Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anyone She Wanted: The Sexual Offense of Debra Lafave

Legal Actions

As both sides prepared their cases, the media had a field day with the story. Because Debra Lafave was so pretty, the sordid tale of the teacher-predator was picked up and spread around the Internet. There were entire Web sites devoted to her, while photos of her showed up everywhere, along with comments recording everything from condemnation to lewd statements. A British tabloid learned M. M.'s identity and published it. That, too, was picked up on the Internet before the newspaper was forced by court order to remove the reference from its site.

The prosecutor's team had mapped out Lafave's movements over the months leading up to the alleged offenses, accurately recreating her diverse contacts with the boy. It became all too clear that his story held up, while her denials did not. In this case, her beauty was her worst friend, as store clerks and others clearly remembered her visits and were able to pick out her picture from a police six-pack.

(At this point, too, it becomes all too clear just how Lafave's actions had embarrassing repercussions for her husband, whose privacy was unrelentingly invaded by both the police and the press. By the end of August, although married only a year, he had filed for divorce and started to make numerous television appearances to try to defend himself in the public eye.)

John Fitzgibbons
John Fitzgibbons

Lafave pled not guilty to the charges in Marion County in July, and repeated that in Hillsborough County in August. A few months later, the DNA analysis results were in. Lafave's DNA had been found on the boy's genitals. This was the most substantial physical evidence against the defendant the investigators could hope for. The victim's statement had been corroborated yet again. Lafave's team had to re-evaluate its strategy. This was no longer a situation of he said/she said; she would have to explain herself in some manner.

In November, her defense attorney, experienced criminal lawyer John Fitzgibbons, went before the judge in Hillsborough County and stated that he would be offering a defense of insanity. He claimed to have medical records in support. That meant the trial had to be postponed so the prosecution team could do its own testing and assessment. It was set for April.

A few days later, the attorney general's office released transcripts of Lafave's recorded phone conversations with the victim. Once again, the case made the headlines.

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