Brendan Depa, the 17-year-old special education Matanzas High School student whose assault of a paraprofessional at Matanzas High School school last week has drawn international attention, was arrested three times on battery charges when he was 13, including for domestic violence, according to court records.
Depa, who will be 18 in August, is behaviorally disabled. He was charged as an adult in last Tuesday’s attack against Joan Naydich, the paraprofessional assigned to work with him. He faces a charge of aggravated battery against a school employee, a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. He is being held in a juvenile jail in Duval County on $1 million bond set by County Judge Melissa Distler.
Depa’s case recalls other violent incidents at both Flagler Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School that were not addressed with anywhere near the harsh charge Depa now faces.
Depa had originally been arrested on the aggravated battery charge by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, but as a juvenile, and as a second-degree felony. He was sent to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Daytona Beach, where he spent the night.
He was released the next day to the care of his group home, run by East Coast Habilitation Options at 7 Palmer Lane in Palm Coast. The organization, known as ECHO, advertises itself as “committed to improving the quality of life for individuals with developmental disabilities,” including teens with “autism, intellectual disabilities and behavioral challenges.” (An ECHO employee was arrested and fired from her job when she was charged with abusing one of the adolescents in her care last December. The case is pending in court.)
Depa was re-arrested Friday evening just before 7 p.m. at the ECHO home after the State Attorney’s office charged him as an adult. His second arrest was uneventful. He is scheduled for arraignment before Circuit Judge Terence Perkins on March 6. (See: “Matanzas Student Charged as Adult with 1st-Degree Felony in Assault on Teacher Aide.”)
His juvenile justice record indicates that all three of his previous arrests took place in 2019 in Hillsborough County, the 13th Judicial Circuit (Flagler is in the Seventh), when he lived in Riverview, where his mother is an occupational therapist.
He was arrested in March 2019, in April, and again in June that year. The arrests were for simple battery and were categorized as first-degree misdemeanors. His record indicates he was in juvenile custody for a few days the first time. He was soon re-arrested and admitted to what DJJ refers to as “respite care,” which can be the result of different circumstances.
In this case, it was domestic violence respite care, which the department defines as “When the youth being admitted was screened at the JAC [Juvenile Assessment Center] for domestic violence charges and did not score for secure detention, but is unable to be released to family and would otherwise be held in
secure detention.” The domestic violence charge suggests his victim was a close family member.
Depa then entered a diversionary program categorized as “Intensive Delinquency Diversionary Services.” It isn’t clear if the third charge occurred when he was in or out of juvenile custody. He successfully completed DJJ programs, and steered clear of the department until last week.
He was in 11th grade at Matanzas, where he had been attending school for a year and a half. The district is not releasing information about the case pending its own investigation, which is ongoing. The investigation will most likely reconstruct the hours leading up to the incident and what, precisely, Depa was doing when he was triggered, if he was triggered. His initial arrest report states he had become angry when Naydich allegedly took away a Nintendo game. She was leaving the classroom.
(Naydich in an update posted today–Monday–on her condition, on a GoFundMe page, disputes the claim about the game: “For all you keyboard warriors, I just want to set the record straight. I never took the Nintendo Switch from him. From anyone that’s read or heard differently, I’ve been told this was unfortunately misinformation.” Depa mad the claim about the game. It was reported by the sheriff’s deputy who made the arrest and included in the arrest report.)
The surveillance video shows Depa running after her and launching her against the floor, where she appears to have immediately lost consciousness. He then pounded and kicked her repeatedly until several staff members pushed him away and took control of him. According to his arrest report, he allegedly threatened to beat and kill Naydich if she took his game away again, and also sought to go back to his group home when he was being arrested.
Naydich is a nearly 20-year employee with the Flagler County school district, starting there in 2004 food services, and becoming a paraprofessional in 2021. Paraprofessionals are somewhat like teacher aides, though their responsibilities can vary significantly depending on their assignments. They don’t have teaching licenses, but their classroom workloads can be considerable–the way sometimes a physician’s assistant can seem to work more than the physician.
