Veteran reporter Rene Stutzman omitted crucial facts in her first report and develops personal narrative in second article.
By Jacob Engels
An Orlando Sentinel reporter seems to be wishing for an early retirement, or so it seems. Just over a month ago, Rene Stutzman published an article on the domestic abuse accusations against Jeffrey Feulner, founder and lead attorney for the Men's Divorce Law Firm. Feulner's ex-wife, Ashlie Larson, gave numerous and varying accounts to the police, and ultimately recanted her statement and elected to not cooperate with the state attorney's case against her ex-husband.
Stutzman reported on the allegations and initial police reports filed by Feulner's ex-wife, but curiously left out the fact that she gave additional reports admitting she "over exaggerated" during her first contact with law enforcement. The sloppy reporting by Stutzman was widely derided and caused the "journalist" a significant amount of public embarrassment.
Over a month and a half later, Ms. Stutzman is back at it.
In a report published on Friday February 5th, Stutzman ran to the mountaintop to proclaim a second domestic charge against Feulner. However, like her first fact deficient missive, she neglected to report the recanted statement. Worse yet, she began creating her own facts and story of events.
She claimed that police officers observed and confirmed that "clumps" of hair were present on Ms. Feulner after an encounter with her ex-husband, in an effort to support Feulner's ex-wife's side of the story. Law enforcement did no such thing. According to official documents and the police officer's own official statements, they described it as a few "loose" strands of hair. No where in the report did the words clump or clumps appear.
So why would the Sentinel editors approve Rene Stutzman altering the official police report in an effort to paint Mr. Feulner in a negative light? If you are at the point now where you are trying to understand why a senior reporter with scholastic training and deep understanding of journalistic ethics would make so many mistakes, so are we.
And... according to our source within the Orlando Sentinel, so are they. While the fact that a judge did grant Feulner's ex-wife a temporary injunction (which are rarely denied, no matter the merit) may deserve news coverage, nothing else in Stutzman's reporting is new or late breaking.
She had the ex-wife's original, retracted, and now apparently third remembering of what happened between her and her ex-husband, according to email communications obtained by the East Orlando Post.
Stuzman though, for some reason unknown, has time and again opted out of honestly reporting both sides of the story. That has landed her in "hot water" with senior management at the Orlando Sentinel, and with ownership.
"Rene is a top-rate reporter. We have never had an issue with her before, but this case has ignited a bias that is hard to understand and support. This latest story almost seems like an invitation for a pink-slip, considering the buyouts and restructuring we have been dealing with.
She is on thin ice, and everyone seems to know it, but her. Placed in her shoes, I'd be dusting off my resume or developing an exit strategy," a source inside the Orlando Sentinel newsroom confided to the East Orlando Post.
Jeffrey Feulner and his attorneys remain confident that the facts will paint a "clear picture" if this case ever makes it to trial. A neighbor of Mr. Feulner informed us that while his ex-wife has as of late been adjusting her story and going on the attack, her day-to-day decisions speak quite differently.
"She reached a settlement with Jeff and moved out, but just a few streets down in the same neighborhood. Now, if someone was truly trying to escape an abusive monster, wouldn't you at least relocate a few area codes?
It does not add up, we're hearing she was told a far bigger settlement could be reached if a domestic abuse case was brought forward. We're praying for her," emailed the neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, fearful of damaging her friendship with the divorced couple.
Word is that Feulner's former wife has an uphill battle in her case against the attorney, who has established himself as the go to divorce attorney for men in Central Florida and beyond.
"I believe in our legal system. I'm confident that when the actual evidence, or lack thereof, is presented in court, the truth of what occurred will be clear," Mr. Feulner texted Friday evening.
With her incoherent ramblings of lore, Stutzman has made herself the story... something every expertly trained news reporter is cautioned against doing in entry level college courses. Maybe it is time for Rene to return to retire and return to school, before she gets the boot.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org