Slidell LA. March 13 2008 A former custodian at Abney Elementary School in Slidell was arrested by Slidell Police early Saturday morning and charged with six counts of aggravated rape involving two 10 year-old boys, both students at the school.
Dino Jay Schwertz, 41, 323 Robin Lane, Slidell, is currently in the Slidell City Jail accused of raping two boys three times each over a period of two months, starting in September 2007.
The rapes allegedly took place during school hours in the school’s restroom, Slidell Police Chief Freddie Drennan said in a Monday afternoon press conference at his office.Police and school officials did not learn about the incidents until a week ago, when one of the boys started talking to his mother. At first, it was thought to be an incident of one boy bullying another.
The mother went to School Board officials and the police, and after questioning the boy, police learned Schwertz was involved.
Because of the sensitivity of the case and the boys’ ages, the boys’ identities are not being released.At first, the boy told police and counselors he had been sexually attacked by the other boy. After three or four days of questions, the boys finally said Schwertz had sexually molested both of them.Drennan said it took a long time for the two boys to come out and admit what had happened.”It’s hard for kids to talk about this,” Drennan said. “Especially boys don’t like to talk about it. It was like pulling teeth.”After the boys opened up, Drennan said the case fell into place like a “domino effect,”Police got arrest and search warrants and arrested Schwertz at his home without incident at 1 a.m. Saturday.
Slidell police spokesman Capt. Kevin Foltz said police seized Schwertz’ computer during a search of the house, and it was turned over to computer forensics experts at the FBI to see if there was more evidence on the hard drive. Foltz said police are still waiting for results from the FBI. Drennan said Schwertz has been cooperative and admitted to molesting the two boys. However, Foltz said Schwertz had quit talking
Tuesday morning and was no longer cooperating with police.According to both Drennan and St. Tammany Parish Public Schools Superintendent Gayle Sloan, Schwertz does not have a history of sex crimes.Sloan said all school employees must go through a criminal background check before they are hired.”Nothing came back on him,” Sloan said.Drennan said Schwertz had some traffic violations and “several” bad check charges in the past, but no record of any major felonies has been found.
Deputy Police Chief Jesse Simon said Schwertz had violated a restraining order after he applied for a job with the city of Slidell in 2003. Simon said Schwertz kept retuning to the city’s Personnel Department, bothering the employees after he was rejected for the job.He had a restraining order put on him, but he came back to the office and was arrested.Sloan said Schwertz was hired by the School Board as a part-time, long-term substitute custodian in July 2007 and assigned to Abney Elementary.
He was then accepted as a full-time employee and transferred to Northshore High School in January of this year. Schwertz was fired March 5 after school officials found out about the rapes.Sloan said Abney Elementary students were given letters Monday afternoon to be taken home to the parents. She said the letters are “purposefully vague” about the incidents.”We want parents to call us to get the information before they talk to their children,” Sloan said. “We want the children to talk to the parents, and the parents to get the information from us.”She added she would rather have the students learn about the incident from their parents rather than out on the street.Sloan and Drennan believe if parents talk to their children, other victims may come forward.”We are not 100 percent sure there are other victims, but if there are, we want them to call us,” Drennan said.Parents can call the School Board’s central office at 892-2276 or the Slidell Police Department at 646-3131.
Sloan said the School Board has social workers and counselors ready to talk to students and parents.”We anticipate a lot of questions and uneasiness,” Sloan said.Linda Roan, spokesperson for the St. Tammany Public School System, said the central office had received 70 calls Monday afternoon from parents who had read the letter.”Generally, parents were supportive of how we were handling the situation,” Roan said. “They were also asking us for assistance in how to approach their children about the incident.”Roan said she did not have any figures for parents’ calls on Tuesday morning.Sloan said Abney is operating normally, and that high-stake testing was scheduled to begin on Tuesday as required by state law.”We will watch to see if this has upset any of the students,” Sloan said.Roan said Tuesday morning the testing had begun as scheduled.”We want to insure an environment that is as close to routine as possible,” Roan said.Sloan described Abney Elementary as a “blue-ribbon school,” which is nationally recognized for its accomplishments. The school was heavily damaged during Hurricane Katrina.”It was hit hard by Katrina, and now the school has to go through this storm,” Sloan said. “But they are resilient.”Ironically, voters on Saturday approved a bond issue for the school system, with part of the money from the bonds going to installing security cameras in all St. Tammany Parish schools.”With this event, we hope it will help us to deploy the cameras in a way that will prevent such incidents in the future,” Sloan said.
Aggravated rape of a minor is a capital offense, and if Schwertz is convicted, the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney could seek the death penalty. If the D.A. does not seek the death penalty, Schwertz could face life in prison without benefit of parole, probation or suspension of sentence.