Tavares High School Employee Arrested for Poisoning Co-Worker

Tavares High School custodian, Russell Terrance Smith, was arrested for allegedly poisoning a co-worker.

TAVARES – A Tavares High School custodian was arrested Friday afternoon after he allegedly poisoned his co-worker.

Russell Terrance Smith was arrested and charged with poisoning food or water after he allegedly poured a floor stripping chemical called Bare Bones into a co-worker’s drink.

The investigation began on August 29th when Jackie Rocket-Smart Hansell told Tavares High School’s School Resource Deputy that she believed she had been poisoned.


Hansell, the school’s lead custodian, told detectives that she had returned to her office after cleaning the cafeteria and took a drink from her Wendy’s cup that she had been drinking from all morning. After taking a drink, she immediately felt a burning sensation and she felt sick and had trouble breathing. She was then transported to Florida Waterman Hospital.

Detectives interviewed Hansell at the hospital where she stated that after taking a drink and feeling the burning sensation, she smelled her drink and detected a very strong chemical odor similar to a floor stripper they use. According to Hansell, she had left her soda on her desk in the custodian office while she went to clean the cafeteria and that her and two other custodians, Russell “Rusty” Smith and Alecea Lane were the only ones who had access to her drink.

Hansell also told detectives that she and Smith have had several issues since her promotion to lead custodian including Smith telling lies to school officials in an attempt to get her fired.

When detectives first interviewed Smith, he admitted to being inside the custodian office while Hansell was in the cafeteria. Smith also told detectives that they would find his fingerprints on Hansell’s cup because he had to move it off of the lunch table so that he could put his lunch box down. He also admitted that his fingerprints may also be found on the bottle of floor stripper although it has not been used since the summer.

Before detectives finished their interview with Smith, he agreed to undergo a polygraph test. When Deputies arrived the next day to transport him to take the test, he immediately requested an attorney and refused to speak to detectives any further.

After receiving the test results from the soda, Detectives issues an arrest warrant for Smith.

Smith was arrested Friday afternoon and transported to the Lake County Jail where he is being held on a $25,000 bond.


Smith was released from the Lake County Jail just after 4:00 pm when he posted his $25,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment on September 26 at 8:30 am.