Nick Egan was relaxing after a workout in the sauna at Healdsburg’s Parkpoint Health Club, 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. An older man was talking intimately and in some detail with two boys about their private parts, and all three were naked, according to Egan. As he stood behind the older man, Egan thought to himself, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing, but I know it’s not right.”
And on a quiet Saturday in late August of last year, what is alleged to be years of abuse of children came to an end with the launch of a police investigation into longtime Boyes Hot Springs resident Dwayne Kilgore, 68.
Having worked in education for 11 years, and as the current head of the private K-8 Healdsburg School, Egan, 38, takes his role as a “mandated reporter” of child abuse seriously. Every person who has contact with children through their employment is considered a “mandated reporter” and, as such, is legally responsible for reporting suspicions of abuse.
Who are mandated reporters in Sonoma Valley? School and day care staff, clergy, everyone who works at youth-focused nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Clubs or Hanna Boys Center, everyone who coaches a team, health care providers, scout leaders, among others.
Mandated reporters are strongly discouraged from investigating abuse on their own.
According to the U.S. government’s child welfare website, “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.”
“Reports of suspicions are treated very sensitively by police,” said Sgt. Dave Burgess of the Sonoma County 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.”
For the next 10 minutes at the health club, Egan followed Kilgore from the indoor hot tub to outside the shower area to the changing room to observe as much as he could. “I needed to hear more to be sure, to understand the entire picture,” he said. In the police report, he recounts specific actions that made him increasingly uneasy. About 15 minutes after first hearing Kilgore’s voice, Egan walked decisively to the Club’s front desk to report his concern.
Egan said his mind was racing as he drove the short distance to his home. He spoke briefly with his wife, who also works with children, and then phoned the Healdsburg police directly. He was connected with Officer Craig Smith, who now leads the investigation.
In their training, mandated reporters learn that proof 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 now maintains a central repository of information about reported child abuse.
Nick Egan’s accounting to Officer Smith, however, was compelling enough to spur an immediate investigation.
Mandated reporter training
Anyone interested in mandated reporter training can take a free self-paced online course at mandatedreporterca.com. The Child Abuse Mandated Reporter Training Project is funded by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and the Office of Child Abuse Prevention (OCAP). The goal of this project is to have the free four-hour training available for everyone who works with children. All Sonoma Valley Unified School District teachers and staff were trained in 2015 and 2016 according to SVUSD superintendent Louann Carlomagno.