Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

The Sting

It was the boy's mother who set things in motion. Her sister, the boy's aunt, had seen him with her own son and the teacher in Ocala, more than an hour away from his home. She didn't know at the time that the pretty blond was a teacher, only that she was older than the boys, dressed provocatively, and clearly in their company. So she mentioned the sighting to the boy's mother, Mrs. M., who then confronted him that evening.

Apparently unwilling to lie, M. M. admitted that the woman was a teacher at his school and they'd begun a relationship. It's likely that Mrs. M. was shocked at this admission. She knew this teacher, even had her cell phone number. To make matters worse, Lafave called her home that very evening, offering a brazenly false excuse as to why M. M. had been with her that day. Her easy lies were stunning and offensive.

Mrs. M. then notified the police about the teacher's illegal acts. Officers from the Sex Offender Division took the boy for a detailed physical exam and set up the sting operation. While Mrs. M. tried to anticipate what lay ahead, the process was now out of her hands. It would be only later that she and her husband would once again gain control.

Several media reports, including Dateline, offered items from the taped phone conversations. It became clear that the boy had told Lafave that he wanted to "take a break," and his sudden change in attitude had her concerned. She was willing to meet with him, but only if he was "certain." He reaffirmed that he was.

"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?" she asks, as if smelling a rat. He assures her he would not. She wants him to "pinky promise," apparently more binding than a regular promise. He keeps telling her he wants to see her and insists his mother will be working. He won't have a ride so she'll need to pick him up at his house.

After recording phone conversations between teacher and pupil that clearly implicated them in a sexual relationship, the police prepared to make an arrest as Lafave drove to the boy's home. She didn't even have the chance to see him or engage in further illegal behavior, as the officers blocked in her SUV and told her they were taking her in. From within the house, M. M. confirmed her identity, and in short order Lafave was on her way to the police department and to becoming an international celebrity.

Owen writes that she had destroyed her life, but she was about to get some rather sympathetic exposure and the opportunity to excuse her behavior publicly. (Even Owen tends to blame her parents and her early traumas.) This case would not go quite as people expected.

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