POLK CITY, Fla. — A Florida 18-year-old and three younger teens are accused of running over the mother of his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend on Monday, leaving the woman in critical condition.
Elijah Paul Stansell, 18, of Winter Haven, is charged with attempted murder, burglary with assault and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor in the attack on Suzanne Penton and her son.
The minors in question, Raven Sutton, 16, Kimberly Stone, 15, and Hannah Eubank, 14, are also charged with attempted murder and burglary with assault.
Asking school librarians across the country to join me in sending healing vibes + prayers of recovery to FL school librarian Suzette Penton. I don’t know Suzette personally, but she looks like fun and full of life. FL libs who know Suzette, know that others are thinking of you.🙏🏽 pic.twitter.com/sV32EwlL2f— erika long (@erikaslong) November 12, 2020
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Stone is Stansell’s girlfriend and the ex-girlfriend of Penton’s son, court records show.
“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,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement. “I can’t even fathom teenagers doing something so heinous. Our prayers are with this family.”
Stansell was booked into the Polk County Jail. The other defendants are being held in a juvenile facility.
WFLA in Tampa identified Penton as a beloved librarian at Polk City Community Library.
“I think everybody is still in shell-shock,” Polk City manager Patricia Jackson told the news station. “We’re heartbroken. We’re just here to do whatever we can to help them.”
Read the probable cause affidavit for Stansell’s arrest below.
A probable cause affidavit in the case alleges that deputies arrived shortly before 3 p.m. Monday at the Pentons' Polk City home, where they spoke to Penton’s son. The teen told deputies he’d heard a knock on his front door but, because his family normally uses the side door, he went and answered that door, which leads out onto an attached carport.
When he opened the door, he said, Stansell, Eubank and Sutton of the defendants were in the yard. The teen said he recognized Stansell as Stone’s new love interest and Eubank as a classmate.
The teen walked out onto his carport, at which point he said Stansell approached and began hitting him. When the boy fled back into the house, Stansell followed, the affidavit states.
Sutton, who the victim was later able to identify for investigators, and Eubank also went inside, with Eubank using her cellphone to film the attack. As they continued beating the unnamed teen, his mother came home and the teens fled.
“The victim’s mother followed them and watched them get into their van, which was parked across the street,” Judd said in a news release. “She began taking photos of the suspects and the van with her cellphone.”
That’s when things turned dangerous.
“Though there was enough room for the van to maneuver around her as she stood in the roadway, Stansell intentionally ran into her, then over her, before fleeing the scene,” the sheriff said.
Penton was rushed to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, where she was found to have suffered a traumatic brain injury involving a skull fracture and severe bleeding in her brain, the affidavit states. She also suffered a broken leg and fluid in her lungs.
“She remains unresponsive and intubated,” according to the court document. “She is listed in severely critical condition.”
Investigators wrote that three eyewitnesses gave consistent accounts of what took place outside the family’s home, including the fact that Stansell made no attempt to go around Penton before striking her. Detectives were also able to pull security footage from multiple cameras in the neighborhood.
WFLA obtained portions of that footage, which can be seen below.
The exterior footage shows the teens going onto the carport and Stansell attacking the younger victim, the affidavit states. Footage from in the boy’s home shows how the attack continued inside.
The cameras also caught Penton following the teens into the street and taking photos of the van and its license plate as Stansell drove forward into her body.
The teens were pulled over about seven miles away by deputies and Auburndale police officers, authorities said. During questioning, they admitted to going to the scene of the attack to confront Stone’s ex-boyfriend.
The investigation turned up information that Stone and the teen had been engaging in ongoing arguments since their breakup. According to the affidavit, Stone had sent him written threats on social media about a “hit” and said she’d “have her new boyfriend ‘handle it.’”
Detectives determined that Stone showed Stansell and the other teens where her ex-boyfriend lived and stayed behind in the van “while they went to ‘handle it’ at her direction,” the document states.
Stansell is being held without bond on the attempted murder charge. The status of the younger defendants was not immediately available Thursday.
Cox Media Group