LAKELAND | They were together 20 years and only fought once.
It wasn’t a pretty fight, and after that, Sheila Drake said she and her husband, Clifford, promised each other they wouldn’t do it again.
They were almost perfect for one another, Sheila Drake said, and she’s lucky God gave her the past two decades to spend with such a loving man, a good-hearted and supportive husband.
She just wishes they had more time together.
Clifford Drake was shot to death April 16, 2013, during what Lakeland police say was apparently a home-invasion robbery.
Lakeland Police Department Detective Brian Wallace said there were at least two men who forced one of Clifford Drake’s stepsons into the family’s house at 524 W. 12th St. that night.
The situation escalated in Drake’s bedroom when one of the men shot the 58-year-old in the chest. The stepson and another son, who was sleeping at the time, were unharmed, Wallace said. After the shooting, police developed a sketch of a possible suspect and followed some leads, but eventually their information trails hit a dead end.
Wallace said he’s hoping someone will come forward with useful information. He’s heard some wrong ideas and is looking for the right piece to help solve this puzzle.
“Being that there were multiple people involved in it, I need somebody with credible information to come forward,” Wallace said. “What I mean by credible information is there’s a difference between word on the street and actual knowledge. Sometimes the word on the street is accurate, but sometimes it’s not. Somebody knows what happened.”
Earlier this year, LPD revamped its homicide division to let detectives Brad Grice and Scott Kercher focus their work on cold cases, so Wallace and detective Russ Hurley can have time to work on more recent homicides. As part of a continuing series in partnership with LPD, The Ledger is profiling many of the department’s 38 cold cases and unsolved homicides.
The detectives’ hope that with a little help from the community and some extra time to work, they might be able to solve more of the cases and in turn bring closure to many more families.
“I told God this don’t sit right,” Sheila Drake said. “I just really want to know, what kind of person just took his life like that?”
It was just after midnight when someone came into the bedroom looking for cash.
Sheila Drake had talked with her husband about two hours earlier that night. She was working the graveyard shift, and Clifford Drake told her he was getting ready for bed. The next phone call she got was from someone telling her she needed to rush home for an emergency. Her husband had been shot.
She said she was in shock when detectives told her it was a home invasion and attempted robbery. Clifford was a stickler about always locking their doors, she said. She couldn’t believe her husband’s biggest fear had come true.
“My son kept telling me, ‘Momma, it was just so crazy that night,’” she said. “All I could just think about was my husband; ‘that was what he was telling y’all about coming in this house at all times of night.’ And then he died of what he always preached about.
“That’s what hurt me so bad.”
Sheila Drake said she couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to hurt her husband. Everyone loved him.
Clifford Drake was born in Georgia but had lived in Lakeland for years, his widow said. The couple met while she was working as a bartender at a place on Eighth Street. They’d share drinks and flirt. He took her out, and she treated him well, Sheila Drake said, and within a few weeks, he was calling her his wife. A few years later, they were actually married.
“He called me his boo, and he’d do anything for me. He was so crazy,” she said, smiling.
After the shooting, Sheila Drake said she tried living in the house they had shared on 12th Street for about a month, but it kept bringing up bad memories of that night. She wasn’t sleeping, and she knew she had to move. She said she installed a security system in her new house, and she’s trying hard to move forward with her life. Sheila Drake said she still has moments of being upset and misses her husband every day.
“I really, really want to find the person who did that to him,” she said. “He was a good guy, but God has plans.”
Stephanie Allen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 863-802-7550.