The department claims “we made a huge mistake”.
And yet for some reason, the story remained buried.
But now that the elections are over, and the police chief who oversaw the department has been elected Mayor… we’re learning much more about the failures that happened.
Here’s what happened.
Deonte Taylor was a teacher with HIV who was accused of taking a student out of class and molesting him. The then went on to get jobs at several other districts… but police never even questioned him.
Now he’s accused of rape and attempted murder and went unchecked in schools for years.
It all started back in 2015, after Taylor was hired as a teacher’s aide at Lusher elementary school, in the Hazelwood School District of St. Louis.
Police reports say Taylor was accused of taking a 7-year-old boy out of music class and into his office to molest him. The report indicates that immediately after, the child was brought back to class.
At the time, nobody knew that Taylor was HIV positive.
The mother filed a police report and the child was examined for sexual assault.
DNA evidence confirmed the child was assaulted – yet no DNA sample was taken from Taylor, nor was he arrested.
He WAS however fired a few days later by the Hazelwood School District – not over the suspected assault, but rather for “a violation of school board policy”.
The district still won’t say which policy.
“We cannot go into detail but Taylor was terminated on November 15, 2015, due to a violation of board policy that was discovered as a part of the district’s investigation into the parent’s allegations. After the allegation was reported, he never returned to the Hazelwood School District,” Kimberly McKenzie, Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Hazelwood School District told local media outlets.
WSDK, a local news station, said the district didn’t notify any parents about the abuse allegation in 2015. They asked district leaders about what action they took after the allegation was reported.
“That becomes a legal matter and I will agree that some parents, after they hear things, they will have a desire to know more, curiosity. And it is very hard for parents to understand that we have to live by laws and rules,” said Mark Behlmann, President of the board of education for the Hazelwood school district.
Yet Taylor wasn’t even questioned by Florissant police. When the local media outlet questioned why DNA wasn’t taken from the teacher after the student accused him of sexual assault, Police Chief Tim Lowery said it was a mistake.
“For some reason, this case basically sat on somebody’s desk and wasn’t investigated properly,” said Lowery.
Lowery, who is now the mayor, claims the investigator assigned to the case was reassigned to another department shortly after the first police report was filed.
He said that as a result, the case fell by the wayside and wouldn’t see the light of day for several years… allowing an accused sexual predator to run free. Lowery said it’s not his fault.
“Well it wasn’t my office who dropped the ball, it was my investigators who dropped the ball Yes.”
The reporter called him out and asked if he was in charge of those investigators.
“Uh huh. That’s correct. We made a mistake. There’s no doubt we made a mistake and made a huge mistake,” said Lowery.
Lowery confirmed that a DNA report confirming that unknown male DNA was found in the little boy was sent to the Florissant Police Department in August of 2016… and yet almost ten months after the alleged abuse, police didn’t follow up on the new findings.
After Taylor was fired from the Hazelwood district for “a violation of school board policy”, he applied in the Jennings school district to be a student teacher at Fairview Primary School… and got the job.
The Hazelwood school district said they did nothing wrong, claiming they complied with all state and federal reporting requirements.
Yet they didn’t let any potential employers looking for a reference know what Taylor was accused of.
“It was an accusation. That’s as far as it went,” said Behlmann.
The Hazelwood school district claims they didn’t think Taylor was a threat to anyone.
“Although the District reported the allegations to DFS as required, the District received a notification from social services that the report was unsubstantiated. No further information was provided by the police,” McKenzie said in a statement.
And just like that, Taylor ended up back in the classroom.
He worked at Fairview Elementary in the Jennings school district, then got a job at Walnut Grove Elementary in the Ferguson-Florissant school district from 2017 to 2018… going from teacher’s aide to teacher and getting his own 5thgrade class.
During his second year at Walnut Grove Elementary, prosecutors charged Taylor for sexually assaulting his former student in 2015.
But at the time, police claimed there was no new information that lead to the arrest.
“An officer leaving the department played no role in this case. The case is simply investigated by another investigator. The Florissant Police Department investigated this case in 2015 and the case remained open and ongoing. Due to new revelations with this case, investigators were able to make an arrest,” said Steve Michael, an officer with the Florissant Police Department in November of 2018.
But according to WSDK, it was a lie.
They confronted Lowery about his department’s false statements, asking if there new revelations in 2018 that led to the reopening of this case… or if it was just the victim reporting it again.
“Yes,” said Lowery.
Court documents show that three years after the boy first reported the crime, he again reported during an outburst at school.
Police got a warrant for Taylor’s DNA, and they say it matched that taken from the boy in 2015.
I-Team: So if the victim hadn’t spoken about it in 2018, Deonte Taylor an accused sexual predator would still being our school systems with access to other potential victims?
“It’s possible,” said Lowery.
Soon after he was charged with felony sodomy, prosecutors found out that Taylor is HIV positive. Luckily the boy did not contract the disease.
Taylor is currently awaiting trial on several felony charges, including sodomy and recklessly risking the infection of another person with HIV – but that’s not all he’s charged with.
Prosecutors say that as he was awaiting trial, he and his boyfriend Michael Johnson tried to hire a hitman to kill the child and his family.
Taylor now faces both conspiracy to commit murder charges and witness tampering charges.
Johnson faces two counts of conspiracy to commit murder and two counts of witness tampering. Both have pleaded not guilty.
The Hazelwood School District provided the following statement:
“As soon as the allegations regarding Deonte Taylor were made in November 2015, the Hazelwood School District turned the matter over to the Missouri State Children’s Division (DFS) and the local police.
As a precaution, the District also immediately placed Taylor on leave pending the outcome of the investigation. While waiting on the findings from the authorities, the District terminated Taylor’s employment for reasons unrelated to this case while he was on leave.
Taylor never returned to the school after the allegations. Although the District reported the allegations to DFS as required, the District received a notification from social services that the report was unsubstantiated. No further information was provided by the police.
Recently, the student victim provided additional information and the matter was once again reported by the District to DFS.”