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Published December 03. 2004 7:30AM
BY RICK CUNDIFF, Staff Writer
TAMPA The relationship between suspended middle school teacher Debra Beasley Lafave and the 14-year-old student she is accused of having sex with appeared to be one of mutual attraction, court documents released Thursday indicated.
The documents, released by the 13th Circuit State Attorney’s Office in Tampa, also show DNA matching Lafave’s was recovered from the boy’s body.
Marion County prosecutor Stacy Youmans declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but did say DNA evidence usually benefits the prosecution in any criminal case. Hillsborough prosecutor Mike Sinacore could not be reached for comment.
Lafave’s attorney, John Fitzgibbons, has said Lafave will claim an insanity defense. A spokeswoman for Fitzgibbons said he had no comment Thursday on the documents.
Lafave, 24, is charged in Marion County with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery, and one count of lewd and lascivious exhibition, with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery in Hillsborough County.
The documents show the boy, whose name is being withheld, apparently was infatuated with Lafave. That was a fairly common situation among the boys at Greco Middle School in Temple Terrace last spring, teacher Jeremy Jackson told police in a written statement.
“[He], like many of the males at Greco, seemed to be fascinated by Mrs. Lafave,” Jackson wrote. “[He] from time to time would make comments about Mrs. Lafave. While this would seem bold from most students, it fit in with his sense of bravado, and at the time didn’t seem to warrant any further actions than admonition.”
Another teacher, Nazli Kayan, also told police that the boy made several comments to her about what Lafave was wearing on certain days and how “hot” she was. On one occasion, she said, the boy started to describe Lafave’s body to her. Kayan made him stop and threatened to write a disciplinary referral because he was talking disrespectfully about another teacher, she told police.
The boy, Kayan told investigators, “could be very arrogant and rude to me and to other students. He could be very annoying, but he is very intelligent.”
Teacher and coach Steven Torkelson told police that Lafave had asked him for a schedule for the summer basketball league he coached, in which the boy played. The boy and other Greco students who knew Lafave sat next to her in the stands before games, Torkelson said.
Torkelson wrote that he observed no inappropriate behavior, but also noted that Lafave wore high heels, miniskirts and tight blouses to the games. She also brought the alleged victim to the games and took him home, Torkelson wrote.
The boy gave a statement to police saying Lafave had approached him during the last week of school in early June.
“Debra Lafave told me that she had feelings for me,” he wrote. “She told me that she was thinking about me a lot and had feelings for me that she didn’t know what to do with them.”
The boy told Temple Terrace police he and Lafave had engaged in a sex act at her home on June 3, after Lafave picked up him and his cousin in Ocala and drove them back to Temple Terrace. Lafave and the boy also engaged in a sex act in Lafave’s Isuzu Rodeo on the way back to Ocala while the boy’s cousin drove, he told police. The boy gave police a description of the interior of Lafave’s home, and drew a diagram of the furniture layout.
The 14-year-old and Lafave first had intercourse in her portable classroom on June 14, he told police. They drove to Ocala the next day, and picked up the boy’s cousin, who reportedly drove Lafave’s SUV while the boy and Lafave had sex in the back seat. On Thursday, June 17, the boy and Lafave again drove to Ocala.
“My cousin drove us around again, and again we had sex,” the boy wrote.
Receipts subpoenaed by police indicate Lafave and the boys shopped at the Best Buy store in Ocala on June 15, where Lafave bought her husband an iPod music player. Prosecutors released copies of store surveillance camera pictures that reportedly showed Lafave, the alleged victim and his cousin in the store.
Lafave and the boy got caught when the cousin’s mother became suspicious about seeing the boy in Ocala with an unknown woman. She called the boy’s mother, who complained to Temple Terrace police.
After the boy gave his statement to police, he described features of Lafave’s body to police, including the locations of tattoos on her lower back and other specific distinguishing characteristics. Police later obtained a search warrant to take pictures of Lafave’s body to confirm the boy’s claims.
The documents include some indications that Lafave could have been having emotional problems around the time she and the boy became involved.
Geri Lopez, a fellow teacher, told police Lafave initially had been a strict teacher and was eager to learn new teaching methods. But Lafave changed in April, around the time of the third anniversary of her sister’s death in a car crash, Lopez noted.
Lopez said she and Lafave had been friendly, but Lafave became increasingly distant, started missing work and became very casual with her students in class.
Lopez also told police the boy started hanging around outside Lafave’s classroom during the last week of school.
An inventory of Lafave’s purse at the time of her arrest listed bottles of two anti-depressants, Paxil and bupropion (Welbutrin). Both were prescribed to Lafave, police reports indicate.
Telephone records obtained by police indicated a total of 144 calls between the alleged victim and either Lafave, a juvenile witness in the case presumably the boy’s cousin or the witness’s mother. Lafave initiated 108 of those calls, according to police reports.
After police started investigating the incident, the alleged victim made several calls to Lafave that Temple Terrace police taped and instructed the boy on what to say. Transcripts of those calls show no explicit talk of sex other than the boy raising the issue of using condoms.
“Like I don’t want you to, like, get pregnant or anything,” he said. “I was just thinking about it and I was just thinking if next time, now that we’ve had sex about three times, if I should use, like, a condom or something.”
“Oh, you’re being weird,” Lafave responded. “Why are you being weird . . . That should be the least of your worries.”
If convicted as charged, Lafave could face a possible maximum of 15 years in prison on each count, and/or a maximum fine of $10,000 per count.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for March.
Rick Cundiff covers the courts. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 867-4130.