Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Female Sex Offenders

Lafave's Favors

Debra Lafave
Debra Lafave

It was another boy's mother in 2005 who discovered the relationship going on between Debra Lafave, a reading teacher at Angelo L. Greco Middle School in Temple Terrance, Florida, and her 14-year-old son. This woman notified the police and they set up a sting. After recording phone conversations between teacher and pupil that clearly implicated them in a sexual relationship, authorities moved in to make the arrest as Lafave went to the boy's home.

Now that the relationship had ended, the boy provided accurate details about Lafave's private parts and described how she had initially seduced him. Lafave's former husband, Owen, who divorced her shortly thereafter, wrote a book about the affair, indicating that Lafave, 25 (stated as 23 by Dateline, but her birthday was August 28, 1980), cultivated the relationship for several weeks until she finally had a chance to get her target alone. She took him to her home and performed oral sex on him. Soon they were fully engaged in a sexual relationship, apparently choosing her SUV as the liaison vehicle. Stories emerged of how his cousin drove the vehicle around while they had sex in the back.

In her defense, Lafave claimed that when she was thirteen, she had been raped, and during high school, she had undergone therapy for being involved with another girl. She believed her bipolar disorder had skewed her perception during manic phases, and thus she had acted inappropriately. Nevertheless, she appeared not to have improved greatly, as she entered her professional life without having a solid set of standards. Reportedly, she often dressed provocatively around the children.

While the prosecutor offered a deal, it included prison time, which Lafave refused to accept. Her defense attorney made a statement for reporters that drew national attention to the case: "To place Debbie into a Florida state women's penitentiary, to place an attractive young woman in that kind of hellhole, is like putting a piece of raw meat with lions." Apparently, because she was pretty, her safety concerns outweighed her crime.

When it appeared that Court TV would be allowed into the courtroom, the boy's mother, wishing to keep her son's name and likeness out of the press, reluctantly agreed to a plea deal that took prison time off the table. On November 22, 2005, Lafave pled guilty and received three years of house arrest and seven years of probation.

However, she had made the mistake of having sexual contact with a minor in two different jurisdictions, and the judge in the other county was not inclined to let her off the hook. He set a court date for 2006, but then the prosecutor dropped the charges.

On September 13, 2006, Lafave did an interview with Matt Lauer on the evening news program, Dateline, in the hope of explaining her side of the story.

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