The investigation into Dwayne Vasiloff’s failings as an SRO began May 26, nine days after Eddie Perillo — a former sheriff's deputy and the father of a now 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy identified as a victim of child abuse at Kenwood — took a report filed by school district trainer/investigator Arden Farley to the Sheriff’s Office.
“Wanton indifference” was how Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office internal investigator Sgt. Lenny Holloway described Dwayne Vasiloff’s attitude toward child abuse investigations while serving as the student resource officer at Kenwood Elementary School.
Eight case workers for the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) described in detail how Vasiloff went to great lengths to avoid providing assistance when they came to the school to conduct child abuse investigations.
The Sheriff's Office probe found DCF had visited Kenwood Elementary 43 times during the 2016-17 school year and conducted 39 interviews for which Vasiloff, by Sheriff's Office policy, was required to write a report. He turned in seven reports total, Holloway found.
“A gross negligen(ce) of duty did occur involving Deputy Vasiloff,” (now Lt.) Holloway concluded at the end of his lengthy report. He recommended as a penalty two days unpaid suspension, six months probation and reassignment to a unit in which Vasiloff could receive “more direct supervision.”
The punishment was approved, but Vasiloff — who denied the allegations, claiming he’d been set up by the DCF investigators — chose to retire rather than face discipline, the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.
Vasiloff has not responded to requests for an interview.
Report initiates investigation
The investigation into Vasiloff’s failings as an SRO began May 26, nine days after Eddie Perillo — a former sheriff's deputy and the father of a now 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy identified as a victim of child abuse at Kenwood — took a report filed by school district trainer/investigator Arden Farley to the Sheriff’s Office.
Farley’s report, filed in June 2016, chronicled a code of ethics violation investigation conducted after allegations of child abuse were made against pre-K special education instructor Marlynn Stillions. Farley’s investigation confirmed findings that Stillions had inappropriate interactions/procedures involving at least one student, Noah Perillo.
The school district never followed up on Farley’s report or implemented recommended disciplinary action against Stillions. District officials also never informed Perillo or his ex-wife, Harvest Perillo, an investigation had been conducted.
The Sheriff’s Office, according to spokeswoman Michele Nicholson, initiated a criminal child abuse investigation targeting Stillions soon after Perillo provided a copy of Farley's report obtained through a public records request.
“Subpoenas were requested and ultimately obtained after the info was brought in — and the child abuse case was then being actively worked,” Nicholson said.
The Stillions case wasn’t on a fast track, though, until Perillo revisited the Sheriff’s Office on Aug. 2 and, the same week, provided a copy of Farley's report to the Northwest Florida Daily News. On Aug. 2, according to Perillo, a Sheriff’s Office supervisor told him two more investigators would be assigned to the Stillions case.
“(The investigator) like all our investigators, has to handle multiple cases simultaneously — so additional investigators were added to assist,” Nicholson said of the August move sparked by Perillo’s visit.
Stillions was arrested Sept. 13 on four felony counts of child abuse without great bodily harm, while Farley and former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan were taken into custody on multiple felony charges for failing to report child abuse.
A criminal investigation of the case, now being led by the First Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office, remains open and the Florida Department of Children and Families recently closed two new investigations of its own, according to agency spokeswoman DaMonica Rivas.
Rivas said findings could not be disclosed.
Lack of action chronicled
As she began looking into the allegations against Stillions in May, Sheriff’s Office Investigator Kelly Henderson learned that DCF case workers had developed “concerns ... involving Deputy Vasiloff and his willful disregard during joint child abuse investigations with DCF,” Holloway’s report said.
“Investigator Henderson related the following: On numerous occasions, Deputy Vasiloff blatantly failed to participate in joint child abuse investigation; and when requested by DCF for assistance, Deputy Vasiloff would deliberately respond with an excuse as to why he could not render his assistance,” Holloway reported. “Lastly, Deputy Vasiloff, due to his complete disregard, failed to author reports documenting the joint abuse investigations being conducted at Kenwood Elementary.”
