The Aftermath of a Teacher's Broken Taboo

ByABC News

Sept. 16, 2004 -- The estranged husband of a 23-year-old Tampa teacher accused of having sex with her 14-year-old student says he still loves his wife — even after filing for divorce last week.

"I am in love with her. You can't turn love off," Owen Lafave told ABC News' Cynthia McFadden.

Speaking for the first time to the national press since his wife, Debra, was accused three months ago, the 26-year-old banker also said he is still making sense of his wife's alleged actions.

"I just stand here confused. I struggle with everyday life," he said.

Authorities say Debra Lafave had sex with the boy in her classroom, in the home she shared with her husband and, on one occasion, in the back of her SUV while it was being driven by the student's 15-year old cousin.

Lafave was charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a minor and faces prison time if convicted. She pleaded not guilty to the charges on July 19, 2004 — her first wedding anniversary.

Unreal Situation

Owen and Debra met in high school, but only started dating in college.

Records from earlier in their relationship clearly illustrate a woman in love. In tape recordings she made, she told him: "I just wanted you to know that I'm thinking about you. Close your eyes and just picture me kissing you."

Debra wrote in a photo album that she made: "I love my Owen because he is so sensitive, he completes me. He is all I have ever dreamed of."

"It's tough to hear," Owen told McFadden. "It's tough to look at."

Owen still has fond memories of their wedding day. "It was a beautiful wedding," he said. When he saw Debra walking down the aisle, he says, "I was just awestruck. She looked beautiful. And she took my breath away."

But Owen says he could not have begun to imagine a year ago what's happened since. "This whole situation is just bizarre. And there's often times when I just think that it, it just can't be real. It can't be happening to me," he said.

Owen says he even met the boy in question when they were on a school field trip. He says he remembers what the boy and a friend of his were wearing, because it stood out.

"He was wearing a UPS jersey, with the UPS hat, cocked to the side. And his partner in crime was wearing a vintage Tampa Bay Buccaneers jersey, bright orange," Owen said.

Unexpected Circumstances

By all appearances, the Lafaves were a successful match. He was a successful banker. She was a teacher. They were a married couple with their own home.

Could it all have come too fast, too early? "I think, at the time, obviously no," Owen said. "I had thought I had found the perfect bride."

"I can't imagine I didn't know her," Lafave says today. "I've been with her for five years. It's just not the same Debra that I fell in love with."

Lafave says he didn't see any warning signs. "If I had saw anything coming I would have never married her," he said.

But a closer look at their relationship reveals some clues about the state of their happiness.

Unfulfilled Expectations

Debra had once dreamed of a different life, Owen said. At one time, she aspired to be a singer. "She sung like an angel," he said. "She was amazing. Beautiful voice."

She also had a famous boyfriend in that former life: Nick Carter of The Backstreet Boys. Owen said it was a serious relationship at the time. Debra had also been a model, wearing racy outfits for a car magazine.

But she would later have emotional problems, according to Owen, and had recently lost her sister to a drunken driver. Owen said his wife was taking antidepressants.

At home, Owen says, it was he who did the cooking, the laundry, and eventually a lot of the cleaning. And he didn't like it. "It's not what you signed up for when you get married," he said.

In spite of his anger, his pain, and their breakup, Owen refuses to trash his soon-to-be former wife.He says he still wants to protect her. "It's a tough position to be in," he said. He doesn't know when he'll let go of her. "Only time will tell," he said. "I don't know."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events