Polk County Sheriff’s Office Press Release
On Saturday, December 30, 2017, at about 7:54 p.m., Polk County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a reported shooting of three people, at a residence on Evans Road, Polk City. Two of those people were deceased when deputies arrived a short time later.
Carolyn Stipe reported that her husband, 68-year-old Rickie Gene Stipe shot their nephew, James Hanks, 65-years old, and Hanks’ wife, Kathleen Hanks, 59-years old, before turning the gun on himself.
Rickie Stipe and James Hanks were pronounced dead at the scene. Ms. Hanks was transported to Lakeland Regional Health for a gunshot wound, along with Ms. Stipe, who was having chest pains.
The Stipes were visiting from their home in Danville, Kentucky, and staying in their motorhome, behind the Hanks’ residence on Evans Road.
Carolyn Stipe said that her husband had been diagnosed with schizophrenia over ten years ago, but refused to take medication. She told detectives that Rickie was upset with James earlier in the day, and then became upset with her when the couple went out to dinner.
After returning to the Hanks’ property, Carolyn asked Rickie why he was angry. He grabbed her by her throat, but then left the area in his vehicle. When his uncle returned, James confronted him about the incident, and Rickie told him he was going to get a gun, and walked into his motorhome.
Rickie Stipe exited the motorhome, raised his gun up to James, and fired twice at his nephew. Rickie then shot his niece Kathleen. Then, according to Carolyn, Rickie looked at her with a blank stare, raised the gun up, and shot himself.
“It’s sad. Anytime you have a murder, it breaks your heart, but here you have someone like this uncle, who was a guest, visiting from Kentucky. He shoots and kills his nephew, and then as his niece runs to the aid of her husband, he shoots her too…then himself. And his wife sees all of this. It’s just horrific”. – Grady Judd, Sheriff
No criminal history could be found for Rickie Stipe. He and his wife arrived in Florida in mid-November, with the intent to stay here until April of 2018.
The investigation is ongoing, and is pending autopsy.