The State Attorney's Office is at this time obtaining additional information, collecting material from the school board, interviewing and re-interviewing people involved in the investigation. “Once we do that, we will make a determination whether additional charges will be filed or additional people will be charged with a crime,” said State Attorney Bill Eddins.
In the midst of rumors and innuendo surrounding a controversial Okaloosa County School District child abuse case, State Attorney Bill Eddins is urging everyone to just calm down.
His office “is not going to be pressured” to rush into taking action in the case, he said.
“As is obvious, this is a very wide-ranging and complex investigation,” Eddins said. “We will be very methodical and thorough.”
The State Attorney’s Office is at this time obtaining additional information, collecting material from the school board, interviewing and re-interviewing people involved in the investigation, Eddins said.
“Once we do that, we will make a determination whether additional charges will be filed or additional people will be charged with a crime,” Eddins said.
He said it could be several weeks before his office announces any new findings in the case.
The criminal investigation began after Eddie Perillo, the father of the now 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy identified as a victim, took a 2016 school district investigation report obtained through a public records request to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. The report eventually led OCSO to request numerous warrants from the State Attorney's Office, and that resulted in three arrests on Sept. 13: former Kenwood special education teacher Marlynn Stillions on four counts of felony child abuse without great bodily harm, plus school district investigator Arden Farley and former Kenwood principal Angelyn Vaughan on multiple felony counts for failure to report suspected child abuse.
The report, nearly a year old by the time Perillo's public records request was fulfilled by the school district on May 15 this year, was compiled by Farley and dated June 17, 2016. It chronicled findings Farley obtained regarding improper interactions/procedures by Stillions against Noah Perillo and other Pre-K special needs students.
Farley’s findings and Perillo’s request for an investigation appeared to reach priority status in August for the Sheriff’s Office after Perillo brought the report to the Northwest Florida Daily News and revisited criminal investigators.
Perillo told the Daily News last month that the Sheriff’s Office acknowledged its investigation shouldn’t have taken as long as it had to complete and assured him two more investigators were being placed on the case.
Following the initial story published by the Daily News on Aug. 5, warrants were issued 38 days later on Sept. 12 by the State Attorney's Office for the arrests of Stillions, Farley and Vaughan.
The investigation remains open.
To date, the most controversial issue of the case uncovered by the Daily News has been the knowledge, or lack thereof, involving Farley's 2016 report by Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Mary Beth Jackson.
With a cloud of contradictory statements surrounding Jackson in previous days, clarity came Tuesday when Arnold Brown, investigations bureau chief for the Sheriff's Office, confirmed that on May 18 he provided the superintendent with a copy of the school district investigation report from 2016 by email and also spoke with her in a phone call to discuss that OCSO was launching an investigation based on its contents.
Jackson nor the school district responded to requests for comment following Brown's confirmation on contacting the superintendent.