Former Thurston teacher gets 7 years in prison for sex abuse

A former Thurston High School teacher who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a student will spend more than seven years behind bars.

Posted: May 6, 2021 8:18 AM
Updated: May 6, 2021 2:13 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. – A former Thurston High School teacher and coach who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a student will spend more than seven years behind bars.

Lisa DeFluri, 31, was sentenced in Lane County Circuit Court Thursday after pleading guilty to 11 counts of second-degree sexual abuse. The crimes took place between July and December 2020. According to authorities, the victim in the case is under the age of 18.

During a sentencing hearing Thursday, attorneys for both parties called witnesses to testify about which sentence would best serve the community.

Prosecutors argued DeFluri needed to spend 10 years behind bars in order ensure she could not contact the victim again. Katherine Green, prosecutor for the state, said she might have sought a more lenient sentence, but did not because DeFluri violated a court order to stay away from the victim. Green said DeFluri secretly met with the victim in multiple locations and the two communicated on smartphones while DeFluri was on pre-trial release.

Anna Sammons, DeFluri’s attorney, argued for a two-year sentence, and brought in a psychological expert to testify that DeFluri had a lower risk of reoffending based on a mental health evaluation.

“Similar cases all over Oregon have all resolved with either probationary sentences or prison terms totaling four years or less,” Sammons said.

However, Judge Charles Carlson handed down a sentence that was somewhere in the middle. The seven-year sentence will be followed by post-prison supervision, and DeFluri will have to register as a sex offender for life.

During the hearing, Springfield Police Detective Jamie McMahon described DeFluri and the victim’s relationship as “obsessive.” McMahon said she found love letters, notes and pictures of the two throughout the victim’s home and DeFluri’s classroom.

“It was basically hiding in plain sight,” McMahon said. “There were notes everywhere. They weren’t hard to find…It was everywhere.”

In a victim impact statement, the victim’s mother described DeFluri as “unstable” and “sick.” The mother believes DeFluri groomed her child for the abusive relationship for several years.

“Being a family friend…we trusted Lisa and she made sure we trusted her. And little by little she went deeper into our lives,” the mother said. “At 11 to 12 years old, Lisa had set eyes on our child and family and the grooming began then.”

DeFluri lost her job at the high school after her arrest, and her husband has since divorced her. The ex-couple also have a three-year-old boy. Before the sentencing, DeFluri apologized for the hurt she caused.

“I know I cannot adequately apologize for the harm I have caused and the words ‘I’m sorry’ - they don’t cut it,” DeFluri said. “The words ‘I’m sorry’ do not undo the damage I’ve done to [the victim] and [the] entire family or the suffering that I have inflicted on my own son."

DeFluri will receive credit for time served in jail and has the option to appeal the sentence within 30 days.

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