Lance Whatley (left) and his mother Kathie. (Photo: St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office)

Man drowned after killing mother with hammer as Irma approached, sheriff says

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Investigators said Lance Whatley, 40, beat his 67-year-old mother, Kathie Whatley, with a hammer while in a manic state on the night of Sept. 7, 2017. He then drowned after driving her car into the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.

DNA analysis confirmed that a badly decomposed body found Sept. 13, 2017, in the water at Port. St. Lucie’s Veterans Memorial Park was that of Lance Whatley, Sheriff Ken J. Mascara said Wednesday.

Kathie Whatley died Sept. 9, a day after she was found unconscious next to a partially submerged car at River Park Marina, about 5 miles north of the park. Investigators found a hammer covered in blood next to her.

Lance Whatley was reported missing when investigators could not find him. 

Further investigation revealed that Lance Whatley struck his mother with a hammer, then drove her car into the river, Mascara said. He fell out of the car and drowned as the current carried him downstream.

Lance Whatley was known to have chronic mental issues. Sheriff’s investigators concluded that prior to the attack, Kathie Whatley had driven Lance Whatley around in her car in an effort to calm his anxiety as Irma approached. 

The hurricane made landfall in Florida on Sept. 10, 2017, as a Category 3 storm. Exposure to the hurricane and the elements made identification of Lance Whatley’s remains “extremely difficult,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news conference broadcast on its Facebook page.

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