PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Florida teen accused of rigging a homecoming queen election with her mother is being charged as an adult, prosecutors said.
Emily Rose Grover was still 17 when she was arrested in March. She turned 18 in April, and the State Attorney’s Office in Escambia County confirmed that Grover will be tried as an adult.
Grover and her mother, Laura Rose Carroll, 50, face multiple felony charges stemming from the October homecoming vote at Tate High School in Cantonment, north of Pensacola.
News4Jax traveled to Cantonment and went to the home of Carroll and Grover. A man at the door told us they have no comment at this point and referred us to Randy Etheridge, their lawyer.
Etheridge, an Escambia County attorney, said the prosecution’s decision to charge Grover as an adult is common for suspects who are about to turn 18 and was not done intentionally to punish Grover further.
“If a juvenile turns 18 during the pendency of their case before trial, normally they will send it up to adult court,” said Etheridge.
While employed as an assistant principal at Bellview Elementary School in the same county, Carroll accessed the school district’s internal system to cast fraudulent votes for her daughter so that she would win, officials said. The investigation began in November when the Escambia County School District reported unauthorized access into hundreds of student accounts, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Investigators found that in October, hundreds of votes for the school’s homecoming court were flagged as fraudulent, a news release said. There were 117 votes from the same IP address within a short period of time, the investigation found.
Etheridge said both Carroll and Grover have pleaded not guilty and are in the process of discovery to find out what evidence that prosecutors have collected. Officials have confirmed that Carroll was suspended from her job, but it wasn’t immediately clear if she has been fired. Authorities said Grover was expelled from Tate High School.
Etheridge added he believed there may be other motives behind this prosecution but would not clarify at this point what those are.
He said Grover was a top student who played on the tennis team and had never been in trouble. He said she has lost considerable weight since this happened and was offered a spot at a school outside the district but has decided to stay at home and attend homeschool.
“One of the top tennis players for the team, was involved in student government association, basically everything you could do at the school before this happened,” said Etheridge.
News4Jax also stopped by Tate High where both students and parents said this has been the talk of the school.
“They’re talking about the whole situation and how crazy it is,” said student Kayla Makris.
“That’s probably the biggest news to come out of Tate so far,” said Mariachi Chamber, who’s an alumnus of the school. His sister still attends Tate.
Since this happened, another controversy has hit the school that involves the yearbook. It was released weeks ago and a controversial photo was printed in the yearbook showing Emily Grover in a photo with numerous other girls with an image of a horse’s backside superimposed over her face
News4Jax has reached out to the school district about why the image was allowed to be printed and we haven’t received a response yet. But local media in the Pensacola area have reported that district administration wasn’t aware the image had been published until it was released and are in the process of trying to recall the yearbooks.
Etheridge said the family isn’t happy and is considering legal action against the school district.
“Needless to say the family wasn’t happy with that. At best it’s poor taste, at best,” Etheridge said. “They want to smear this 18-year-old girl’s name. Obviously, they’re going to great lengths to try and do it.”
News4Jax also spoke with a mental health expert about what could drive a mother and daughter to potentially commit a crime to make a girl homecoming queen.
Lori Osachy who works at the Body Image Counseling Center in Jacksonville said it sounds like a case of cognitive dissonance.
“Where you hold two opposing truths in your mind and in order to reconcile them, you convince yourself that it’s right,” Osachy said. “I think one of the things that parents want to do is protect and help their children. I think especially this generation… there’s a feeling that there’s so much competition.”
Carroll and Grover are charged with offenses against users of computers, computer systems, computer networks and electronic devices; unlawful use of a two-way communications device; criminal use of personally identifiable information and conspiracy to commit those offenses.
Carroll remains free on a $6,000 bond, and Grover is free on $2,000 bond. Prosecutors said the mother and daughter each face a maximum 16-year sentence.