Hillsborough Schools social worker under investigation for death threats continues to counsel kids

Employee has restraining order and ankle monitor

TAMPA, Fla. - A woman who works with some of our area's most vulnerable children is accused of making death threats against a family member, a police chief, a prosecutor and even a judge.

A probation officer is keeping a close track of Hillsborough County Schools' social worker Marissa Mitchell.

That concerns Kenya McGinnis, whose daughter attends her school.

“Definitely didn't know she had an ankle monitor. That's kind of odd to be around kids walking around with an ankle monitor,” she said.

Mitchell has to wear a gps tracker, after spending two weeks in jail and pleading "no contest" to making dozens of harassing phone calls to her soon-to-be ex-mother in law Loretta Mitchell.

But it was a threat in the mail that prompted Lorretta to ask for a restraining order.

“The Life Termination Plan” is the title typed onto a Hillsborough County Schools attendance form, like one Marissa used in her job.

On the envelope was Marissa's return address.

The form also had her name, her social worker certificate number and a confidential number assigned to a student Marissa counseled several years ago.

The document calls Loretta Mitchell a profane name and threatens to follow, assault and terminate her.

“It has severely affected my health, my quality of life,” Loretta Mitchell testified recently, when seeking a domestic violence injunction against Marissa Mitchell.

And that's not the only threat Marissa is suspected of making

“I believe there are also two criminal investigations going on,” Marissa Mitchell’s attorney Frank McDermott told the judge, referring to ongoing investigations by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater Police Department into other threats allegedly made by Marissa Michell.

Clearwater Police Chief Danny Slaughter received a “Life Termination Plan” in the mail, which referred to him as the "Grand Wizard of the KKK" and claimed he was racist and should "learn to stay in his place".

A third letter under investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office threatens to "choke the life out of" the judge in her criminal case and cut the Pinellas County Jail Commander's throat. 

Marissa denies sending them.

“All I want to do is help kids in my job as a social worker,” she testified.

She says she believes her estranged husband found the form on a computer they shared, then created and sent the documents to frame her.

A judge ruled there was evidence Marissa sent the threats.

“The statements are so personal, I can't find that there's any likelihood that anyone but Ms. Mitchell sent these correspondences to Loretta Mitchell,” he testified, before issuing an order preventing Marissa from going within 500 feet of Loretta for the next year.

“It's just driving me...to make me so upset. My mom and dad have spent thousands of dollars trying to resolve the issue,” Marissa testified.

Records show Marissa's father, Hillsborough County Senior Judge Perry Little, made calls to former school board member Doretha Edgecomb, who contacted the district’s Office of Professional Standards on Marissa’s behalf.  

Mary Frances Ledo heads OPS, which investigates arrests, complaints and policy violations involving school employees.

“There was no evidence found, and the case was closed,” Ledo testified in the hearing.

When no evidence of the form was found on Marissa's district-owned laptop, OPS  closed the case without even interviewing Marissa. 

Marissa thanked Ledo in an email sent the day her professional standards case was officially closed, saying , "I felt like you were committed to helping me."

Hillsborough County Schools defends the investigation.

Spokesperson Tanja Arja sent the following statement from Hillsborough County Schools:

“This involves a civil dispute that is unrelated to this employee’s job. We must look at all of the facts and underlying circumstances. Nothing the district has reviewed indicates this affects student safety. The district conducted an internal investigation on whether this employee created the document on her work laptop. We have no evidence who created the document using a district form. We do not have sufficient evidence to merit discipline."

Records show school board member Sally Harris was concerned, after three parents at Bay Crest Elementary School, where Marissa was assigned, called to say Marissa shouldn't be allowed to return to work.

When the new school year started in August, the district reassigned Mitchell to Egypt Lake Elementary School.

“I do think the school board should have put her on administrative leave until everything was totally 100 percent cleared up,” said McGinnis.

So for now she's still counseling kids, while under investigation.

Marissa Mitchell contacted us Thursday and provided the following statement:

“The past year of my life has been a complete nightmare because someone has altered one of my work documents to create threatening, obscene letters which were attributed to me and mailed to my mother-in-law and various Clearwater and Pinellas County officials.  I absolutely did not write or send those letters. In fact, I was not even aware of the law enforcement officials to who they were sent until they were presented in court.

I have cooperated fully with the investigation of these letters conducted by the Pinellas county Sheriff’s Office and the School District of Hillsborough County. Neither the school district nor the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office found any evidence that I wrote these letters. Despite the findings, a Pinellas County judge recently approved a civil injunction against me based on the fake letters.

I am appealing the judge’s decision because I did not alter these letters. I have no motive for writing such letters and nothing to gain. I’m currently involved in a very contentious divorce and custody battle. I would certainly not jeopardize my future and my daughter’s future by writing threatening, harmful letters to anyone. I believe the fake letters are a part of a smear campaign orchestrated by someone in an effort to damage my chances in my custody battle.  I’m requesting the help of law enforcement to find out who is creating any sending these threatening letters. We are planning to offer a reward for information leading to the positive identification of the perpetrator or perpetrators.

It is unfortunate that the local community any even the children at my assigned school are being dragged into this situation by the media. I have been a school social worker in the school system for eight years, and I have a very good work record. I would like to ask that the community not presume that I am guilty and allow me the opportunity to defend myself through the legal system. “

If you’d like to let the Hillsborough County School District know what you think about the situation, you can email them here: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/contact/

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