Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

Truth or Consequences

It's probably not clear even to Lafave whether she believed her own lies. She had insisted all along that her interest in the students and her many hours spent with them — transforming into them — was for their benefit. Clearly, this wasn't the case, but one nevertheless wonders just how aware she was of what she was doing. Driven by compulsion, her decisions were coming hard and fast, perhaps too fast to count as a reasoned response to her feelings.

Yet while she would later hang her actions on a mental illness, she certainly did appreciate the fact that she was cheating on her husband and defying school policies; she did know that what she was doing was wrong. (M. M. even stated that she'd made this comment.) Yet before she was able to rectify it or back out (if she even had that in mind), she was caught.

The responding officer was David Thornton and he went through the standard protocol for sexual battery. Detective Mike Pridemore joined him, taking charge and directing other detectives to make the arrest.

Debra LaFave
Debra LaFave

Finding herself in police custody, Lafave immediately asked for an attorney, whom her mother hired. Search warrants allowed detectives to search the Lafave home and to photograph Debra's body, to match the boy's description against identifying tattoos and other items. She was then subjected to a humiliating examination, with numerous photographs taken of her private parts.

Her bail was set at $5,000, an indication that the judge did not think she was a danger to the community. He also warned her not to talk to the press. Her attorney did that for her, letting the crowd of reporters know that Lafave had no prior record and was an upstanding member of the community. She returned to her family.

Map of Florida with Marion County Locator
Map of Florida with Marion County Locator

Behind closed doors, Owen says that Debra denied the charges and said that the boy was lying. But the police in two counties had done their work, talking to witnesses and taking photographs of the areas where crimes had occurred. The witnesses' stories were consistent and under pressure, Lafave turned herself in voluntarily to Marion County authorities, the second jurisdiction in which she'd had sexual contact with a minor. They received information from Hillsborough County, and Debra went to jail. Another charge was added, "lewd and lascivious exhibition," and once again, she was bailed out. She might have been used to others getting her out of jams, as Owen suggests, but she was in this one up to her blue eyes.

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