Teachers Caught in the Act: Owen

Living in the Twilight Zone

"In the beginning, my marriage to Debbie was like any other relationship. I remember how great I thought life was. I was on top of the world. I had a great job. I had a good marriage, and then it just spiraled out of control," says Owen LaFave. His ex-wife, Debra LaFave, had a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old student.

 

Owen says he started to notice his wife's behavior change and become erratic. "She started to wear skimpy clothing, clothing that was definitely inappropriate for school and teaching in front of children. She began smoking, liked rap music," he explains. "Never in a million years would I have imagined that it was a relationship with one of her students. I just thought my life was destroyed."

 

The first time Debra and the boy were intimate was in the LaFave's townhome. "Actually, in our bed," Owen recalls. "According to her, he wanted oral sex. He asked for it. She gave it to him." Owen says that Debra had sex with the boy in the classroom on at least one occasion and in a car. "She had the boy's cousin drive them around town where they had sex in the back of their car," he says.

 

When the police arrested Debra, it

was almost a sting operation. "The police had contacted the boy, and they had set up a series of phone calls," Owen explains. On the phone recordings, the boy says, "I'm a little worried." Debra asks, "Why?" and the boy answers, "We had sex like three times … If I should like use a condom." Debra responds, "Oh, you're being weird." Owen reflects, "The thing that struck me most about those telephone conversations was the fact that she really sounded like a child. It was just very bizarre."

 

The police arrested Debra. She was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct.

Owen couldn't understand how this happened. "My question was why. She didn't give me an answer. I never encountered anything as painful as that, or as devastating. It was like living in the Twilight Zone. It really did just completely turn my whole world upside down," he says. "The media got ahold of it and ran with it.

You couldn't escape from it. It was on TV, radio, newspapers, talk shows. Not only am I dealing with the fact that I've lost a relationship, but it's the humility of her having a sexual relationship with a child, and the entire world knows about it. And, of course, I got the blame. ‘This guy has got to be gay,' or, ‘He's impotent,' or ‘He's not taking care of his wife sexually.' I was the one with problems. I couldn't do it anymore, so when I filed for divorce, that was my opportunity to speak out for the first time. I wanted people to know that I'm a normal guy, then this freak thing happened to me."

 

When the hearing started, Debra's attorney suggested that she was too pretty to go to jail. She got three years of house arrest. She did not get any jail time. "I think there is a double standard in this country. If Debra were a man, she would be in jail right now," Owen says. "My ex-wife's name is now infamous. This whole thing has absolutely changed my life."

"What was the first information you had that she was having sex with a student?" Dr. Phil asks Owen.

"The day she was arrested, her mother called me," he says. "Looking back, hindsight is 20/20; she acted very peculiar right

before her arrest. But never in a million years would I have guessed that she was having a relationship with this child." He says that she woke up one day and was a completely different person. "Through the course of our relationship she always wanted to have children, and actually she was pressuring me to have children. One of those things was that all of a sudden, she didn't want to have children anymore."

"When you found out about it and you saw her for the first time, what did she say? How did she explain herself?" Dr. Phil asks.

Owen says she never explained herself. "She gave me multiple reasons and none of them were really legitimate excuses," he says. "She just said she didn't know why she did it." He says that from the first moment he saw her and after reading the police report, he knew she did it. "It was just a gut instinct, and I said, ‘I know you did it, just tell me why.'" She admitted that she did it, but she couldn't give Owen a reason why.

Dr. Phil explains that the show contacted Debra LaFave's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, for a statement on behalf of his client, and his response was, "No comment." He asks Owen if he has been in contact with Debra.

Owen says he hasn't spoken her in over a year. "I have no desire to," he says.

Owen has re-married and his new wife, Amy, discovered his past just before their first date. "This was a

challenge. Why did you decide to move forward?" Dr. Phil asks.

Amy says that she spoke with her mom about it. "She had seen a bunch of his interviews and said, ‘He seems like a nice guy. He's a victim in this as much as anyone, give him a chance,'" she says.

Owen and Amy have been married almost a year and have a newborn son. "What concerns me most is that he has my name, and my name, because of my ex-wife is infamous. And I wonder when he gets to school-age will kids ridicule him and make fun of him because of that?" Owen asks.

"By the time he is in a situation, which is three, four, fives years from now, where he's in school, this LaFave will not be an infamous name," Dr. Phil assures the couple. "This isn't going to be of great relevance to him. I think when you do talk to him, I think you just need to say honestly and accurately, ‘I was married before, and the woman I was married to was not, emotionally, mentally healthy and stable.' And I think that based on results, that's an opinion that you can honestly say, and ‘As a result she made some really bad decisions, and she got in trouble, so we got a divorce and moved on.'" He tells Owen that he has seen him in interviews and how he has handled himself through this ordeal.
"You have not one thing to apologize for to your son or to your wife or for your name," he says. "I think you need to embrace that."

 

Owen has co-authored the book, Gorgeous Disaster: The Tragic Story of Debra LaFave. "Why did you write that book?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Because I wanted to get the awareness out there that we do have a growing problem in our school system, and we do have a double standard as far as sentencing is concerned with the female perpetrators, and it's something that we need to address," Owen says. "It's something that deeply impacted my life, and through sharing my story I hope to prevent it from happening to someone else."