Depa’s behavior tracks with that of a profoundly behaviorally disabled student. It also tracks with the behavior of other students in similar circumstances whose outbursts were not necessarily publicized, including the case of a student on the autism spectrum at Flagler Palm Coast High School a decade ago–when Jacob Oliva was principal–who broke a teacher’s arm. In a subsequent incident, the same student attacked and pounded another student–who was also on the autism spectrum–leaving her significantly bruised. The attacking student was neither arrested nor removed from the school, which built a padded room to accommodate him.
Kendall Clark, the mother of the student he pounded, used to volunteer in that classroom, where the teacher whose arm was broken was a close friend.
“It’s not fair to the [offending] kids, it’s not fair to the other kids in those classes, and it’s not fair to the staff,” Clark said today in an interview, referring equally to incidents then and now. “They should be someplace else when they’re violent like that, not punitive, but just for everybody’s safety because what if he had to be tased or shot to stop? What if nobody could stop him? These people aren’t trained to deal with that.”
A special education student at Flagler Palm Coast High School was tased in September 2007, the first time such an incident took place on any Flagler campus. The student was only refusing to leave a classroom when repeatedly told. The incident left then-Superintendent Bill Delbrugge livid about the overreaction, which led then Sheriff Don Fleming to remove the weapons from school grounds. Resource deputies again wore the weapon starting in 2011, a year after Delbrugge left.
Two years later, another student–at Matanzas High School–was tased after punching a student and a deputy. The man was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, a third degree felony, and two misdemeanors, was placed in a diversionary program and did not serve time in jail.
Clark described the incident involving the autistic student that took place a decade ago when she was a volunteer. None of the people involved in that classroom are in the district anymore. The boy “would get mad, and he was so violent that they hired a man to be his Parapro, because nobody could control him. And the man was like a weightlifter and a speed runner and in really good shape. If the door was open, he would run out the door.”
It was on one of those occasions when he ran out and attacked Clark’s daughter, who was having lunch. “He just started pounding on her. Her entire back was covered in bruises,” Clark said. A year earlier he got mad at his teacher–Clark’s friend–“and slammed her up against a wall and bent her arm backwards and broke it.”
The child had profound autism. Even male teachers were terrified of him. He would pull bookshelves down, throw desks, attack students who happened to be in an area where he liked to blast sand around. He would be let into the lunchroom 20 minutes before other children because he was so intimidating to them. The district had an alternative school at the time. His parents, who had influence in the community, insisted that he remain at the school.
“But also this was a white kid and everybody was afraid of his parents, and that was well known,” Clark said. “But I didn’t want him to go to jail. I still look at him with compassion. Because it’s not his fault. He’s the way he is. And it’s not his fault. He reacts the way he does. It’s his parents’ fault that he was someplace that puts so many other people in jeopardy. That’s how I look at it. I just hate that there’s no choice but this in Flagler County, that other kids are exposed to it.”
Clark stressed: “Again, not blaming him 100 percent or even 10 percent. But kids can be assholes, You know that as well as me,” she said, referring to students who make fun of special-needs classmates. “There’s a lot of reasons kids that are that profound, should not be in a school, where you have to lock doors and bar doors and put furniture up against the door so that an angry kid doesn’t come charging at you. And that’s what these teachers deal with.”
@And all this happened in the Republican Empire of Florida, established 1999 by Jeb the 1st
And uninterrupted to this day.
Let the condescending Dutch Uncles, cynics, Sam Levenson impersonators, and other dispensers of bromides and insipid malarkey proceed. It should be an impressive edifice indeed.
Just sayin' says
At least in a Republican state he won’t get a slap on the wrist.
What’s in a name? Well, this one checks out:
Is just sayin rude?
Adding “just sayin’” to the end of your statement makes you sound like a rude, condescending, immature asshat. It completely invalidates everything you said before those two tiny words.
“At least in a Republican state he won’t get a slap on the wrist.”
If I had a wooden nickel for every instance of the complaint of a “slap on the wrist” here in floriduh, I’d own a lumberyard.
Hang in there. When governor desantis and her poodle dog husband get where she’s going, we’ll have real religiously inspired justice: no slaps on the wrist then, they’ll be busy cutting tongues out, and hands and heads off.
