Debra Jo Michele Vecchio Hunter is a white woman from Fernandina Beach, Florida, United States. While people are urged to wear a face mask in public places during the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, she chose not to wear one on June 25, 2020.
That day, Hunter was caught harassing the staff of a store at Pier 1 in St. Johns Town Center at 4643 River City Drive in Jacksonville, Florida while trying to return items. She did not have the items with her and only showed the staff a photo of them on her cellphone.
Hunter went to the store with a child. She approached a fellow shopper named Heather Reed Sprague, who was taking a video of her using a cellphone.
“I think I’ll get really close to you and cough on you then,” Hunter told Sprague. “How’s that?”
Sprague did not respond. Hunter then intentionally coughed on the woman taking a video, who was wearing a face mask, threatened to kick her then left the store with the child she was with.
On June 29, 2020, Sprague filed a police report stating that she had not been feeling well since the encounter with Hunter. In a social media post, the victim claimed that she was a brain tumor patient at Mayo Clinic.
Florida offered Hunter withholding of six months’ probation with special conditions, anger management, no victim contact, restitution in the amount of $150, a letter of apology and a COVID-19 test, First Coast News quoted the state attorney’s office as saying. Immediately after the incident, she was tested for the virus and was negative, according to her attorney Chris Carson, who waived her right to a speedy trial considering the restrictions of the pandemic.
The video of the incident went viral. Here are 13 more facts about Hunter:
- She is Joseph G. Vecchio Jr. and Carol Janeen Vecchio‘s daughter and the daughter-in-law of Ron Hunter and Laura Ann Hunter.
- She is married to Douglas R. Hunter III. They rent out properties and run Going Coastal Properties LLC, a Florida-based company incorporated on June 11, 2015.
- She gave birth to her first son in 2005. Her second and third sons were born in 2009 and in 2013, respectively.
- She stands 5’5″. Her registered weight is 185 lbs.
- Before moving to Fernandina Beach, she lived in various parts of Florida including Tampa and Clearwater. She also previously lived in Denver, Colorado, USA and in North Platte, Nebraska, USA.
- In 2012, she and her husband spent the Father’s Day weekend at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
- In January 2013, she and her family visited The Ice Castles in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
- On May 28, 2015, she found a black kitten dodging traffic in the middle of the road on 906 FL Highway 60 in Brandon, Florida. She took it home, named it Highway and looked for people willing to adopt it.
- On September 22, 2016, she registered to vote in Nassau County, Florida. An active voter, she is affiliated with the Republican Party of Florida.
- She was 53 years old when she coughed on Sprague on June 25, 2020.
- On July 8, 2020, a warrant of arrest was issued for her.
- On July 22, 2020, she was arrested, booked into the Duval County jail in Florida and charged with misdemeanor assault in relation to her encounter with Sprague in St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville. She bonded out immediately.
- On April 8, 2021, Duval County Court Judge James Ruth sentenced her to 30 days in prison and ordered her to pay a $500 fine, serve 6 months probation and participate in a mental health evaluation along with anger management and cover the costs of the Sprague’s COVID-19 test, Jacksonvile state attorney’s office communications director David Chapman told WDAF-TV.