Mystery of mother & son's deaths in St. Lucie County solved, sheriff's office says

Posted: 4:03 PM, Mar 21, 2018
Updated: 2018-03-22 09:08:22Z

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office provided updates on two different cases, both with unusual endings for the suspects involved.

The first investigation dates back to Sept. 8, 2017 on the night of Hurricane Irma's arrival in South Florida.

Kathie Whatley, 67, was found unconscious on the bank of the St. Lucie River around 4:30 a.m. at the River Park Marina on Prima Vista Blvd.

“A caller advised 911 that a car was partially submerged in the St. Lucie River and that an individual was laying on the ground nearby and was unconscious,” said St. Lucie County Sheriff, Ken Mascara. “Lying next to the person was a hammer covered in blood.”

Whatley was last seen with her 40-year old son, Lance Whatley, who was nowhere to be found and suffered from chronic mental illness.

The St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office now thinks it has solved the mystery.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Ken Mascara announced Lance killed her with that hammer and later committed suicide by drowning.

His body was found on Sept. 13, days after the murder.

"While the waters from Hurricane Irma were receding, Port St. Lucie Police were called to Rivergate Park for a body in the water,” Mascara said. “The body was in a decomposing state and was also missing a head and both hands, most likely from exposure to the elements and Hurricane Irma, making identification extremely difficult.”

Detectives believe Kathie left a friend's house the night September 8th with son. He suffered from manic depression and anxiety.

Kathie was known to always be with Lance and would drive him around her car as a method to calm him down. However, he wouldn't calm down the night of the hurricane because the approaching storm kept him distraught. 

That's when the sheriff said the two began to fight and stopped at a park.  

"She would have to come home from her workplace and drive him around all night, in an effort to calm him," said Sheriff Mascara. "From the statements we've taken, he was so excited about this storm coming -- we made the conclusion that he was just unable to be calm. They pulled over at the River Park Marina where an argument ensued, most likely due to to her frustration trying to calm him from the storm and the result is that he killed her."

Forensic evidence shows Kathie Whatley died of blunt force trauma to the head from the hammer, according to detectives.

The case is now closed.