Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Public safety

Pasco teacher, ex-secretary questioned about boozy prom after-party

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NEW PORT RICHEY — A J.W. Mitchell High School teacher is under criminal investigation, accused of drinking alcohol with teens at a prom after-party.

Samantha Murchie, who teaches honors biology, has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Lynne Worker, a former school secretary, is also being investigated. Neither has been charged with a crime.

Here's what several students said happened after their prom on April 26, according to a Pasco sheriff's incident report:

Word got around about a party at the Laird Road home of a 17-year-old Mitchell student — Worker's son. Some teens rode to the gathering from Murchie's house, where they had gone to change clothes after the dance. Murchie has an 18-year-old son at Mitchell.

When the kids arrived, Lynne Worker was at the front door collecting keys from everyone who planned to drink. Inside were several bottles of liquor, including Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, and a beer keg on the back patio.

At the height of the party, 30 to 40 students were part of the revelry. They played beer pong and other drinking games. Murchie, one student said, sat in a love seat drinking to the point of getting "a little woozy."

Some students drank so much they got ill. The party ended when a neighbor banged on the door complaining about noise. It was 3 a.m.

At that point, some of the students said they caught a ride back to Murchie's house. One 18-year-old student — a designated driver — said she made two trips delivering students to Murchie's, where everyone gathered around the kitchen island while Murchie fixed some food. One student said he grabbed a beer out of the refrigerator and drank it.

Eventually, they all crashed at Murchie's house.

Donald Fly, Mitchell's school resource officer, interviewed the students at school on May 5. Murchie, 43, sat down with Fly, too, but quickly said she wanted to speak to someone first, possibly a lawyer.

Before leaving the room, she told Fly she had gone to the party to pick up her son, according to the report.

On May 7, Fly went to Worker's home to interview her. She agreed to talk and acknowledged there had been a party with her son and his friends. She said that about 25 kids came, the report says. She said Murchie was there.

But she denied knowing that any of teens were drinking alcohol. She said she was at the front of the house the whole time, and if anybody was drinking booze, she didn't supply it.

Fly recommended that Worker, 52, and Murchie be charged for having "an open house party."

"Both suspects were aware of the alcohol being consumed by persons known to them to be under 21 years of age. Lynne Worker is the homeowner in care, custody and control of the property, and Samantha Murchie facilitated the event by providing a place to gather prior to the party, supervising the minors during the gathering and providing a haven after the party," Fly wrote.

Records show this is not Murchie's first time being disciplined by the school district, and not the first instance involving alcohol.

In 2009, she was removed from her position as assistant junior varsity cheerleading coach at Mitchell High after allegations that she drank alcohol and became loud and vulgar at a team dinner while the cheerleaders were at a state competition in Tallahassee.

Murchie was suspended without pay in 2010 after, school officials said, she left her class unsupervised and two students got into a fight.

She was reprimanded in August after she antagonized one of her students in front of the class about the girl's Instagram account until the girl asked to leave.

Two months later, parents and students said they caught whiffs of alcohol on her while she heckled the cheer team at a football game.

Worker was also investigated about allegations that she was shouting at the cheerleaders with Murchie. She resigned under the investigation, schools spokeswoman Linda Cobbe confirmed.

Phones listed for Worker and Murchie were not answered when the Times called Wednesday afternoon.

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