Mom Dies Weeks After Teens Accused of Beating Up Her Son Allegedly Ran Her Over with Church Van

Jeff Truesdell
·3 min read

facebook Suzette Penton

The attack on her teenage son turned Florida mom Suzette Penton into his protector, with fatal consequences.

On Nov. 9, Penton, 52, a beloved Polk City librarian, returned home to find her son, Hunter, getting assaulted, allegedly by teens including 18-year-old Elijah Stansell, who was dating Hunter's former girlfriend, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a news conference Tuesday.

Stansell and three other teens — including Stansell's girlfriend — all then allegedly took off in a van parked across the street that belonged to the Westwood Missionary Baptist Church, where Stansell’s father is a pastor, the sheriff said.

Suzette Penton "began taking photos of the suspects and the van with her cell phone," the sheriff's office said in a news release. "Though there was enough room for the van to maneuver around her as she stood in the roadway, Stansell intentionally ran into her, then over her, before fleeing the scene."

“He didn’t clip her," the sheriff said. "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."

Penton suffered a traumatic brain injury and several broken bones, and died from her injuries two weeks later, on Nov. 25.

On Tuesday, Judd said all four teens in the van will be charged as adults in connection with her death. (PEOPLE is not naming the minor teens because of their age.)

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“Suzette Penton helped make [Polk City] a wonderful community with the work she did with the children at the library," the sheriff said. "She always went above and beyond ... she would dress up and paint up as she had programs for the young children in and around Polk City. She was known and loved by the people in the city. She was also known as a protective mother."

A longtime friend of Penton's, Ann Blethen, told WFLA: “She was an awesome mother that was willing to die for her kids and, unfortunately, she did.”

The sheriff said Stansell's girlfriend and the victim’s son had broken up six months earlier but continued a “post-dating disagreement” that played out on social media, with the girl threatening to have Stansell beat up her former boyfriend.

An attempted school intervention led to the girl's suspension, and on the day the girl learned about it, she allegedly rallied Stansell and the other two teens to drive to Hunter's home and confront him.

The sheriff said Hunter was attacked before the group got into a church van to try to escape.

"Suzette actually sees the fight. She gets out and goes to the van in her car. Suzette is trying to take photographs of the getaway van. ... Elijah Stansell runs over her, completely over her. She has tire tracks on her body where he runs totally over her," the sheriff alleged.

Stansell is being held in Polk County jail on one count of murder, one count of burglary with assault, and three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. His attorney, Kevin Cox, declined comment to PEOPLE and said Stansell has not yet entered a plea.

The three other teens all are facing adult charges of attempted felony murder and burglary with assault. After their arrests, they were taken to the county's Juvenile Assessment Center. It could not be determined if any of the three had obtained an attorney to speak on their behalf.

“You can be sure one day, we’re going to see that the criminal justice system holds them accountable because whatever they meant when they started, he ended it with murder and Suzette won’t be there when her children get married," said the sheriff. "She won’t ever get to see her grandchildren, and they won’t have their mother, and it never should have happened."