Campus News

New Arrests Made and Trial Date Set in Smith Case

Disclaimer: The following story, photos, and accompanying items are fictionalized and are part of Saint Leo University’s Alternate Reality Learning Experience (ARLE). The events described did not occur. The characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.

New information provided by the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office stated that they have released two suspects and arrested two more in connection with the burglary of Dr. Penny Smith on campus.

On Oct. 14, three suspects were arrested: Alicia Stumbo, a senior ornamental horticulture major; Damon Jackson, senior forestry major with a minor in fungi revitalization and president of the Beta Omega Rho fraternity; and Michael Freedman, senior fermentation science major with an auctioneering minor who is also the captain of the University’s football team. Freedman dated Stumbo during their freshman year.

Jackson and Freedman were eventually released after new video evidence was discovered. The evidence led investigators to arrest Sean Betz and Beau Franklin. Both are freshmen who are pledging the Beta Omega Rho fraternity.

Smith, professor of sociology, has been in a coma since Sept. 28, when she was found unconscious in her office by fellow staff. The incident report provided by Campus Security and Safety stated that Smith was stung by several wasps when entering her office and as a result, stumbled, fell, and hit her head. She was taken by ambulance to Florida Hospital in Zephyrhills.

According to her doctor, she had an allergic reaction to the wasp stings.

The crime scene report indicated that the incident was a burglary. According to the incident report, Smith’s office was broken into through the window on the east side. Chairs were knocked over and papers were scattered throughout the room. The report also indicated that the subjects fled the scene through the window in which they entered.

Forensics has recovered blood, gloves, a wasp’s nest, and a blue dry erase marker from the scene. Fingerprints have also been recovered from the office.

Students were shocked to learn that University students allegedly committed the burglary.

“I couldn’t believe that Michael had been arrested for the burglary of Dr. Smith,” stated electrical engineering major Isaiah Feldman. “I’ve had some classes with him and I watch him play every weekend during football season. He’s always seemed like such a great guy so I’m just glad that he’s been released.”

Other students echoed Feldman’s feelings.

“I was so surprised to hear of the recent arrest of Sean,” stated Marine Biology major Katherine Richardson. “We were in the same group for our freshmen orientation at the beginning of this semester and he was so nice to me. I was really happy for him that he started pledging a fraternity because he told me that was one of the first things he wanted to do in college.”

Saint Leo University also offered their support to Smith and her family.

The public relations firm, Prestige Worldwide, representing Vice President of Advancement and Communications Denny Moller, released a statement saying that the campus community is keeping Smith and her family in its prayers and asked that all others do the same. They said the University will provide more information as it becomes available and will fully cooperate with the investigation.

However, Ryan Smith, husband of Dr. Smith, feels that the University is not adequately communicating with him fully. He also believes the University is withholding information they gathered throughout the investigation.

Ryan Smith is convinced the first three students who were arrested played a part in the alleged burglary because his wife accused them of cheating on an exam and brought them in front of the Academic Standards Committee last semester. Although the students were not found in violation of the University’s Academic Honor Code for cheating, Smith believes that the students broke into his wife’s office in retaliation of being accused of cheating by her. For now, he is awaiting the results of the trial; however, he said he is looking into a civil suit for the future.

Penny Smith, who has been teaching at Saint Leo for more than six years, teaches courses on global sociology, globalization and social movements, climate change and society, cities in a global context, globalization and public health, as well as on human rights and democratization. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from Western Illinois University. Smith currently serves as editor of the Journal of World-Systems Research, the official journal of the Political Economy of the World-System section of the American Sociological Association. She has written and edited several books and articles on transnational and social movements and the global political economy.

The date of the trial has been set for Nov. 4 and 5 and Judge Ann Robbins has been assigned to the case.

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