The report said the seven investigative reports filed by Vasiloff between August 2016 and June 2017 stood “in stark contrast” to the number of child abuse investigations DCF conducted at Kenwood Elementary during the same time period.
“It should be noted Kenwood Elementary has a population that includes students with exceptionalities,” Holloway reported. “With this, the school would potentially be more prone to DCF investigations due to the special needs population; yet, Deputy Vasiloff’s offense numbers do not represent this.”
The report states that not only was Vasiloff unwilling to assist in investigating possible child abuse cases, making comments like “do you need me, do you need me? ... ” “is this my jurisdiction?” ... “do you think I need to write a report, should I write a report?” and “it's close to three o’clock,” but he also was indignant and even aggressive toward students when assisting DCF investigators.
One DCF worker told Holloway that Vasiloff “was closely prodding with his finger and camera” an autistic child that had allegedly received a head injury as a result of child abuse.
A second DCF child protection investigator said Vasiloff’s lack of cooperation, because “it was late in the day,” might have damaged an investigation into possible child abuse involving physical injury in a case of a special needs child with autism.
“He was strongly urged that a report needed to be done,” the report said. “During the interview, Deputy Vasiloff minimized the suspected injuries which could have compromised the case.”
Yet another case, in which a 6-year-old allegedly had been struck in the face with an object, Vasiloff “advised he would look over the victim and if he/she did not have any signs of injury, he probably would not sit in during the interview and/or author a report,” according to a DCF worker. The child did have visible injuries and a report was compiled.
Again citing testimony of DCF workers, the report chronicled one event in which Vasiloff claimed examining a student for injuries to the buttocks area would amount to a strip search. “He then exited and failed to participate or document the incident,” the report said.
In the case of reported sexual abuse that occurred on Kenwood school grounds, Vasiloff told a DCF investigator, “Well, I think this is Fort Walton (Police Department) jurisdiction.”
When pressured to be present as part of another child abuse investigation, Vasiloff “stated the victim was ‘a little liar’ and continued to ask ‘do you need me?’, ” another DCF worker reported.
The report states “DCF investigators … are unenthusiastic about responding” to Kenwood Elementary “due to Deputy Vasiloff’s reputation. The DCF investigators called him “extremely reluctant” to report and “displays a poor, irritated attitude during these times.”
DCF worker Danielle Jacka told Holloway “she rarely encountered this type of apprehension” in working with other school resource officers.
Vasiloff’s status could change
No law enforcement or school district document yet obtained and examined by the Daily News provides any sort of insight into the work relationship between Vasiloff and Stillions. The only mention of an SRO being present for an investigation into Stillions’ activities was found in her arrest report. There was mention of Stillions displaying “erratic behavior” after a student showed up with a rash.
State Attorney Bill Eddins has said Vasiloff is not considered a suspect in the ongoing Stillions investigation.
Vasiloff’s status could change, Eddins added, “if additional facts come to light regarding his actions, specifically regarding whether he reported child abuse.”
The results of the internal investigation into Vasiloff’s conduct were “accepted” by Sheriff’s Office administrators June 27, Nicholson said. Two months would pass before additional investigators were added to the Stillions investigation and three months before arrests were made in the case.
The investigative report and accompanying news release regarding Vasiloff were made public Oct. 4, not long after the Daily News filed a public records request to see the retired deputy’s personnel file.
Following the Daily News request, the State Attorney’s Office reviewed the investigative report and Eddins declared soon after the findings were available for public scrutiny.
Nicholson said it was always the intention of the Sheriff’s Office to make the internal investigation documents public.
“That was always the intent to release the internal. Initially the internal was considered part of (the Stillions) investigation because we were not certain if there was any potential nexus, and when SAO (State Attorney's Office) took over as lead agency we turned it over to them. Once SAO said it was okay to release, we did so,” she said.