Sunday, October 18, 2009

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: CFHS student, Trevor Varinecz, killed suffered from Autism

Trevor Varinecz , age 16

NewsChannel is learning more about the shooting that left a 16-year-old student dead at Carolina Forest High School Friday morning.

Horry County Coroner Robert Edge tells us that Trevor Varinecz was shot five times by School Resource Officer Marcus Rhodes.

One of those gunshot wounds was through the chest and that proved to be fatal.

Police say Varinecz stabbed Officer Rhodes in Rhodes' office at the school Friday morning. The officer responded by shooting Varinecz, who died about an hour later at Conway Medical Center.

Officer Rhodes was treated for stab wounds and released from the hospital around 12:30pm.

NewsChannel 15 did speak with Varinecz's mother, Karen, Saturday.

She told us about her son, saying, "he was a wonderful boy. We can't understand what happened... He was not violent, he was never violent. We just don't know what he was thinking."

She did confirm that her son suffered from Asperger's Syndrome, a form of Autism that can effect a person's emotional and social skills.

Asperger's Syndrome is often considered a high functioning form of autism.

People with this syndrome have difficulty interacting socially, repeat behaviors, and often are clumsy. Motor milestones may be delayed. The main symptom is severe trouble with social situations.

Karen Varinecz noted how Trevor found it challenging to make friends.

Trevor's former cognitive behavioral therapist described to us how Asperger's Syndrome can effect a school-aged child.

James Garvey, high-functioning Autism specialist, noted how young children and teens "try to interact but it's just that they fail to interact appropriately. By the time -- when they get to middle school where the social demands are really heightened to be socially involved, they fail even more. So, they get picked on, they become victims and scapegoats and bullied."

State Education Department spokesman Jim Foster says Friday's incident was the first time a school police officer has killed a student on campus in South Carolina.

Solicitor releases school shooting video, SLED report

December 14, 2009
CONWAY -- The 15th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office released surveillance video and photos from the morning of the Carolina Forest High School shooting-stabbing incident that left one student dead.

Carolina Forest High student Trevor Varinecz, 16, died Oct. 16 after an altercation with Horry County Police Lance Cpl. Marcus Rhodes, the school resource officer.

Surveillance video shows Varinecz wandering through the school's hallways before he met Rhodes and Assistant Principal Frances Gaye Driggers.

According to a voluntary statement given by Rhodes to SLED, Varinecz asked to speak to Rhodes in his office.

Rhodes told SLED Varinecz asked him to close the office door for privacy, then the boy said he was paranoid.

He told Rhodes there was a spider in a corner of the office and asked Rhodes “to take care of it.”

When Rhodes complied and turned his attention to the office corner, he says Varinecz lunged at him with what appeared to be a large knife.

Rhodes said he shouted at Varinecz to drop the knife and yelled to Driggers for help.

Rhodes says he pushed Varinecz into a corner, tried to pull the knife away and began wrestling with Varinecz.

According to the report, both Varinecz and Rhodes had their hands wrapped around the knife. Varinecz then told Rhodes to give him his gun and said "I have no reason to live. Just shoot me."

Rhodes says he told Varinecz he would help him, but the boy seemed determined to kill himself.

Driggers and a few other faculty members by then were at the office door but Rhodes told them not to open the door, since he did not want Varinecz to get out of the room with the knife, according to the investigation.

Rhodes says he was surprised at how strong the boy was and how determined he was to continue the attack so he tried to “short circuit his pattern of thought” and he shot Varinecz in the leg. The investigation shows Varinecz was shot three times in the leg.

Rhodes said at that point, Varinecz became even more difficult to contain and said, "just shoot me."

After Varinecz got one arm free, Rhodes says he felt like he was losing control of the incident and he tried shooting Varinecz in the arm, but then remembered Varinecz stabbing him in the back. The investigation later shows Rhodes was stabbed at least seven times.

Rhodes said he knew Varinecz would have access to his gun, so in order to stop the attack on him or others, he decided he had to shoot Varinecz to end the attack.

According to the investigation, Rhodes shot Varinecz in the chest, pushed him away and the boy fell forward against a storage cabinet.

Rhodes says Varinecz slid down the wall to the floor. At that point a few school employees entered the office and Varinecz said "Thank you sir. Thank you," before losing consciousness

Rhodes says he tried administering CPR before he was relieved by another officer.

The investigation shows there were a total of 10 shots fired by Rhodes.

Five shots hit Varinecz and five missed.

The autospy showed Varinecz died from a single shot to the chest.

The report also said when the autopsy was done, a note was found inside Varincez's pants that read "Check Trevor’s folder on my PC for my last words."

That last word's document was not included in the report given by the solicitor's office.

Photos released by the solicitor's office also show evidence from the shooting-stabbing incident.

Rhodes was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident by the State Law Enforcement Division and Solicitor Greg Hembree last week.

Stay tuned to News 13 and to see surveillance video from the incident and more on the investigation reports, once those materials become available.