Posted on March 27, 2009

Teacher, Accused of Killing Husband, on Verge of Being Fired

Henry Pierson Curtis, Orlando Sentinel, March 25, 2009

Barring acquittal for murder, the career of one of Orange County Public Schools’ longest-serving teachers comes to an end this week.

After 40 years in the classroom, Delores Laster remains in the county jail since her arrest last week on charges of killing her husband 21 years ago.

She has one personal-leave day left before job-abandonment and termination proceedings begin.

“It could happen as early as the next School Board meeting April 14,” schools spokeswoman Shari Bobinski said Tuesday of firing Laster. “But we have to get all our ducks in a row.”

The school district fired Laster once before but had to rehire her, according to personnel records released Tuesday.

That happened after her 1994 arrest in Altamonte Springs on a charge of strong-arm robbery.

Already a veteran teacher, Laster was caught shoplifting toys and cosmetics at a Kmart store and attacked a security guard who tried to apprehend her, police records show.

As the criminal case went through court, school officials fired her in January 1995 partly because the violence and robbery charges demonstrated “her reduced effectiveness as a role model for students,” records state.

But months later, a handwritten note in the files by an unidentified school-district employee stated that another employee “advised me that she is under the impression that all charges have been dropped against Delores Laster.”

Not exactly.

Laster, now 61, pleaded no contest to attempted robbery and received a sentence of probation. But a judge withheld adjudication of guilt, opting not to declare her a convicted felon.

That’s why the school district rehired her Oct. 10, 1995; she was not a convicted felon.

Placed on administrative probation for two years, Laster was transferred from Orlo Vista Elementary School, where she had taught fourth-graders for nine years.

She was assigned to teach first grade at Dillard Street Elementary School in Winter Garden, where she remained until her arrest last week, records show.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has not disclosed its reasons for Laster’s arrest in the 1988 shooting death of her husband, Clarence. At the time, the teacher told deputies that she found him dead in the garage of their Pine Hills home after returning from a trip to Gainesville.

Sheriff’s Cpl. Duwana Pelton and Agent Tony Rodriguez of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement re-investigated the case as part of a new push to solve about 80 unsolved murders dating to the 1940s.

Orlando lawyer Thomas F. Egan, who handled Laster’s 1995 case, has been retained for her murder defense. He could not be reached for comment.