A Florida man who used a church van to plow into a woman in 2020 has been convicted of her murder.
On Friday, a Polk County jury on Friday found Elijah Paul Stansell, 20, of Winter Haven, guilty of murder and burglary. State Attorney Brian Haas said the defendant will sentence this year to mandatory life in prison.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Suzette Penton, 52, died from injuries she sustained in a November 9, 2020, incident, at the hands of Stansell, who was 18 at the time. Penton was killed after she confronted Stansell and three other teens, Raven Sutton, 16, Kimberly Stone, 15, and Hannah Eubank, 14, about beating up her 15-year-old son.
Polk County police said the suspects banged on Penton’s door until her son answered. Stansell and another suspect attacked Penton’s son as the fight spilled outside. Stone was presumably in the vehicle during the altercation, as reports indicate that one teen stayed in the van.
Penton’s son had previously dated Stone, who police said was suspended from high school due to an altercation with him. Stone allegedly threatened to have Stansell, her current boyfriend, beat up Penton’s son.
According to the Sentinel, Stone provided the directions to Penton’s home. The four suspects waited until Penton left her home with her younger son to go to the store.
Citing an affidavit, Law&Order reported that Stansell and Sutton attacked Penton’s son as Eubanks filmed it.
As the teens fled to a van across the street, Penton stood in front of the vehicle and took pictures of them. Police said that’s when Stansell accelerated the van and ran over Penton.
Penton suffered a traumatic brain injury, skull fracture, and brain bleeding. She also had a broken leg, a knee injury, and fluid in her lungs. She was unresponsive and intubated before succumbing to her injuries.
“Runs completely over her,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, according to WFLA. “She has tire tracks on her body where he runs totally over her.”
Elijah Stansell Criminal Co… by National Content Desk
Police said the vehicle used in the slaying was a maintenance van for Westwood Missionary Baptist Church — where Stansell’s father is a pastor.
The four teens admitted to going to Penton’s home, fleeing the scene, and being in the van when Stansell intentionally struck Penton. Authorities said there was enough space for Stansell to avoid Penton.
Stone, Eubank, and Sutton are charged with being accessories after the fact in a “capital felony, burglary with assault and conspiracy to commit burglary with assault,” according to WSB-TV. They will all be tried as adults.
Officials in Polk City named the public library after Penton, following her death, where she worked as the lead librarian.
“Not only was she a beloved librarian for the City of Polk City, but she was an important fixture in the community whose outreach went well beyond the city limits,” Penton’s obituary read.
“She loved more than anything spending time with her sons, her daughter in law and her five grandchildren.”
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[Featured image: Suzette Penton/Facebook; Elijah Stansell/Polk County Sheriff’s Office]
Additional Reporting by Jacquelyn Gray