Praise the lord!
did you even read the article? all they’ve given are slaps on the wrists. one kid broke an arm and beat a child so the school built a padded cell for him lmao
Thomas Economous says
Some people will try to make anything political. This is simply about a student with a violent past who attempted to murder his teacher. He should be locked up for a long time.
Billy bickford says
Thank the lord for the hero in the khaki polo
and jeans. He saved the aide from serious injury. I’m glad she didn’t get seriously hurt.
That was a USMC recruiter in uniform.
Carol Bacha says
If a person involved in a crime is on the autism spectrum, the way in which the people involved in the judicial system communicate with them must be altered accordingly. Ensuring that the person understands the judicial system, the situation at hand and the court process is essential. Enlisting an autism expert to help guide the process is also helpful to both those in the judicial system and the person involved.
If an attorney, judge, or victims rights advocate is assigned a case involving someone on the autism spectrum, it is critical that these professionals have basic knowledge about autism spectrum disorder. Understanding their unique strengths, challenges, and the most effective ways to communicate with them will help ensure those on the spectrum get fair and appropriate treatment while involved in the court system. https://www.autismspeaks.org/judicial-system-autism-legal-issues re 2/28/23 ME/cb
Quick Facts for the Judicial System
The diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder (autism, autism spectrum disorder, pervasive developmental disorders, Asperger Syndrome and related disorders) is ALWAYS relevant and needs to be explained to police and legal personnel.
If an person has been assessed to have “autistic tendencies,” providers and families need to explain the features of ASD that the person does have. It is safest to do the same type of explaining as you would if the person carried an official diagnosis of an ASD.
A diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder is as relevant to police and legal proceedings as a diagnosis of mental retardation or mental illness would be, no matter how bright, high functioning, and/or verbal the person may be.
A diagnosis of an ASD means that the person does have a developmental disability if criteria for developmental disability are met, even if there is no cognitive impairment.
If a person with an ASD is involved in legal or police matters, others who know the person well need to quickly provide information about how the person thinks, communicates, interacts and understands others. Always provide that information in writing AND in person to all involved authorities.
Each person with an autism spectrum disorder is unique. However, they share some common features. Assess to determine impact of autism on the person.
The person will usually be responding to the best of her or his neurological ability at that time and in that place. Responses to others may be driven by internal state, material from various media, sensory input, and previous learning.
People with an ASD respond and perform neurologically inconsistently depending on emotional state, familiarity with the people and situation and various sensory experiences. For example, they may be very talkative in one setting at a particular time and later be UNABLE to speak well in the same setting.
– Doyle, B.T. (2009) And Justice for All: Unless You Have Autism – What the Legal System Needs to Know About People With Autism Spectrum Disorders
Resources for the Judicial System
Judicial Spectrum Primer: What Judges Need to Know About Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism Information for Advocates, Attorneys, and Judges
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
Next time why don’t you just copy and paste an entire encyclopedia?
Hunter in Penn says
Says the person that chose the username Keep Flagler Beautiful. Irony at its best. I have a feeling “Beautiful” is not what comes to mind with anything around you. Its people like you that could USE MORE educational/informative narratives instead of the typical, “Make America Great Again” or did you take a marker to your red hat and write in “…Beautiful Again”. The arrogance you must hoard must be exceptional for you to think you are the bellwether regarding the length one should stick to when responding on such a site. I would bet it wasnt the length that annoyed you, but the content, context, wording and accademic structure that was the real culprit, afterall, like the old chliche says, anger and doscourse usually comes from ignorance, fear of what you cant or do not want to understand.
Richard Mahony says
I’m 64. I’m on the autism spectrum. In fact, we all are. That’s why it’s a spectrum. In my prime, I had a measured IQ of 142 (3 SDs above the normal value of 100). I taught A-level physics, O-level maths and chemistry. I love animals especially dogs. I like and care about people, especially those who are in distress or down on their luck. I’m empathetic. At times, however, I’m still overwhelmed with uncontrollable rage – especially at close family members. Especially at my now ex-wife, who walked out in me last July.
I used to be fast, immensely fit and strong. I’ve never killed anybody or ever attacked anybody who has provoked me. I’ve intervened in plenty of streetfights with strangers, in which most assailants have been youngish (15 to 45) black men attacking their girlfriends. In one case, an enormous Torres Strait Islander in his 40s was beating up a much smaller and older white German tourist.
