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Police: Man beat step-father to death with cane

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says 33-year-old had history of psychiatric problems

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo Thomas Ryan
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office booking photo Thomas Ryan

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 75-year-old man found dead in his Arlington home early Sunday morning was beaten to death with is own cane, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Police said Jacksonville Fire-Rescue was called to a report of a fall of an elderly man at 6160 Thistlewood Road around 4 a.m., finding Michael King dead. JFRD found his death suspicious and called police.

Homicide detectives did not find any signs of a forced entry into the victim's residence, but found his injuries inconsistent with a fatal fall and found what the police report noted were "defensive wounds."

On Monday, JSO Assistant Chief Chris Butler said Thomas Ryan, 33, took his stepfather's aluminum cane and beat him with it, then called 911.

"Due to the totality of the circumstances, evidence at the scene, the victim's injuries and everything... we brought him down here to interview him. That's what led to his arrest," Butler said.

Butler said Ryan had been committed for psychiatric evaluation eight times under Florida's Baker Act and had two previous arrests for violating an injunction for protection against domestic violence. At least one of those injuctions was taken out by Ryan's mother.

Despite that history, neighbors said they were shocked to find out what happened on Saturday.

"It is it's very surprising," Ronald Coopers said. "I knew both of them pretty well."

"He'd want to play nice holes with us," said Debbi Hunnicutt. "To hear something like this happen and to know that you played golf with him one afternoon, it kind of hits you as a surprise."