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.
The verdict is in: Alicia Stumbo and Beau Franklin are guilty. The trial concerning the death of Saint Leo University’s own Dr. Penny Smith took place on Nov. 5. Additional suspects Sean Betz and Kirsta Tuttle were offered plea deals that offered them immunity from the prosecution team in exchange for testimonies that proved they were simply victims of hazing.
The suspects, Betz, Stumbo, and Franklin, who had each been charged with battery, trespassing, criminal mischief, and—following Dr. Smith’s death—manslaughter, were presented before a jury of about 15 members. This group of Saint Leo men and women were sworn under oath by Judge Ann Robbins.
Following opening statements from both the prosecution and the defense, questionings of the prosecution’s witnesses began. Witnesses included Dr. Ron Perry, chair of sociology at the University and Ian Snyder, resident DNA expert.
The prosecution’s questionings heated up when Michael Freedman, one of the three originally believed to have committed the crime, was called to the stand. When asked if he had been part of any academic misconduct in the past, Freedman answered by stating that he, Stumbo, and Jackson were involved in a cheating scandal, and confirmed that the professor of the class in which the three cheated was taught by none other than Dr. Smith.
Jackson was subsequently brought up to the stand. Jackson claimed that hazing did not exist in the fraternity; a bold claim as he was president. Jackson eventually would admit to the hazing, stating that the original plan was to simply have Betz and Franklin steal the test results and leave without a trace. Being close to Stumbo, Jackson revealed that she, because of her discovery in the cheating scandal, held a grudge against Dr. Smith. Furthermore, Jackson claimed that the idea of sending pledges out to steal a test from Dr. Smith’s office was Stumbo’s idea.
Kirsta Tuttle, a pledge under the sorority Sigma Omega Delta, was then brought to the stand per her involvement as the getaway driver for Betz and Franklin. Tuttle claimed to have been a previous victim of hazing within Sigma Omega Delta. Tuttle testified that she had caught of glimpse of who she believed to be Stumbo hiding in a bush near Saint Edward Hall, just as she had left the scene early due to Campus Security arriving. Tuttle also noticed a strange marking on Stumbo’s neck the following day.
Betz was brought up for questioning by the prosecution, testifying against his fraternity brothers and Stumbo due to previously being hazed. This, coupled with Jackson’s testimonies, proved that hazing did, in fact, exist within Beta Omega Rho. Betz also claimed that he had no knowledge of Dr. Smith—he never even met her before—and admitted that he felt both “sorry” and “terrible” for what had happened.
Immediately after this, Franklin, who was scheduled to be interviewed by the defense, was revealed to have been in an unfortunate car accident on his way to the trial and could not arrive; a transcript of a previous examination by the defense was read in his place.
Stumbo was then brought to the stand and questioned by both sides, ultimately claiming the incident as a conspiracy masterminded by Freedman and Tuttle, whom Stumbo believed to be having a romantic relationship with. Stumbo, president of the sorority Sigma Omega Delta, claimed to have been at the movies with Jackson and Freedman on the night of Sept. 27. Claiming to have arrived at the movies late, Stubmo used a trip to a convenience store as her alibi; she wished to improve her appearance for her boyfriend, Jackson—she purchased tweezers to touch up her eyebrows and baking soda to whiten her teeth. As such, Stumbo denied that she was present at Dr. Smith’s office and therefore had no involvement in placing the wasp nest inside. Stumbo also claimed that the marking on her neck that Tuttle had supposedly seen was most likely a hickey, as she and Jackson had been “making out at the movie, as most couples do.”
Jackson was again brought up to the stand, claiming that, despite confirming Stumbo’s alibi of being at the movies, he and Stumbo were not making out during the movie; instead, she had asked him to help with what she believed to be a “splinter in her neck.” He also claimed that Stumbo did not arrive until at least 45 minutes into the film, with the film starting at 9:10 p.m.
With both the defense and prosecution at rest, closing statements were given, and the jury was sent to deliberate. The jury deliberated for a full hour before returning to the courtroom and revealing their verdicts. It was at this point that the trial had officially ended; Franklin was found guilty of the crimes of trespassing and criminal mischief, and Stumbo was found guilty of the crimes of manslaughter and culpable negligence.
Following the conclusion of the trial, Stumbo, when asked about her opinions concerning the trial, said “I did not commit this heinous crime. It feels awful to know that my friends, peers, and even my boyfriend were convinced that I had. I do not feel that justice has truly been served, and I hope that the jury comes to regret wrongly convicting an innocent woman.”
Saint Leo University respects the verdict of Saturday’s trial and thanks the jury for its service.
“The University community continues to mourn the loss of Dr. Penny Smith and we are keeping her family, friends, and students in our thoughts and prayers,” said Denny Moller, vice president of Advancement and Communications.