The problem with autism spectrum disorders is that diagnosis is almost entirely based on behaviour. If a male juvenile acts up, lashes out, then he’s going to be diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder, borderline personality disorder.
If he’s a killer then in the USA and Canada, but not elsewhere, a male adolescent will be assessed on the Hare Juvenile Psychopathy Scale, which is a modified version of the adult version used to assess psychopathy in adult killers.
Psychopaths are born not made. The are cruel, callous, calculating and cold. They lack empathy, compassion, kindness and emotional intelligence. They are born with a malformed brain: often the amygdala or hippocampus. This can be seen on an MRI. Research increasingly suggests an overlap between autism and psychopathy.
Well color me surprised !
I completely get that parents of kids with intellectual and behavioral disabilities would want to ensure that their child receives a normal school setting with the rest of the school students, but any kid like the violent attacker at Matanzas who has already demonstrated his violence toward other students and/or educational staff has no business remaining in a regular school setting. Without alternative schools, there is no other alternative. It is totally unacceptable that Flagler County as well as other local school districts do not have alternative schools for their school age kids with behavioral disabilities and violent tendencies. What happened at Matanzas is a stark reminder of the life-threatening incidents that can and do happen. Am I wrong to believe that the only reason that kids with issues and behavior problems are lumped together with the rest of the school students is because our school districts are using that as a cost saving measure when they should have provided the funding and resources for alternative schools? They must do better for the safety of ALL students and school staff.
You are correct in that statement. Pretty sure that ESE/Special ED is not a priority for the funding provided which is sad….. Everyone too busy being concerned about the books in library, when majority of these kids are reading ALOT worse on the internet and amongst themselves.
**ALL students deserve to be safe, provided best education possible, and appropriate classroom setting/aide.
Well from this article that child should have been on the Board of Ed. as usual they are clueless what their responsibilities for students and teachers safety. All they care about is what books children can and cannot read thanks to the Governor of Discrimination who is making a fool of himself nationwide.
Time and time again we find there have been warnings about people who later do horrible things. In this instance with his much stronger body, in others with weapons (guns, vehicles, knives). We have to get better at heeding and acting on the warnings before things get worse. Those people are crying for help.
Jamie Nicewander says
I have personally seen this exact scenario play out in places I have worked. I was brought in to a situation to protect staff members because they were scared of a student very much like this scenario. The student in my case, had also assaulted staff members and not been charged I was told, and the student had even more extreme behavior then the ones described in this article. Teachers and other public school students are being forced to deal with these situations and it is unsafe.
You don’t say, never would have thought it. But, He’s no threat to anyone. The problem no longer lies with him, it’s those who coddle and enable him and make excuses. Lock him up
12th Monkey says
This is what it looks like when you spend the last couple of decades cowtowing and electing ignorant, uncaring, unsympathetic people who hate government to run your government. Spending their time and our money lambasting and harrassing Mickey Mouse or God forbid little Timmy trying out mommy’s maskara. Ya’ know, the party that lies to you and says that they want less government intrusion in your lives. So you get violent, hateful, uncontrollable kids that are passed from one “adult” to another and another until eventually you have events like this, Parkland and Uvalde. Can you imagine if this animal had access to a gun? And he is an animal. I cannot find a difference between him and a grizzly bear, other than the fact since he has some congnitive abilities he can easily be categorized as the most dangerous being in our known universe. So let’s put him in an environment with everyone else? Rediculous!
Yes, of course these kids don’t need to be in our schools. Of course there needs to be places purposely built and funded for these people. Of course they certainly don’t need to be in some nondescript house in our neighborhoods. Of course of course of course.
You want a better society? Be better citizens. It starts at the polls. Send the deplorables away to shack up with Musk and the MTG’s on deep red Mars.
Please don’t insult Grisley Bears by comparing their behavior to this young man. Also please don’t assume that most ASD students are like this man either. There are some very violent students in schools but they are rare. Everyone knew that he was violent and very large but, as usual, everyone protected their job by doing nothing.
Paul S says
All the political nonsense make people look uninformed. Not that there isn’t plenty to be frustrated with.
