VIERA, Fla. – Four Devereux employees were fired immediately when a case of child abuse was reported not by the staffers, by the child himself, according to the Brevard County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators said the boy at the Viera behavioral campus told his counselor that 25-year-old Marcus DeFreitas came into his room and beat him up on Feb. 9.
In an arrest affidavit, sheriff's deputies also identified a child neglect suspect, 31-year-old Justin Robinson, who investigators said stood in a doorway to block a camera during the abuse.
Deputies said DeFreitas punched the boy on the floor, left at one point and then came back and beat up the boy more - forcefully pushing his head into the floor, surveillance video showed.
Investigators also interviewed two employees just outside the room in the hallway.
One of them said the boy was causing a disruption before DeFreitas and Robinson escorted him to his room.
The employee told investigators he heard DeFreitas say to the boy, “I have no problems with just punching you dead in your [expletive].”
The two employees in the hallway, while also fired, were not criminally charged because deputies said they had, “reasonable circumstances for the lack of reporting or intervening.”
DeFreitas and Robinson were both released from the Brevard County jail on bond.
Devereux released a statement to News 6 attributed to Executive Director Michelle Llorens.
"Devereux thoroughly trains, and demands, from every single employee strict adherence to a culture of safety and respect for children. Our students deserve no less, and we have zero tolerance for any employee who doesn’t live up to those standards. This incident was absolutely unacceptable. The staff in question were immediately terminated from employment. Nothing is more important to us than the safe and effective care of children, and we have absolutely zero tolerance, none, for anyone who does not strictly adhere to Devereux’s philosophies and practices of safe care. We use some of the strongest pre-employment safety clearance tools available, as required by the State of Florida and the various licensing agencies. These tools include FBI clearances, police background checks and DCF clearances to screen potential employees. In addition, when we hire new staff we provide exhaustive training before they meet or work with a single child to help ensure safe and therapeutic care. And we provide continuous training to all staff regarding compliance with care and safety standards. The actions of the individuals in this situation are abhorrent and not indicative of the philosophies and standards we expect of all of our staff.”