with property damage (M1), and DUI with property damage (M1).

Our prayers are with Ms. Stone's family. To lose a loved one this way is awfully tragic, but especially during the holiday season. We hope and pray our citizens will make better choices than this suspect did - please celebrate the holidays responsibly.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff