Jessica Lazzara, 42, was a therapist when she suffered a mental breakdown and ended up sexually abusing several underage patients. She was charged with lewd molestation, lewd and lascivious conduct, battery, and child abuse.
Lazzara worked at Big Bear Behavior Health. She had gone to visit a patients home when she was arrested.
When Lazzara came to the house, she reportedly tried to get a female patients out of bed by threatening her with a bow and arrow, even hitting her with the arrow. She then went downstairs and took another underage patient and her mother outside, where she asked if an 11-year-old patient wanted to be spanked. She also stuck a lighter between the legs of the other girl.
According to WFLA, the two girls went to the backyard with their mother and Lazzara. During a conversation in the backyard, Lazzara asked an 11-year-old victim if she wanted to be spanked.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said that Lazzara, who had been working with the two girls for several months before the incident took place.
Judd said that Lazzara, after asking one child if she wanted to be spanked, stuck a lighter between the girl’s legs more than once.
The therapist then reportedly spray-painted the 11-year-old’s legs with black spray paint, going on to spray the mother’s crotch area as well.
“Mom was going along with this at the very beginning, because she thought this was some sort of extreme trust exercise,” Sheriff Judd said.
According to investigators, the group then went to the front yard, where Lazzara lifted up her shirt and bra, exposing herself to the girls and saying: “See, I have boobs.” She then allegedly placed her breasts on the 13-year-old’s victim’s back.
Lazzara then told the group that she was going to kill them and herself. The family then locked themselves inside and called 911 on Lazzara.“They knew their mental health counselor was in mental health crisis and locked themselves in the house,” the sheriff said.In a police interview following her arrest, Lazzara said: “I was having a bad day and I only remember certain things … I don’t remember everything that happened that day. I am sorry for what I did, I don’t need to be a therapist anymore. I don’t need to work around children.”
When police arrived at the home, Lazzara asked a deputy to shoot her. She was taken for a mental health evaluation.
Following the arrest, Lazzara was fired from her job at Big Bear Behavioral Health.
Sheriff Judd says that Lazzara was previously arrested in 2006 and 2010, once for providing alcohol to a minor and the other time for driving under the influence. In 2005 and 2016, she was reportedly involuntarily committed for mental health issues.
Lazzara also revealed to officers that she had lost her own children during a divorce proceeding due to her mental health problems.
Sheriff Judd questioned why Big Bear hired Lazzara to be a counselor when she had her own mental health issues that were not under control.
Big Bear released a statement regarding the matter:
Big Bear was notified of the incident and took immediate action to address the concerns reported to us. Big Bear places great value on the confidentiality & safety of our clients and staff, and are dedicated to serving our community with caring, competent strength. We pride ourselves in working with clinicians of the highest caliber, and exceed all local, state and federal guidelines in qualifying our employees prior to hire. We are cooperating with the authorities during their investigation and will continue to address and questions from them immediately.