Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

Her Defense

In her defense, Lafave claimed that she, too, had been abused as a child — in fact, at nearly the same age as her victim was now. Owen notes this fact and describes Lafave's parents as religious and strict, raising their children in their small town with an emphasis on traditional working-class values. Debra was the younger of two girls, born in the summer of 1980. She went regularly to church with her family, and apparently the one sore spot for her was that her father had always been distant and unaffectionate. Reportedly, her mother was domineering, but that's Owen's impression. He emphasizes this throughout his book, in part because he wants to use it to understand Debra's behavior, but seemingly in part because he did not like how Mrs. Beasley treated him and the situation.

Because the blue-eyed, blond-haired child was so pretty and vivacious, she attracted people. That made her even more outgoing. She also liked to sing and for a brief time, she actually toured as a singer. Back at school, when Debra was 13, she claimed she'd been raped by a boy she liked, and he did it repeatedly. When she was a little older, another boy was abusive with her, treating her with callous disregard.

Poster of Debra LaFave
Poster of Debra LaFave

But she acquired some modeling jobs, which affirmed her, and she won some beauty contests. Owen blames Mrs. Beasley for Debra's developing habit of shucking responsibility for her actions. It's a simplistic explanation and the truth is probably that there were many influences, not the least of which was her striking beauty.

And she didn't just attract attention from boys. A female classmate also approached her and they got sexually involved. Apparently they weren't discreet, as the secret got out and Lafave found herself transferred to another school. She made a half-hearted suicide attempt and suffered from anorexia, an eating disorder. In addition, a drunk driver killed her pregnant sister quite suddenly one night and a serious illness threatened her mother's life.

Debra & Owen LaFave Wedding Photo
Debra & Owen LaFave Wedding Photo

By the time she met Owen, Debra was messed up. She also suffered from depression. He didn't realize quite how much until after they were married. Then Debra showed signs that she needed control, and when she found an area in which she could exercise it, she became quite insistent, even manic. Owen thought she was smart as well as beautiful, so he had a difficult time understanding some of her behaviors. Yet, he mostly overlooked and even enabled them (similar, it seems, to what he accuses Mrs. Beasley of doing).

To his chagrin, Debra grew increasingly disinterested in sex, which is why he was astounded when less than a year after their wedding, she was accused of having sex with a 14-year-old.

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