A tragic criminal case out of Polk County, Florida just got a lot worse for everyone involved. Sheriff Grady Judd announced in a press conference on Tuesday that local mother Suzette Penton died from injuries sustained in a vehicular attack. The attempted murder charge against the alleged driver Elijah Stansell, 18, was upgraded to first-degree murder.
As previously reported, the incident was allegedly the result of a petty spat between teenagers. (The three co-defendants in this case are juveniles. Law&Crime is naming them because they are charged as adults.)
According to an affidavit obtained by Law&Crime, Penton’s son was in a relationship with Kimberly Stone, who has turned 16 since the incident happened. The couple split, but it was anything but amicable. The former couple continued to argue, allegedly escalating to Stone writing threats on social media, and that her new boyfriend (Stansell) would “handle it.”
Cut to November 9. Stansell, Stone, Raven Sutton, 16, and Hannah Eubank, 14, went to the ex-boyfriend’s home. Stansell attacked him there, deputies said. Sutton was allegedly at his side. Eubanks allegedly seemed to be filming all of this on her phone. Meanwhile, Stone allegedly stayed in the van.
Enter Suzette Penton. She arrived home with her younger son, authorities said. Stansell, Sutton, and Eubank fled into a van parked across the street, deputies claimed. Penton stood in the roadway in front of the vehicle, and used her phone to take pictures of the suspects. Authorities claimed the van accelerated, then ran over her. Deputies emphasized that there was enough room to maneuver around Penton, but that did not happen.
The sheriff described the vehicle as a van used for maintenance by the Westwood Missionary Baptist Church. Stansell is the son of a pastor there.
The 18-year-old defendant “controlled, and could have stopped the murder,” Judd said. “But he’s the one, he’s the driver, that in the church van ran over and killed this beautiful lady, who was so well thought of and a city librarian.”
Investigators cited witness statements and surveillance footage in backing up their claim. Things were already awful when Penton initially survived. Officials said she sustained traumatic brain injury, which included a skull fracture and brain bleeding. There was also a broken leg, knee injury, and fluid building in her lungs. She was unresponsive and intubated. That ended with her recent death.
“It should’ve never happened,” Judd said.
A “celebration of life” to honor Penton is scheduled to take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Donald Bronson Community Center at Polk City.
Judd said the investigation was ongoing.
Stansell’s attorney Kevin Cox declined to comment when Law&Crime reached out. The defendant previously pleaded not guilty in the case back when the top charge was attempted murder, records show. He also still faces three counts of of contributing delinquency or dependency of a minor, and a count of burglary with assault. There also was another charge of lewd and lascivious battery on a minor on a victim 15 years old, deputies said.
Eubank and Sutton were represented by the local public defender’s office, but this defense issued separate filings on Monday. In each case, they cited a conflict of interest in representing the defendant in question. They asked that a substitute be appointed.
Stone had no attorney of record.
The three co-defendants are still charged with attempted felony murder, and burglary with assault.
[Mugshot via Polk County Sheriff’s Office]
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