Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

The Seduction

It was a sweltering day in Florida when the news broke: "A reading teacher at Greco Middle School is accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy." That was the first line of the first report in the Tampa Tribune on June 22, 2004. The teacher involved was 23 (almost 24), and she was about to catch the attention of the nation — especially porn sites — because she was blond, bosomy, and quite attractive. It all unfolded in Florida.

Debra LaFave
Debra LaFave

Mrs. Debra Beasley Lafave, from Riverview, had been arrested the day before on charges of committing lewd or lascivious battery on a person under age 16. This second-degree felony carried a potential 15-year sentence. Her husband, Owen Lafave, later penned a book, Gorgeous Disaster, in which he described just how the police trapped her, although news sources such as the Tampa Tribune and Worldnet.daily also detailed the case, as did a 2006 legal report, FL v. Debra Beasley Lafave. This report referred to the underage victim as "M. M.," and we will follow suit. (Owen called him "Jack.")

The police encouraged the 14-year-old boy to assist them in a sting operation. Under his parents' watchful eye, M. M. urged Ms. Lafave to say that she'd enjoyed their most recent encounter, and she apparently adopted the voice of a flirty little girl to assure him she had. (Owen comments sardonically that the boy is the one who "sounded like the grown-up of the pair.") She then asks him if he wants to continue. He sounds uncertain. She expresses concern, and they end the conversation. Apparently what she said wasn't sufficient to implicate her in sexual activity, so the police wanted another such call.

Book cover: Gorgeous Disaster
Book cover: Gorgeous Disaster

That same day, the boy called her back and a police officer recorded this one as well. But now M. M. had been coached as to what to say. He directly states the fact that they've had sex three times, citing his concerns about their lack of protection. She sidesteps the issue, assuring him that he should not be concerned. She clearly doesn't expect a set-up and does not deny what he said. Still, it was not enough.

They tried again over the weekend. The boy was uncomfortable with the whole thing, but he had no choice but to cooperate. He'd already told the police intimate details about his teacher's body with which they could compare to the real thing, in the event she denied anything or said it was all a game. If it was a game, he wouldn't know these things. Even if this approach did not prove outright sexual contact, it would at least prove the corruption of a minor. Fortunately, the woman had distinct tattoos and shave lines.

On the next call, the boy invited his teacher to meet him in secret and she accepted. They made a plan.

The police were prepared. Lafave had violated more than just the child; she had violated the community's trust and she was about to be exposed.

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