Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

Due Consideration

In Judge Hale Stancil's court, no plea would be accepted. In December 2005, he set a court date, but three months later the prosecutor dropped the charges, based on a psychological assessment that indicated there would be damage to the boy should he be forced to testify. In addition, there were ramifications for other children who considered telling on their wayward teachers. If they saw a boy paraded through the court system and the press, they might choose instead to suffer in silence.

Judge Hale Stancil
Judge Hale Stancil

Judge Stancil was not pleased. In March, he handed down a six-page decision in which he stated that, while no one of any age looks forward to cross-examination, he did not think the victim would have that much difficulty relating the crime in court. He also decried the lack of victim advocacy in the case and suggested that the psychiatric expert had not made a through study before forming an opinion. As cited in the legal document, Judge Stancil stated that accepting the plea agreement undermined the court's credibility. He added that it "would erode public confidence in our schools...[and] send the message that if enough publicity is generated, and the media's interest continues long enough, and because of that interest the victim does not wish to testify, a defendant can avoid an appropriate sentence." That consequence disturbed him. So, once again, he rejected the deal and ordered a trial to commence in April.

However, it was the prosecutor who made the final decision. He declined to proceed. In fact, he was dropping the charges in Marion County. It was a surprise, but perfectly legal, and it left Debra Lafave with only the house arrest imposed in Hillsborough. Many people believed that the court should have forced this case to trial, to teach her and other women like her a lesson, but there was no going back now. She'd gotten off with a very light punishment.

By this time, Lafave had come to accept that she'd been influenced by a condition that had caused mental instability. She called a press conference to reiterate this, in effect shucking her responsibility in the matter. By this time, she was also engaged to another man, and he stood by her. She said, "I know that I'm a good woman," and affirmed her newfound Christian faith. She offered no reason as to why she had done what she did and did not show remorse. But it wasn't long before she was ready with an answer. With aspirations herself to become a journalist, she agreed to do an interview with Matt Lauer for Dateline on NBC television, which aired on September 13, 2006. It was time, she thought, to tell her side.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'