POLK CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – All four teenagers involved in the death of a Polk City librarian will be charged as adults as the community continues to reel from the loss.
“She was an awesome mother that was willing to die for her kids and, unfortunately, she did,” said Ann Blethen, longtime friend of Suzette Penton. “My heart is broken and it’s broken as much for the kids as it is Suzette.”
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Elijah Stansell, 18, intentionally ran Penton over outside her Polk City home last month. She died on Nov. 25 leaving behind her four children and several grandchildren.
“Every kid in town loved Suzette because she’s just that type of person. She was flamboyant. She was just an outgoing, wonderful person,” said Blethen.
“Suzette Penton helped make it a wonderful community,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “She was known and loved by the people of Polk City.”
Sheriff Judd called the incident “horrific,” something that “never should have happened.”
“My parents told me that your life can be changed in one second and when this happened I realized what they were telling me,” said Blethen.
On Nov. 9, Stansell, joined by Raven Sutton, 16, Kimberly Stone, 16 (who was 15 at the time of incident) and Hannah Eubank, 14, drove to Penton’s home.
There was an ongoing romance-related dispute between the group. They were there, officials said, to beat up Penton’s teenage son.
After a physical altercation between the teenage boys, Penton arrived home. She went outside to take photographs of the teens’ getaway vehicle, Stansell’s van. That’s when, authorities believe, Stansell intentionally ran her over, leaving tire tracks on her body.
“He didn’t clip her. He didn’t try to turn away from her and accidentally hit her and fell down. She was squared up and he ran over her,” said Sheriff Judd.
The van belonged to Westwood Missionary Baptist Church where Stansell’s father is a pastor, according to the sheriff.
A person who answered the phone at the church declined to comment for this story.
A Polk County utilities supervisor, identified by the county as Jeff Goolsby, witnessed the incident, followed the van and called 911.
“I’m trying to stay back. I don’t know if these people have a gun. They just mowed that poor lady down,” he said.
Auburndale officers located the van minutes after it left Polk City.
“They went from being rowdy out of control juveniles on this day, to Elijah’s charged with murder,” said Sheriff Judd.
Stansell’s attorney, Kevin Cox, declined to comment on behalf of his client.
Stansell admitted to possibly hitting Penton with her mirror, according to Sheriff Judd.
“The driver made admissions and said ‘I didn’t know I ran over her. I didn’t know.’ Come on man!” said the sheriff.
According to a spokesperson from the Polk County State’s Attorney’s Office, all four teenagers are being charged as adults, due to the “nature of the allegations.”
Stansell’s charges will be upgraded to first degree murder, according to the sheriff’s office.
If you would like to help the Penton family, you can help pay for her Celebration of Life being held on Saturday.
Donations are being accepted at Kersey Funeral Home at Auburndale by calling (863) 220-7991.
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