Courts & Crime

Illinois school official's May suicide linked to illicit sex claims

BELLEVILLE, Ill. — In the weeks before Freeburg District 70 Superintendent Robin R. Hawkins committed suicide, Illinois State Police investigated allegations against him of sexual abuse that spanned decades.

State police investigative reports obtained by the News-Democrat under the Freedom of Information Act showed agents interviewed Hawkins on April 13 and searched his home and the school and took several computers to analyze for evidence.

Twenty days later, Hawkins' body was found on a Sunday morning sitting in a 1964 Mustang convertible in a barn on his property near Belleville. The cause of his death appeared to be suicide by carbon monoxide asphyxiation.

Hawkins' death, the school board released a statement that said, "an old investigation into allegations against Hawkins had recently been reopened."

Reports showed at least five possible victims, including a minor who was interviewed by police the week after Hawkins' suicide.

The boy alleged that Hawkins promised him a car and college tuition, according to a letter written by the boy's father. The letter was attached to a police report. The boy's father told police Hawkins gave the boy money, took him to dinner and bought him a pair of $80 earrings, according to the police reports. The boy's father also told police that his son returned one night from dinner with Hawkins and "could barely walk" and reported feeling dizzy.

In the interview with Illinois State Police agents Sean King and John Yard, Hawkins denied a sexual relationship with any student but admitted to having "inappropriate sexual conversations with some students." Hawkins would not submit to a polygraph test without talking to his lawyer.

Agents then went to then Freeburg District 70 school board President Herschel C. Parrish Jr. to tell him of the alleged sexual conduct and ask permission from the board to analyze Hawkins' work computer.

"Parrish ... seemed very agitated by the presence of the agents," stated the April 13 report by Sgt. Dave Bivens. "Parrish was very contrary while the agents were attempting to inform him of the investigation."

Parrish, who had already announced his retirement as board president, would not allow agents to search the computer without asking the district's lawyer and scheduling a school board meeting. Parrish told the agents, according to their report, that he was aware of previous allegations, but said they were old.

At the time they came to his home, state police did not have a warrant. Parrish didn't feel he had the authority to allow the officers to search Hawkins' office and computer, District 70 attorney Mike Wagner said.

In his interview, Hawkins told agents that the school board conducted its own investigation into the previous allegations, and Hawkins said he was interviewed by the district's attorney, the report stated.

"The school board has never received a complaint about sexual misconduct regarding Mr. Hawkins during his tenure, except the one that was fully investigated during the early '80s," Wagner said. "That allegation was fully investigated by the police and the state's Department of Children and Family Services, which found no evidence of misconduct."

The computers were later turned over to state police, but Wagner said nothing was found.

Freeburg police investigated allegations dating back to 1991. A boy alleged Hawkins took him to the boy's locker room, wrapped an elastic bandage around his hands and eyes, then fondled him and performed oral sex on him.

Police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigated the allegations. Hawkins provided schedules that showed Hawkins' whereabouts during the time the boy alleged Hawkins molested him, the Freeburg police reports stated.

St. Clair County prosecutors declined to prosecute because of lack of evidence.