Suzette Penton, a mother, grandmother, and librarian succumbed to the injuries she sustained on November 9 after 18-year-old Elijah Stansell ran over her in a church van he borrowed with the permission of his father, Paul Stansell, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
The elder Stansell is listed as Director of ABA Disaster Relief at the Westwood Missionary Baptist Church in Winter Haven, Florida, which is how his son had access to the maintenance van on that fateful day when police say Elijah Stansell picked up three friends with the intention of “handling” an “ongoing dispute” between Penton’s son, Hunter, and his ex-girlfriend, Kimberly Stone, who was 15 and now dating Stansell, according to the sheriff’s office.
Along for the ride and to confront Hunter in the van were also 16-year-old Raven Sutton, and 14-year-old Hannah Eubank according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
The four teens showed up at Penton’s house to fight Hunter and according to Judd, parked nearby and waited for Penton to leave. When she did, the group made their move.
Penton had only gone to the store with her younger son, and when she came home she found Hunter being beaten up by the two boys in the group inside of her house.
Stone, Sutton, and Eubank ran off, and according to an arrest affidavit, Penton started taking pictures of the van that was parked at her house. Stansell didn’t run off though, he jumped in the van. That’s when Judd said that Stansell ran her over.
According to Judd, Stansell “runs over her — completely over her. She has tire tracks on her body where he runs totally over her.”
Per Stansell’s arrest affidavit, when he ran over Penton he caused the 52-year-old to have a traumatic brain injury “involving a skull fracture and severe brain bleeding, a broken leg, a ligament injury to her left knee, and she was aspirating fluid in her lungs.”
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters on December 1 that after weeks in critical condition, Penton died on November 25, and the attempted murder charge against Stansell is now upgraded from attempted murder to first-degree murder.
He is also facing three counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, burglary with assault, and lewd & lascivious battery on a minor for being an 18-year-old having sex with 15-year-old Stone, who has turned 16 since the crime according to Judd.
The three younger teens will be tried as adults for attempted felony murder and burglary with assault because they ended up following Hunter inside his home when he was trying to get away from his attackers.
Stansell Plead Not Guilty But There Is Video of the Van Driving Toward & Running Over Penton & Multiple Witnesses Saw It Happen
According to Stansell’s arrest affidavit, three neighbors saw him run over Penton. They all told police it looked like Stansell ran over Penton in a “malicious” way.
“It was clear as the suspect vehicle fled there was no intent to maneuver around the victim, but instead all were adamant that the driver of the fleeing vehicle was malicious in his actions,” the arrest report says.
There was also video surveillance at the Penton residence, which caught the entire incident starting from when Stansell, Sutton, and Eubank approached the house, to when they started swinging on Hunter while Eubank took a video, to Penton returning back home from the store to find people in her home attacking her son, to when she went to photograph the van, and then the van gunning for her and running her over.
Judd said Stone, who was a key player in the teen feud, stayed in the van during the attack. According to the sheriff, she was even suspended that very day from school for her “outrageous conduct” in “online communications” involving the dispute with Hunter.
According to the police report, surveillance video shows that “though there was enough room between the vehicle and Penton to maneuver around her, the driver intentionally ran into, and over, her before fleeing southbound…”
If you look at the video you can see clearly that he had the opportunity to back up to drive around her, or not to hit the gas and run over her. He didn’t clip her. He didn’t try to turn away from her and accidentally hit her and she fell down. She was squared up and he ran over her directly over her—rolled her underneath the van. He ran directly over her and you’ll see that in the video…
…They all went up there to have a teenage fight and it turned to murder. And there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind — when you see that video — he had every opportunity in the world, not to run over this lady. But he didn’t. He chose to take the church van which was intended for good and used it for evil.
Penton Is Described as a Protective Mother & a Small Town Librarian Who ‘Helped Make It a Wonderful Community With the Work She Did With the Children’
Penton lived and died in Polk City, which Judd said is a community of about 1,500 people.
“It’s quaint. It’s quiet. It’s almost crime-free,” Judd said in a press conference. “It’s a wonderful community, and Suzette Penton helped make it a wonderful community with the work she did with the children at the library. She always went above and beyond.”
According to Judd, Penton was a protective mother who “was doing nothing but trying to gather photographs of suspects who attacked her child at their home.”
Judd told reporters that Stansell said he didn’t take responsibility for running over Penton, saying he didn’t know he hit her or that maybe he clipped her with the mirror, yet he seemed to be “the most concerned of the bunch.”
Heavy asked the Westwood Missionary Baptist Church for a comment or statement on the senseless crime, which involved one of their pastor’s sons and a van that belonged to the church, but they have yet to reply.
Ironically, Penton’s Facebook cover page says, “Above all, I believe in God & I know He WILL balance the books on the ugly you do to others so be kind.”