Grady Judd, the sheriff of Polk County, felt his phone ring in his pocket but disregarded it. On Sunday, he was midway through his sermon at Polk City’s Green Pond Baptist Church.
“Little did I know my staff was trying to say, ‘Hey there’s a guy with a murder warrant in there with you’,” Judd said.
According to the sheriff, John Skeen, 56, was followed by Polk County deputies using “investigative information” all the way to the church.
In Hillsborough County, Skeen was wanted on suspicion of murdering a man in Ruskin at a residence where they were staying while on a fishing vacation.
“They told the Major, ‘we have the church surrounded.’ It’s like ‘chill out, it’s OK. I’m watching everybody. I’ve got a gun. I’ll keep this under control,’” Judd added.
First, deputies contacted Skeen’s brother, who was present at church. He obliged their request to go outside. Afterwards, deputies instructed him to return and retrieve his brother, the suspect.
The sheriff said that when the suspect came, he requested permission to return inside and hear the remainder of the sermon before being taken into custody.
“Sgt. Evans, who had already delivered a baby earlier, said ‘No you can’t do that, but I’m a Christian and I’ll pray with you outside the church’,” Judd said.
Skeen is a longtime member of the Green Pond Baptist Church, according to its pastor.
“We’re all in shock. We’ve been in shock. We still are. I’ve had a couple restless nights. I’ve not been able to sleep,” said Pastor David Cheek.
Pastor Cheek said he was standing next to Sheriff Judd, praying with him, when the sheriff showed him the messages on his phone about an arrest.
“You cannot make this up. You can’t write this. Just surreal. Like wow, and I don’t know if anybody will believe us!” said Pastor Cheek.
Skeen is in the process of being extradited to Hillsborough County on a second-degree murder charge.
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