More than a decade after she pleaded guilty to charges that she had sex with a 14-year-old student, former teacher Debra Lafave has completely turned her life around, her friend says.
In an interview with People, Joe Zuniga said Lafave is a “completely different person” from the woman who committed those criminal acts dating back to 2004.
“She has grown up a lot,” he said. “She has become a Christian and she’s a great mom. She recently got married, and she just ignores the media.”
The unwanted attention is consistent, said Zuniga, who pointed out the 37-year-old “looks the exact same” as she did during her trial.
“She still gets hate mail about it,” he said. “She hates the attention.”
Zuniga speaks on behalf of Lafave, he said, because she wants no part of reliving the highly publicized trial and media spotlight that followed.
“She knows it will always be there, but she focuses on her life now,” he said. “It’s very normal.”
In addition to eschewing media attention, People previously reported she began using her maiden name, Beasley.
Lafave lives in a suburb of Tampa, Florida, with a new husband and twin sons from a previous relationship, according to Zuniga.
In addition to serving three years under house arrest and seven years on probation, Lafave is now a registered sex offender and is required to report to state authorities on a regular basis.
Though she has aimed for a low profile since her trial, Zuniga said she knows she will never fully escape the ramifications of her crime and conviction.
“She makes no excuses for what she did,” he said. “She has always owned up to it.”
Not only does Lafave realize her life was permanently impacted by her acts, Zuniga said, she knows “she hurt many other people, and she is still very sorry for it.”
[Featured image: AP Photo/Chris O’Meara]