Jessica Lazzara, a Maitland behavioral therapist, has been arrested on charges of child abuse, lewd and lascivious behavior and indecent exposure. She was taken to the Polk County jail and held without bond.
Lazzara, 42, was employed as an intern according to Big Bear Behavioral Health in Maitland, Florida and had been meeting with two young girls who were sexual trauma victims, 11 and 13, since November 2016.
At a press conference on May 30, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd made the case that Big Bear Behavioral Health did not conduct an adequate investigation of Ms. Lazzara’s background.
Lazzara met with the two sexual trauma patients at their home at 3:15 p.m. on April 24 for a therapy session. The session started and the patient stayed in bed at her own request. The therapist proceeded to threaten the girl with a bow and arrow and then started striking her, deputies said. The suspect went outside to the back of the property with the two girls and their 27-year-old mother, where Lazzara inappropriately touched two of the females with a lighter and spray paint, according to the affidavit. The victims were dressed during the incident, Judd said.
The three females went to the front yard and Lazzara lifted up her shirt to expose herself to them, deputies said. The victims turned away from Lazzara and ran inside, locked the door and called 911. When confronted, Lazzara said that she would kill everyone and herself, the arrest affidavit said. Lazzarra went on to bang on doors and windows until police detained her, according to deputies.
She told authorities she was having a bad day and couldn’t remember everything that happened.
“I don’t remember everything that happened that day,” Lazzara told deputies, according to the report. “I am sorry for what I did. I don’t need to be a therapist anymore, I don’t need to work around children.”
In a post-Miranda interview with police, Lazzara said she wanted one of the deputies to shoot her. Responding deputies took Lazarra to a hospital where she was held under the Baker Act.
The Baker Act is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State representative who sponsored the Act in 1972. People who require the use of the Baker Act have often lost the power of self-control, and they are likely to inflict harm to themselves or others.
Attorney Joe Saunders is an experienced and compassionate advocate for all sexual abuse and trauma survivors. If you or a loved one has been abused by a teacher, coach, priest, or counselor, please contact him for a free consultation.
Photo Credit via wptv.com