A Florida librarian who was allegedly run over by her teenage son’s romantic rival following a violent encounter at her home, has died, officials said.
Suzette Penton, 52, died on Nov. 25, roughly two weeks after she was struck by a van following a fight at her home between her son and a group of teenagers, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The suspected driver, Elijah Stansell, 18, is now facing murder charges.
Three other minor teens are facing attempted murder and burglary with assault charges in the incident and are being charged as adults, county authorities said.
On Nov. 9, Stansell and the three other teens allegedly showed up at Penton’s Polk City home and began assaulting her son, according to an arrest affidavit obtained by Oxygen.com.
When Penton arrived home, however, the teens retreated and ran off. Stansell, who hopped in the driver’s seat of a van parked nearby, allegedly accelerated towards Penton, striking her, as she tried to snap a photo of him, according to the affidavit.
“[He] ran over and feloniously murdered a lady that was doing nothing but trying to gather photographs of suspects who attacked her child at their home in this quaint, safe, little community,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters on Tuesday.
The 52-year-old, who suffered a fractured skull, severe brain bleeding, and a broken leg, was rushed to hospital. She died just over two weeks later.
Authorities said that the van belonged to Stansell’s father, who lent his son the vehicle.
The incident was allegedly triggered by a “romantic entanglement” involving Penton’s son, who used to date Stansell’s current girlfriend — and who is among the three other teens charged — detectives said.
The group came to Penton’s home last month to "handle" a series of “ongoing verbal disputes” between her son and former girlfriend, which had allegedly escalated on social media, the probable cause statement alleged.
“[They] were talking trash to each other,” Judd said.
County authorities described the suspected feud as a “post-dating disagreement.”
The teen girl was suspended from school on the day of the lethal collision related to her online comments and “outrageous conduct,” the sheriff explained.
The deadly encounter was previously described as a “coordinated” attack by investigators.
"This was a coordinated, planned attack, carried out by a group of teens who beat up a teen then ran over his mother, leaving her for dead,” Judd previously said. “I can't even fathom teenagers doing something so heinous. Our prayers are with this family."
Town officials who knew the Florida librarian also voiced their disbelief following the incident.
“I think everybody is still in shell shock,” Polk City manager Patricia Jackson told WFLA-TV following the deadly collision. “We’re heartbroken.”
Colleagues called Penton a devoted mother and described her as a “Mama Bear.”
“I can understand her putting herself in harm’s way to protect her children,” Jackson added.
County authorities, who described Penton as a “protective” parent, said the librarian was a familiar face in the “quiet” and “quaint” Florida town.
“Suzette Penton helped make it a wonderful community with the work she did with the children at the library,” Judd said during a press conference on Tuesday. “She always went above and beyond. She was known and loved by the people of Polk City.”
Stansell’s attempted murder charge was upgraded to felony murder on Dec. 1. He’s also facing burglary with assault charges, as well as three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and lewd and lascivious battery of a minor, related to a separate case.
Stansell has no criminal history, according to Polk County Sheriff's Office. The four teens are being held at a Polke County Jail. The case remains open and ongoing.
A celebration of life ceremony is planned for Penton on Dec. 6, authorities said.
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