Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

The Boy

It started in April, at least from Lafave's point of view. She attended tag football games, where M. M. played on a team, and he and a friend introduced themselves to her. Owen quotes another teacher who witnessed the encounter, indicating that the boy came on to Lafave. She apparently enjoyed the attention and started to consider her response.

Universal Studios Amusement Park Orlando, Florida
Universal Studios Amusement Park Orlando, Florida

In May, several teachers had taken a busload of students to the Universal Studios amusement park in Orlando, about an hour and a half away. Lafave was one of the chaperones, and she asked Owen to come along. Also on this trip was M. M. Debra bought some candy, apparently for him and his friend from the team, and on the following day, she gave it to them.

It's ironic that the stereotype of the "dirty old man" type of pedophile involves luring children with candy, and the boy has indicated that it was this gesture that inspired him to start going to Lafave's classroom. He was not her student — had no need for remedial reading assistance — but he became one of her regulars, nonetheless.

It's improbable that giving the boy a gift was an innocent gesture made by a naïve young woman. It seems more likely that she'd enjoyed being the object of flirtation and had viewed this 14-year-old, consciously or not, as someone she could control. In that case, two of her most urgent needs — attention and control — merged, moving her more surely in the direction of transgression. Since he'd likely adore her, she would also be on a pedestal, not judged for flaws or weakness.

Owen, who met the boy on one occasion, described him as smart and athletic but attempting to come across as a kid from the ghetto. Owen used descriptors from other teachers to fill in details of M. M.'s personality: mischievous, cocky, funny, somewhat mean-spirited, and manipulative. He liked to test the rules and apparently had trouble observing boundaries. In other words, he was a typical immature kid, looking for stimulation.

M. M. teamed up with his cousin, apparently to embolden himself to start calling the teacher on her cell phone. She accepted the calls and in front of Owen, baby-talking with him at the expense of her evening with her husband. His own comment, after noting how annoying this had been, was, "Who could have imagined that one of the two giggling boys would soon become a player in throwing my entire life off track?"

(On a side note, it's often the case with teacher-predator incidents that people will tend to dismiss them as victimless crimes, forgetting entirely that there are plenty of collateral victims, such as families and communities. Owen ensures that readers understand what he went through.)

Debra would also insist she had to be there for her students (although the boy was not actually her student). She even wrote a note to request that M. M. be allowed to spend a certain period during the waning days of the school semester in her classroom. In fact, during these times, she was alone in her room with him and a few of his buddies.

Apparently, he bragged openly that he was going to have sex with Mrs. Lafave (who also went by 'Ms. Beasley'). It apparently became a point of pride with him that he believed he could. He confided to a friend that he thought she was giving him openings. In fact, even in front of other students, she allowed him to become more physically familiar with her. Then she made the first overt invitation.

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