Romantically-involved Florida deputies dead after possible murder-suicide in St. Augustine

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a possible murder-suicide Sunday in St. Augustine involving two Hillsborough County deputies.

The two deputies were found dead inside the vacation rental home Saturday night, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said the deputies were in a romantic relationship and other deputies on vacation with the couple said they heard arguing from a bedroom followed by gunshots.

According to the sheriff’s office, Detective Daniel Leyden, who worked in the Criminal Investigations Division, was the shooter and killed his romantic partner before shooting himself. The victim is also a deputy, assigned to Uniform Patrol District III.

The motive is still under investigation.

“Our Sheriff’s Office family is still reeling from the shock of this unthinkable tragedy,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “My prayers for strength and comfort are with the families and loved ones of these deputies, and every member of Team HCSO affected by this painful loss. Violence is never a solution, and I urge any employee who is dealing with a crisis to take advantage of the many resources our agency has created over the past several years which include Peer Support, Chaplains, and a clinical psychologist. Help is just a phone call away.”

SJCSO said it responded to the 5300 block of A1A South in the Butler Beach area in reference to reports of gunshots early Sunday morning.

A neighbor said he heard police on megaphones telling one of the people inside the home to come outside.

“Last night I got home and there was a megaphone, police was out front and he kept repeating for Daniel to come out with his hands up,” said Kieran Wallace. “It was a little bit alarming. About 30 minutes later we got a phone call that said we had to lock our doors and stay inside.”

When deputies went inside, they found two dead people inside, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“Tragically, the incident is being investigated as a murder-suicide,” a spokesperson said. “This is an isolated incident and there is no threat to the public.”

Neighbors said crime rarely happens in the area.

Claude Sunderman lives a few houses down from where a possible murder-suicide happened Saturday.

“I thought we were isolated, but I guess nobody’s isolated anymore,” Sunderman said.

Sunderman, who used to be in law enforcement and has a son who’s a deputy in Sarasota, said this is alarming.

“It seems like it’s far away, but it’s only three hours and it’s in the state of Florida,” Sunderman said.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.