Consider your claim, 12th monkey, that Parkland was the result of the deplorable (conservatives).
Get a clue. Read “Why Meadow Died”. Talk to someone. Anyone (who doesn’t claim it was because of guns or deplorables). You might want to reconsider your contempt for everyone who has a different opinion on some of the issues.
Oh. Wait. You think the liberals and Democrats don’t lie to you? Forget my comments above. Willfully carry on. Into oblivion.
Free Florida says
I think what’s really important here is that none of our dear sweet innocent children were exposed to critical race theory or any historical facts that made them uncomfortable with their race. The real threat to society are books promoting homosexuality and other “woke” alternative lifestyles. I’m sure the video games are in no small part to blame as well.
There can be no room in our hearts for compassion, understanding or self-reflection. We can take no responsibility for the conditions that lead up to this incident. We must instead be outraged, if only for a moment, before moving on to the next outrageous thing.
And only when there is no society left shall we truly be free.
Ironically this young man’s residence is not even zoned for Matanzas. SMH
Kids with severe Autism show signs of their disturbance way before the age quoted that Depa came to the attention of authorities in 2019. Was he ever in treatment in Hillsborough County?
It is being reported that Mom is an Occupational therapist, If that is the case, she would know that better than most what the symptoms of a Brain Disorder are. And she would knowledge of resources that most peope don’t have, if not enhanced connections to them.
Why was this young man “imported” to Flagler County? Did he issue threats towards others in Hillsborough County so the authorities there sought to send him some distance away? If that was the case, was his full history disclosed to this Flagler County Group Home and the school he was attending? Was he being followed by any agency previously connected to his case or to any agencies that had been dealing with him prior to his transfer to Flager County? Was he still maintaining contact with family members or eas there an Order of Protection in place?
Was he being given Psychotropic medication with monitoring attached or any intensive ongoing treatment at all besides “three hots and a cot” in a Group Home?
A lot of outstanding questions on this case. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be another “kid who fell through the cracks” tragedy-long-in-the-making.
Interesting development here—Ms. Naydich informed the DAILY MAIL” of the following:
“Naydich also wanted to address allegations that she took his game away from him, adding: ‘For all you keyboard warriors, I just want to set the record straight. I never took the Nintendo Switch from him”.
Of course, if this is in fact the case, and there’s no reason to doubt her, why did he attack her?
Oh well, even if she did, she had every right to, he had no cause to brutally attack her, and I hope he gets what’s coming to him.
May Ms. Naydich have a safe and speedy recovery.
THIS SCHOOL / BOARD OF ED / COUNTY / STATE FAILED this ESE student – and put this poor PARA in danger. We need MORE resources, training, local schools equipped, trained, to teach, help, guide ESE students. There is just NOT enough!!! I am sorry but FL is just AWFUL when it comes to special needs. You have to go hours away to get any kind of decent Drs or schools. Even worse something decent will cost $$$ which the average family does not have.
Majority of ESE children NEED additional therapies, one on one paras! ESE classrooms are filling up more and more with limited/less-than able paras to handle the older kids. If this was not his first incident, why or
We understand its all about “school-sports” around here, but surely money has been designated to special ed! Is it being used to the fullest?? Parents and caregivers need to start making a stink about this at school, at board of Ed meetings. Because certainly our special needs/mentally disabled CHILDREN don’t seem to be a priority.
My sincere well-wishes go out to the injured para and pray for speedy recovery.
Land of no turn signals says says
Lawyers are going to have a field day with this one.
just a guy says
“the way sometimes a physician’s assistant can seem to work more than the physician…” Get a grip and go meet an actual doctor.
Arizona Sentinel says
Maybe some jail time should be in his future? Kids with those violent tendencies need a school specifically for them. Why are other students/staff put in harms way?
Bob S says
I saw the video and I worked with wild animals all my life and that is how they attack each other. When they attack each other it was exactly like the video. Who in the world would allow a person with animalistic tendencies and behavior to be able to attend a regular school. Watch the attack then watch the animal channel on your tv and you will see what I am talking about. Hopefully this kid gets the help he needs.
I would like to know who the individual was that accepted his school registration? Was his prior record from his other school not sent over? Something smells fishy at this school.