DADE CITY, Fla. - By now, the terrifying attack on Steffanie Ross makes it clear that social work is an unpredictable business.
Police say the 25-year-old was stabbed to death by a mentally unstable client, Lucious Smith, when making a home visit on Monday.
"Home visits in particular can be risky situations," said Professor Bonnie Yegidis, Director of the School of Social Work at USF in Tampa.
Hearing stories like the tragic loss of Steffanie makes Yegidis cringe.
"We teach students that if they feel, as they approach the home, and it doesn't feel right, to leave," she said.
Although agency polices may differ, she says this training is pretty standard.
They also teach the students that any time they're unsure of a situation, to bring a colleague.
A recent study shows nearly 20-percent of social workers have encountered violence on the job.
"When you go into somebody's home to do a home visit, you really don't know what you're going to find," she said.
In Steffanie's case, it appears she had some idea of what to expect. Her client, Lucious Smith was known around town, and police knew him well, too.
"Many of them are trespassing calls, unwanted guests, disorderly conduct," said Officer Brian Uppercue, as he shuffled through an inch thick stack of complaints and disturbances involving Smith.
He estimates there's been anywhere between 50 to 60 such complaints since 2006.
"Often times when the police would have contact with him, we would want to have someone with us when we're dealing with him," he said.
Police say Steffanie had her own fears of the man, and she wrote about it in the case file that an officer viewed.
So far, the company says it was not aware of any complaints or issues.
We still don't know why she went to his home alone.
"My heart is crying for this young woman and her parents," Yegidis said.
She tells us she plans to share this story next semester so students can learn from this tragic experience.
Wednesday afternoon, Steffanie's employer, Integra Health Management, sent out a revised statement saying it is deeply saddened by the loss of Steffanie.
It went on to say, "We are doing everything possible to support local law enforcement authorities in efforts to determine the circumstances surrounding this tragic event.
"We take the safety and well-being of our employees very seriously and are committed to assuring ongoing compliance with existing safety practices and incorporation of measures that might further reduce avoidable risk to our employees."
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