Healdsburg educator’s report prompted Child Abuse investigation into Dwayne Kilgore
Healdsburg Police Officer Craig Smith said that while their investigation is currently limited to two boys, the evidence he’s uncovered shows a troubling pattern, with news of Kilgore’s arrest prompting about two dozen people to come forward with information that could lead to other abuse cases involving Kilgore in Sonoma County and San Mateo County.
Santa Rosa, CA – Nick Egan was relaxing after a workout in the sauna at Healdsburg’s Parkpoint Health Club last year when snippets of a conversation taking place in the adjacent hot tub disturbed his thoughts. He began listening carefully and found himself stepping outside the sauna to hear more clearly over the noise of the spa’s jets.
“It took a while to even process the words,” said Egan, a 38-year-old Healdsburg educator.
An older man was talking intimately and in some detail with two boys about their private parts, and all three were naked, Egan said.
He thought to himself, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing, but I know it’s not right.”
His account to police that day in late August last year began an investigation that resulted in the arrest of Paul Dwayne Kilgore, 69, a Sonoma Valley resident accused of molesting three children in a pattern of child abuse that authorities say stretched back for years.
Kilgore, a former athletics director at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley, has been held at the Sonoma County Jail on $1 million bail since his arrest in September. He pleaded not guilty Oct. 31 to seven counts of lewd acts against three children under 14.
Deputy Public Defender Lynette Brown, who is representing Kilgore, said Friday she had no comment on his case. If convicted, Kilgore, who goes by his middle name, faces a maximum sentence of 15 years to life in prison.
Egan, head of The Healdsburg School, a private K-8 school, said he takes his role as a mandated reporter of child abuse seriously.
Under California law, every person who has contact with children through their employment — including educators, coaches, scouting leaders, health care providers, counselors and clergy members — is required to report suspicions of child abuse.
Mandated reporters are discouraged from investigating abuse on their own.
“Fact-finding is the role of child protection investigators and law enforcement who have been trained in how to minimize the trauma that an investigation and interview process may have on a child victim,” according to the U.S. government’s child welfare website.
“Reports of suspicions are treated very sensitively by police,” said Sgt. Dave Burgess of the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office sexual assault unit. “Some people who report to us are sure, and some are just worried. We tread carefully and realize the stakes are very high.”
At Parkpoint Health Club on Aug. 27, Egan followed Kilgore and the boys he was with for the next 10 minutes as they moved from the indoor hot tub to a shower area and the changing room.
“I needed to hear more to be sure, to understand the entire picture,” he said.
He overheard Kilgore asking the boys if they were circumsized and if they liked bubble baths, according to Healdsburg police reports. Later, while the three were standing naked, Kilgore pointed to a boy’s penis and brushed a hand against his bare thigh, police documents said.
Egan told police said he was “sickened” by the behavior, the documents said.
After about 15 minutes, he had heard enough from Kilgore’s interaction with the boys, ages 11 and 12, that he went to the club’s front desk to report his concerns.
He then drove the short distance home, spoke briefly with his wife, who also works with children, and phoned Healdsburg police. He was connected with Officer Craig Smith, who has led the investigation from the first day.
Smith spoke with Kilgore that night by telephone to question him about the reported incident, according to police. Kilgore said he knew the boys through their families in the Sonoma Valley and acted as a “big brother” to the 12-year-old and his older brother, both of whom police identified as alleged victims in their report.
Pressed by Smith about his interaction with the boys at the health club, he said he understood how such a discussion could alarm a bystander but that he was accustomed to talking to other boys about circumcision, police said. He also did not refute or challenge the report of his having touched one of the boys on his thigh, police said.
In their training, mandated reporters learn that proof of inappropriate behavior is not required, and suspicions should be shared directly with authorities. Even if a strong case cannot be built, the paper trail can make it easier to stop a repeat offender, or to build a solid case in the future. The state Department of Justice maintains a central repository of information about reported child abuse.
The investigation of Kilgore led to a search warrant being issued for the Boyes Hot Springs home that he shares with his 94-year-old father, as well as his gold Toyota Corolla and his storage locker on Highway 12. Officers found videos, photos and DVDs as well as weekend itineraries, all labeled with boys names, as well as two duffel bags containing 17 pairs of swim trunks and two novels with pedophilic themes, according to the police report.
Kilgore was arrested Sept. 18. A preliminary hearing in his case is set for Feb. 2.
Kilgore had a long history of taking Sonoma Valley boys on outings to local pools, and some of the lewd acts he is charged with occurred during overnight trips, according to police reports.
Kilgore worked as athletics director for Boys & Girls Clubs of Sonoma Valley for about a decade before resigning in 2013. Kilgore told police investigators that he resigned because of a new policy that would have prevented staff from seeing youth members away from the club.
Following his arrest, youth club officials said they had not had contact with him since his resignation. In October, when the case against Kilgore was expanded to include a third victim — also a young boy — the prosecutor, Javier Vaca, would not say if he or the other alleged victims had been contacted through the youth club.
Previously, Healdsburg police had said that the allegations stemming from the interaction Egan witnessed did not involve children linked to the Boys and Girls club.
Egan said his experience helped him understand how child molestation can be difficult to detect or report.
“If you take a slice in time, and overhear one small thing, maybe that’s not enough to make you act. I think also that sometimes people don’t believe their eyes or what they heard. They think, ‘probably I just misheard that,’ ” he said. “Most abuse happens by people who are close to the victim so people sometimes just can’t believe it could be true. But just because other people trust someone, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust your intuition if something feels wrong.”