A Florida man, Richard Myron Ham, 39, is accused of setting his girlfriend’s 9-year-old son on fire, believing the child was possessed by a demon, according to the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. The incident, which took place in Sebring, escalated when Ham attacked law enforcement officers with a metal rod, prompting one of the deputies to fire back in self-defense.
The boy’s mother, Lakenya Lavonn Phillips, 30, is also implicated in the incident. Authorities allege that Phillips and Ham were burning the child’s belongings due to their belief in his demonic possession. The situation escalated when Ham reportedly placed the boy in the fire and covered him with a burning blanket. Despite the horrifying ordeal, the child managed to escape serious injury and is now under the care of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The incident came to light when deputies responded to a call about suspects burning debris, including live ammunition, by the roadside. Upon arrival, they found Ham armed with two metal rods. Despite being tasered, Ham managed to remove the taser probes from his body and attacked a deputy with one of the rods, allegedly handed to him by Phillips.
In response to the attack, a deputy fired his agency-issued firearm at Ham. Phillips reportedly interfered with deputies as they attempted to provide aid to Ham, leading to her arrest at the scene. Ham was later pronounced dead at the hospital, while the injured deputy was treated and released.
The deputies involved in the incident, veterans of eight and 16 years respectively, are currently on paid administrative leave pending an investigation by the 10th Judicial Circuit’s Officer Involved Deadly Incident Task Force.
Further investigation revealed that Phillips and her son were listed as missing and endangered in Wichita, Kansas, since December 6. The reason for their presence in Highlands County remains unclear. Authorities discovered multiple firearms and drugs in the vehicle driven by Ham and Phillips.
The child reportedly told deputies that he had not bathed or brushed his teeth for at least ten days during their journey to Florida, and had not been fed for at least 24 hours. He also claimed that Ham and Phillips were regularly using drugs and that Ham had previously threatened him with a large knife.