$175k settlement in Trevor Varinecz wrongful death suit

Published: Nov. 15, 2012 at 10:19 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2013 at 1:53 PM EST
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Trevor Varinecz (Source: Carolina Forest High School)
Trevor Varinecz (Source: Carolina Forest High School)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A settlement has been reached in the lawsuit brought against Horry County Schools and Horry County Police by the family of Trevor Varinecz.

According to Horry County court documents filed last week, the Varinecz family agreed to accept two payments of $87,500, for a total of $175,000, from the Horry County School District; one payment for their claim of pain and suffering following Trevor's death, and the other for their claim of wrongful death in Trevor's case.

As part of the settlement, the family agreed to drop their lawsuit against the Horry County School District.

In their lawsuit, the Varinecz family claimed Trevor, a student diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, suffered a decline in his mental health when the school district cut his one on one mentoring time in school from 900 minutes a week to 45. The lawsuit said that decline in mental health played a role in Trevor's stabbing of school resource officer Marcus Rhodes. Authorities say the teen attacked Rhodes with a bayonet before Rhodes shot and killed him in self defense.

The Varinecz family has now dropped those claims, but Sarah Pope, an autism advocate and one of Trevor's former special education aids, said a combination of budget constraints and a decision to cut services for students with Asperger's by mental health specialists working with the school district may have contributed to Trevor's situation.

"They had to make different decisions for kids with Asperger's, and a lot of services were cut," Pope explained.

Pope worked as a school district aid with Trevor for years, and says he had a high functioning form of Asperger's. She said Trevor earned high grades in school, which may have been part of the reason the district cut the teen's special services.

"I'm not sure of how [the services were] cut, or who made the decision to reduce his services because they thought he was doing well, but we did have budget cuts around that time and lots of people were trying to reduce services for kids in the autism division," Pope said.

Pope said she hopes Trevor's case is a wakeup call to school districts that want to cut back on special services for kids with Asperger's in the future.

"Teenage years are hard enough for typical kids, but when you have a diagnosis that might be autism, Asperger's, or mental health [related], you've got to have other people in your life around that are going to help," Pope said.

The lawsuit was launched against Rhodes, the high school, Horry County Schools and the Horry County Police Department claiming Rhodes did not have the proper training to prevent the death of their son.

Police investigations cleared Officer Rhodes of any charges, and he and a former counselor were dismissed from the lawsuit before the settlement.

The court document filed on Thursday, Nov. 15 gave more details of what happened that day that have not been released.

Rhodes says Varinecz came into his office with a bayonet and stabbed him in the back seven times.

Rhodes claims Varinecz would not drop his knife, and Rhodes was scared he was losing control of the situation, adding that he believed Varinecz would grab his gun.

That's when Rhodes fired 10 shots at Varinecz, killing him. As he was dying Varinecz said, "Thank you, sir, Thank you."

Investigators found a note in Varinecz's pocket that directed them to a suicide note on his personal computer.

Both Trevor's family and the Horry County School District chose not to comment on the settlement.

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