Thursday, December 14, 2017
Public safety

New charge filed against Dunedin bagpiper accused of taking suggestive photos of 12-year-old

DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies have filed an additional sex charge against a former Dunedin school volunteer, saying he posted photos of his 12-year-old victim on a sexual fetish website.

Steven James Andrews, 29, of 426 Roanoke St. in Dunedin, was arrested Feb. 7 on charges that he paid the girl $100 to pose in various costumes, including full-body spandex and Hello Kitty outfits, at least three times since August.

Investigators said he then bound and gagged the girl and took pictures of her and that he admitted he later used them during masturbation.

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.

Detectives on Thursday added a fourth charge against Andrews, promoting sexual performance by a child, after discovering that Andrews also uploaded those photos to a website for people with bondage and other fetishes, according to reports.

"(Investigators) can't discuss how they found out about the website and posting of the pictures, because it's still an ongoing investigation," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Tom Nestor said Friday.

Andrews never bailed out of the Pinellas County Jail after his initial arrest. Bail on the newest charge was set at $20,000, bringing Andrews' total bail amount to $95,000.

The Times left a message Friday afternoon for Andrews' attorney, Joseph Uccello.

Detectives said Andrews had been a friend of the girl's family for decades. Her encounters with Andrews came to light after she complained to her mother that she had not been paid for a recent photo session. The mother contacted authorities.

Police interviewed Andrews' girlfriend, who led them a Clearwater storage unit where Andrews had stored a trunk full of costumes in various sizes, including a pirate, ice skater, Snow White, the Wizard of Oz's Dorothy and a pink cheetah. Authorities also recovered rope, handcuffs and two leather ball gags.

Detectives said the woman had no knowledge of Andrews' alleged contact with the 12-year-old.

Multiple postings on Andrews' MySpace page detail his "thing" for females in spandex and costumes: "Its not quite a fetish, more like an obsession i guess and it is but isnt a sexual thing. I used to figure skate as a kid only becasue of the girls and there costumes," he wrote.

Last month, investigators said they were interviewing "dozens" of other potential victims who came forward after news of Andrews' arrest broke.

A sheriff's spokeswoman said callers included women who described events from as long as eight years ago and caregivers of teens who say they've observed suspicious behavior by Andrews.

The tips, she said, extend beyond the types of photos reported in the case of the 12-year-old. However, officials wouldn't disclose specifics, citing the ongoing investigation.

Andrews' arrest, days after beloved longtime Dunedin pipe band director Sandy Keith died, dealt a blow to the city's tight-knit Scottish community, in which Andrews was a well-known bagpiper and drummer.

Pinellas school officials said his volunteer duties with the bands at Dunedin Highland Middle and Dunedin High schools were immediately suspended.

After his arrest, Andrews was fired from Tampa's Children's Nest Day School, where he briefly worked part-time as an after-school teacher.

The 2000 Dunedin High School graduate's previous employment includes a two-year stint in the U.S. Navy as a yeoman seaman, doing administrative work, a military spokeswoman said.

His former stepfather, John Whalen of Dunedin, said he helped Andrews' mother raise him from age 11 to 18. Whalen said Andrews was an average student who enjoyed model trains and bagpiping: "When he was in school he never got in trouble, and teachers complimented him on being an honorable person."

Whalen said he has been in contact with Andrews "off and on" in recent years. He said he is "disappointed" in Andrews if the allegations are true. But Whalen has always known Andrews, whom he said received an honorable Navy discharge for medical reasons, to "be a good citizen."

"What he did was wrong. I can't condone that," Whalen said. "But as far as I know, this is his first conflict with the law. If he made a mistake, it's a bad mistake, but it doesn't make him a bad person. . . . It's unfortunate, at best, for everyone involved — both for the child and him."

Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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