Wrongful death suit moves to U.S. court

Trevor Varinecz (Source: Carolina Forest High School)
Trevor Varinecz (Source: Carolina Forest High School)
Officer Marcus Rhodes (Source: Carolina Forest High School)
Officer Marcus Rhodes (Source: Carolina Forest High School)

From the Carolina Forest Chronicle

by Michael Smith, Editor

CAROLINA FOREST, SC A lawsuit filed by the parents of a 16-year-old student with Asperger's Syndrome shot to death by a school resource officer will be heard in federal court.

On Sept. 2, the parents of Trevor Varinecz filed suit in Circuit Court for what they claim in court papers was the wrongful death of their son.

Horry County Schools, the Horry County Police Department, Carolina Forest High School, the S.C.Department of Education, former CFHS resource officer Marcus Rhodes and Mary P. Fay have been named as defendants.

According to court records obtained by the Chronicle, the case was moved to federal court on Sept. 30.

A scheduling order signed by U.S. District Judge Terry Wooten says the case is subject to being
called for jury selection and trial on or after Sept. 4, 2012.

On Oct. 16, 2009, Rhodes fatally shot Varinecz after Varinecz attacked Rhodes with a large knife, according to a report issued by the State Law Enforcement Division.

The SLED report concluded that Varineczwas trying to force Rhodes to kill him.

Horry County Solicitor Greg Hembree declined to press charges, saying Rhodes acted in self-defense.

"The use of deadly force in this casewas not only justified, it was essential to protect the students and staff at Carolina Forest aswell as the officer," Hembree said.

In his response to the Varinecz lawsuit, Rhodes denies the allegations against him. "The actions and conduct of Marcus Rhodes, in his individual and personal capacities, to the extent they occurred as alleged, were objectively reasonable under the circumstances of which he was aware," the response says.

The lawsuit also says deviations in Trevor Varinecz's individualized education plan (IEP) occurred without his parents' knowledge, cutting time he was shadowed from 900 to 45 minutes per week.

The Varinecz family states in its suit that the lack of adequate supervision resulted in him being bullied more, which led him to bring the knife – described as a Civil War relic in court papers, "for protection from the hostile environment" at school.

"Immediately after the shadow's time was unexpectedly and drastically decreased from 900 minutes to 45 minutes per week, Trevor became overwhelmed, depressed and especially susceptible to bullying and/or harassment by classmates," the suit states.

"This sudden change from a consistent daily routine in a predictable and safe school environment to an inconsistent and unpredictable school environment (with very little shadow support) caused emotional vulnerability and a drastic decline in his overall mental condition," the suit continues.

Horry County Schools and Carolina Forest High School denied those allegations in its
response to the court.

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