LAKE WALES, Fla. — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd made it plain and simple.
“When you’re talking about beating your best friend to death with a baseball bat, you have to take that in which the context is presented,” he said. “And in the position he is right now…he has a lot of explaining to do. You cannot successfully explain that away.”
A 16-year-old boy is accused of going into a wooded area near Caloosa and Lake boulevards and beating Giovanni Diaz, 15, to death Monday afternoon.
The suspect asked Giovanni to play with him in the woods, Judd said.
“Giovanni could not have survived the injuries that were thrust upon by (the suspect),” Judd said.
A witness saw the suspect walk out of the woods. After telling him what happened, the witness told the suspect to go home and dial 911. Once doing so, the suspect also told an emergency operator what happened, Judd said.
Monday’s incident was not the first time the suspect, who is homeschooled, has attacked Giovanni, who was an eighth grader at Frostproof Middle School, Judd said.
The suspect was charged with two counts of battery against Giovanni in 2016, and was charged last year with battery domestic violence against his father.
Both boys have known each other “for an extended amount of time” and their families live near each other, Judd said.
Giovanni’s mother, who was too emotional to speak to reporters on camera, said she believed her son was bullied to death.
Nikki McNabb described the suspect as the “bully of the neighborhood.”
McNabb said her son was quiet and polite, that he loved robotics and science and dreamed of some day attending the University of Michigan. She said he was constantly picked on but never wanted to fight back.
“He didn’t believe in that, he’d just walk away,” she said.
But her worst fears were realized on Monday.
“We’re angry when you have a 15-year-old child dead because he was beat to death with a bat this afternoon, and there’s no reasonable excuse for that,” Judd said.
Formal charges have yet to be filed against the suspect, who will eventually face “some form of murder charge,” Judd said.