The body of a teacher’s aide who recently pleaded guilty to child sex charges was found in a condo this morning with a single gunshot wound; officials say they suspect suicide.

Firefighters found the body of Alecia Dotson, 45, in the bathroom of a condo at 217 Windsor St. after responding to a fire at an adjacent unit in Windsor Arms at 1:17 a.m., putting out the fire and rescuing an elderly woman — reportedly Dotson’s mother — who had been incapacitated inside, according to a news release.

The body was found during  a customary search of neighboring units for fire and smoke damage, a Fire Department spokeswoman said.

Unit 5B, where the fire broke out. Alecia Dotson’s body was found next door in unit 6B. |

Dotson recently pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of attempting to have sex with a child under age 12. The former teacher’s aide at Highland Grove Elementary School had developed what she called a romantic relationship with an 11-year-old fifth-grader.

She was arrested when Lakeland police detectives posing as the boy arranged to meet her at a movie theater for what she thought would be a sexual encounter with the boy.

Dotson’s sentencing had been scheduled for Feb. 23, and she would have faced between 10 years and life in federal prison.

The Lakeland Police Department is investigating the death, and the body has been taken to the Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy.

Firefighters initially responded to a fire in unit 5B of the two-story building and rescued 75-year-old Francis Hurd, who had been overcome by smoke, officials said. They carried her outside, treated her and she was released without injury, the Lakeland Fire Department reported this morning.

However, paramedics were summoned this afternoon and took Hurd to the hospital,  WFTS reported.

Hurd is Dotson’s mother, both WFTS and WFLA reported.

The fire is believed to have started in the bedroom of Hurd’s condo, a spokeswoman said.

The American Red Cross was called to help two families displaced by damage from the fire, she said.

[box]This article was updated Sunday evening to add information about Hurd’s condition and her relationship with Dotson.[/box]

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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