Advertisement
  1. Breaking News

Pinellas teacher arrested, fired for bringing loaded gun to school, police say

Ex-Pinellas County teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49, was arrested on charges that she brought a gun and knives to Starkey Elementary School on Monday and was fired by the Pinellas County School District, authorities say. She now faces two misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon, according to the Pinellas County Schools Police. [Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office]
Published May 20

SEMINOLE — A Pinellas County school teacher was arrested and fired on Monday after she brought a loaded gun and knives to her classroom, authorities said.

Betty Jo Soto, 49, was a fourth grade teacher at Starkey Elementary School at 9300 86th Ave. She now faces two misdemeanor charges of carrying a concealed weapon, according to the Pinellas County Schools Police.

Pinellas school district spokeswoman Lisa Wolf-Chason said Soto was exhibiting "suspicious behavior" during the school day on Monday. Principal Audrey Chaffin noticed the teacher carrying around a backpack everywhere she went, the spokeswoman said, and thought it was unusual.

"The principal notified law enforcement," Wolf-Chason said, "and in the course of their investigation, discovered what was in her backpack."

The weapons were discovered at about 11:30 a.m. in Soto's fourth grade classroom, officers say. A Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol loaded with seven bullets was found "hidden" in a backpack left in her classroom, according to the arrest report. The gun was "exposed" to students in her classroom, the report said.

Soto has a permit allowing her to carry a concealed weapon in Florida, the arrest report said, but that does not allow her to carry such weapons on a school campus.

Officers said they also found Soto was carrying two knives: A six-inch fighting knife in her pocket and a two-inch finger push knife in her backpack strap.

She was arrested and booked into the Pinellas County jail at about 1:45 p.m. She was freed later Monday after posting $500 bail.

The school district recently decided not to renew Soto's teaching contract for the next school year, according to a spokeswoman. But she could not say when Soto was told.

Contact Kavitha Surana at ksurana@tampabay.com. Follow at @Ksurana6. Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Reynaldo Figueroa-Sanabria, charged with murder in the stabbing deaths of John Travlos and Germana Morin aboard Travlos' houseboat in 2013, takes the stand in his own defense Tuesday. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Reynaldo Figueroa-Sanabria, accused of killing two aboard a houseboat in 2013, told a different version of the same story his girlfriend told. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
  2. Hernando County sheriff’s sergeant  Louis “Lou” Genovese died Saturday after struggling for weeks with an undisclosed medical condition, according to the Sheriff's Office. He was 41. HERNANDO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Hernando County Sheriff's Office
    Sergeant Louis “Lou” Genovese, a deputy since 2006, was 41.
  3. Gerald Michael Souders, 61, was hospitalized after an apparent drug overdose and died in sheriff's custody after he was booked into jail. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    Booked on Friday on probation violation charges, 61-year-old Gerald Souders died on Saturday.
  4. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Troopers say the 28-year-old driver was involved in two minor accidents before causing the crash that killed a Largo man.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a 25-year-old grad student enrolled at the University of Florida fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  6. A semi-trailer truck fell onto an SUV on Interstate 4 on Friday night after a reported tornado touched down and crossed the highway near Lakeland. No one was injured. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A tornado caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when another tornado crosses the interstate.
  7. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a woman fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  8. Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins, right, and  school board chair Tammy Shamburger speaks on newly raised concerns of a undiscovered cemetery for indigent African Americans that may be within the vicinity of King High School in Tampa on Friday. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Much is unclear at this point, say Hillsborough school officials, who promise to be open and transparent with the community,
  9. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the man suffered upper body trauma. His death is now being investigated.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement