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Teacher accused of sex with teens is arrested again

TAMPA — Former teacher Stephanie Marie Ragusa, twice accused of having sex with students, landed back in jail Monday after detectives stumbled upon her leaving the home of a prior victim.

She had just had sex with the 16-year-old, Hillsborough sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said.

"It was a chance encounter that surprised the detectives," he said.

The arrest is Ragusa's third on sex charges since March. According to Monday's arrest report, she drove to the boy's home in her boyfriend's Dodge pickup truck about noon and told him she wanted to discuss her criminal case.

They went into his bedroom alone. Details of what happened next were redacted from a version of the arrest report released to the media.

According to the report, Ragusa has written the boy love letters and given him presents, along with a copy of her handwritten will.

Ragusa previously was charged with having sex with two male students at Davidsen Middle School, where she taught special education.

Callaway wouldn't say which victim Ragusa, 29, revisited. But the report indicates a detective was at the boy's home to conduct further investigation into the earlier incidents.

"Before they knew it, she was coming out of the house," Callaway said. She ran back to the house when she spotted the detective's cruiser, according to the report.

Detectives arrested Ragusa just before 1 p.m. on two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor. They placed into evidence cell phone video footage. Ragusa smiled in her booking photo — just as she had for the others — then spent the night at the Orient Road Jail.

The latest arrest report also states that Ragusa called the 16-year-old victim and a 17-year-old witness to pick her up at a Circle K on Ehrlich and Hutchinson roads between April 5 and 6, weeks after her first arrest.

Apparently intoxicated, she got in the back seat with the victim and put her hands down the boy's pants, the report says.

Once they reached the boy's house, the two had sex within earshot of the 17-year-old, the report states.

Prosecutors filed an emergency motion Monday seeking to keep Ragusa in jail until her trial. Hillsborough Circuit Judge J. Rogers Padgett will hear the request to revoke bail today.

Ragusa, who lives in Tampa, spent five days in jail after her March 13 arrest and less than four hours in jail after her April 15 arrest. Phone records from April 15 show she tried to reach one of the victims several times on his cell phone, the arrest report states.

Because her second arrest pertained to an offense that occurred before the first arrest, it didn't violate the conditions of her bail, Assistant State Attorney Pam Bondi said.

The new charge does, Bondi said.

Robert Herce, Ragusa's attorney, could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

Ragusa, who already faced four counts of lewd or lascivious battery and two counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor, now faces an additional count of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.

One of the teens had been a student in Ragusa's class. She met the other when, at age 14, he was assigned to push her wheelchair around school after she broke her foot.

Saying she could help him overcome his shyness, Ragusa brought him to her apartment and had sex with him — the first of three such encounters they had between October 2006 and May 2007, according to sheriff's detectives.

She had sex with the other boy more than 20 times between February 2007 and March 2008, detectives said. On one occasion at her home, Feb. 15, 2007, she provided the boy with a contraceptive, detectives said.

Both victims described for investigators two tattoos in Ragusa's pelvic region that are usually covered by clothes.

Hired by Hillsborough County schools in July 2006, Ragusa also taught at Madison and Martinez middle schools. She met with school officials at Martinez on Dec. 12, 2007, to discuss allegations that she used profanity and discussed her personal life with students.

"I want them to know I like some of the same things they do," she said, according to personnel records.

Ragusa has been suspended without pay from the school district. She is on an annual contract that won't be renewed at the end of the year.

Staff writer Letitia Stein contributed to this report. Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

. Time line

Her rap sheet

Oct. 1, 2006, to May 4, 2007: Ragusa has three sexual encounters with a 14-year-old who turns 15 amid the encounters, Hillsborough sheriff's deputies later allege.

Feb. 15, 2007, to March 10: Ragusa has sex about 20 times with a different
15-year-old boy, deputies say.

March 13, 2008: She is arrested on charges relating to the first victim.

April 5 or 6: She has sex with one of the boys at his house after asking him to pick her up at a Circle K, deputies say.

April 15: She is arrested on charges relating to the second victim.

Monday: Ragusa has sex with one of the prior victims, now 16, and is immediately arrested, deputies say.

Teacher accused of sex with teens is arrested again 04/28/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2008 12:05pm]
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