Monday, January 22, 2018
Public safety

Dunedin school volunteer charged after paying girl, 12, to pose for pictures

DUNEDIN — In a 2008 MySpace blog, Steven J. Andrews listed 20 facts about himself, including several that humorously strived to explain why he and others described him as "weird."

Andrews wrote about his hobby of drumming and bagpiping. Describing himself as a one-time kindergarten teacher, he said he loved working with children and wanted a few of his own someday.

Then there was No. 14 on the list. It and other postings on the social networking profile detailed Andrews' "weakness" for females in spandex.

On Tuesday, Andrews was arrested after authorities discovered he had taken sexually explicit photos of a 12-year-old girl — some of them showing her dressed in full-body spandex or bound and gagged, according to reports.

Police say Andrews, a volunteer at Dunedin Highland Middle and Dunedin High schools who also worked briefly at a Tampa day care center, paid the girl to pose in various costumes, including Hello Kitty and a butterfly.

Detectives said they believe Andrews also volunteered at Berkeley Preparatory, a Tampa private school for students in prekindergarten through grade 12. School officials didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Andrews, 29, of 426 Roanoke St. in Dunedin, was arrested at his home Tuesday night on three counts of sexual performance by a child.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Thane Covert set Andrews' bail Wednesday morning at $75,000.

Pinellas County sheriff's deputies say their investigation revealed that Andrews paid the child $100 to "model" various outfits at a North Pinellas home at least three times between August and February. He then bound and gagged the girl and took pictures of her, which police said he kept for his personal use.

After Andrews' arrest, authorities recovered from his shorts pocket a thumb drive containing about 100 photos of the girl, including 20 in which she was bound. Deputies said Andrews admitted he looked at the photos while masturbating.

"The photos themselves with the various costumes by themselves would not have constituted a crime," said Pinellas sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda. "What made it to the level of a crime was that she was posed in a position where she was bound and gagged."

Detectives said the incident came to light Sunday, after the girl complained to her mother that she had not been paid for a recent photo session. The mother contacted authorities.

Andrews was introduced to the girl through his girlfriend. The alleged crime, Barreda said, "was not directed in any way toward anyone at the schools. It wasn't connected to the schools, other than he was a volunteer there."

However, detectives fear there may be other victims because of Andrews' access to minors.

In addition to his volunteer role at the two Dunedin schools and perhaps at Berkeley Prep, he had recently gotten a job as a part-time after-school teacher at Children's Nest Day School in Tampa. Officials at the day care center, which takes children ages 1 to 11, said Andrews had only been employed there for 17 days and had missed several days of work before his arrest.

Andrews and a second teacher assisted each other in the center's elementary-age latchkey program, said area director Tripp Crouch. He said the school found out about the arrest Wednesday morning and immediately terminated Andrews' employment.

"No one has contacted us … so we're — knock on wood — confident that there's no issue," Crouch said.

Pinellas County school officials say Andrews has volunteered since September with the bands at Dunedin Highland Middle and Dunedin High. Andrews passed the district's formal volunteer screening process, which included a check of his criminal history, said district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez.

"Upon his arrest, his privileges as a volunteer have been immediately suspended," Marquez said.

Andrews has no prior arrests in Florida.

His Facebook page also claims he worked as a kindergarten teacher and assistant principal for Highland Christian School between August 2003 and August 2006.

Times staff writer Curtis Krueger contributed to this report. Keyonna Summers can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or [email protected]

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