TAMPA — It started with kissing.
Then, authorities say, Megan Christine Connors, a 30-year-old math teacher at Turkey Creek Middle School in Plant City, started having sex with a 15-year-old student during school hours. They met in private rooms Connors had secured. At least once, they left school in her car and had sex in the student's bedroom.
On Monday, as attorneys were picking a jury for her trial in a Hillsborough County courtroom, Connors took a plea deal that will send her to prison for five years and label her a sexual predator.
Connors, 31, pleaded guilty to one count each of sexual battery and lewd and lascivious battery. As part of a plea deal approved by Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella, she will have to register for the rest of her life so authorities can keep tabs on her. After her release from prison, Connors will serve two years of community control and 15 years of probation.
Connors was set to stand trial on a total of five counts and faced a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted.
"This was done in agreement with the victim and the victim's family," said Mark Cox, a spokesman for the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office. "That way the victim could avoid the rigors and stress of testifying at a trial."
The boy, Cox said, "is adjusting and moving forward with his life."
Hillsborough sheriff's detectives said the relationship with the teen began in January 2015. Connors was arrested at her Brandon home the following Feb. 20 and immediately invoked her right to remain silent.
The boy at one point denied that he and his teacher ever had sex and then later changed his account, said Connors' attorney, Ty Tison. The boy would have been cross-examined on the stand if the case had gone to trial.
Tison said prosecutors initially offered a plea deal with a 10-year prison sentence, which she rejected. Last week, prosecutors enhanced the charges so that Connors faced up to life in prison.
Then, at the last moment, prosecutors offered the five-year deal, Tyson said.
That means Connors' own minor children will be at home when she gets out of prison.
"She has two children and a husband who stood by her, and she wanted to do the right thing by her family," he said. "She admitted her guilt and has to pay the consequences for what she's done. Fortunately, she has a loving, supportive family."
Contact Tony Marrero at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3374. Follow @tmarrerotimes.