Beach Firefighter Sexual Assault Arrest

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Stephen Reynaert, 28, an engineer/firefighter/paramedic with the Fort Myers Beach Fire Control District was arrested last Thursday, August 25, 2016 at Fort Myers Beach Station 33 by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) on two counts of sexual assault by a custodian on a victim between 12-18 years of age. He was booked into Lee County Jail that day and released on bond Friday, August 26th with a scheduled trial date of September 26, 2016.

The arrest report, obtained from the LCSO and the Lee County Clerk of Courts, indicates that the Marion County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint of Custodial Sexual Battery via the Department of Children and Families (DCF) on July 26, 2016. The complaint named Reynaert as having repeated sexual encounters with his stepdaughter. The child and her mother’s names and addresses are redacted from the arrest report as is the address and date of birth of the accused. Some identifying information for firefighters is exempt from disclosure under the Sunshine Law.

As per the report, the mother told investigators that she noticed “strange behaviors” and had a “gut feeling” that something was wrong while the family was on vacation in Englewood in late July. After speaking to her daughter, who said Reynaert was doing “inappropriate things with her,” she confronted him and “he did not deny it.” She then took her children to stay with family out of town. A forensic interview with the child revealed that the child stated that the sexual abuse had occurred over the past year at least once a month, whenever she was home alone with her stepfather.

Detective Marsha Sutphin of the LCSO Major Crimes Unit took a sworn video statement from the mother on August 24th in which she described how she learned of the abuse, her confrontation with Reynaert and the aftermath. According to the mother, Reynaert apologized and said he had made a mistake. Afterwards, he made multiple calls and sent texts to the mother. She provided her and her daughter’s cell phones to the LCSO, whose analysis showed that 739 texts were sent between Reynaert and his wife, between July 18th and August 2nd, with most from Reynaert. Many of them consisted of him ‘begging for forgiveness and for her to talk to him,’ according to the report. In them, he also blamed his use of steroids for his bad decisions, begged for forgiveness and apologized for crossing boundaries, according to the report.

On August 24, 2016, Detective Sutphin attempted to contact Reynaert at his home with no response. As she was preparing to leave, she saw his vehicle make a “sudden U-turn” as it approached. She located the vehicle, conducted a traffic stop and requested that he provide a statement regarding the allegations made against him, but he invoked his right to counsel and refused to provide a statement.

On August 25, 2016, Reynaert was arrested at Fort Myers Beach Fire Station 33 at 121 Lenell Road, Fort Myers Beach without incident and taken to Lee County jail for booking. At his first court appearance, Reynaert was advised of a no contact order for any minor children including his stepdaughter. He has filed a plea of not guilty and is represented by Aiken, O’Halloran & Banyai.

Reynaert has been with the Fort Myers Beach Fire District for over 7 years, beginning as a Firefighter/EMT. He was first licensed as a Paramedic in 2012 and was promoted to Engineer in 2014.

In response to a query as to Reynaert’s current work status with the district, Division Chief Ron Martin acknowledged that the district is aware of Reynaert’s arrest, but has no official comment on the matter.

 
Missy Layfield