Education

Former sheriff’s deputy admits having sex with Hilton Head High principal inside school

A former Beaufort County sheriff’s deputy who resigned without admitting guilt in 2016 when confronted with allegations that he had sex with a principal on school grounds now says the accusations are true.

As a first step to possibly regaining his job, former Staff Sgt. DeJuan Holmes agreed to submit to the internal affairs inquiry he avoided in 2016 by resigning. In June 2018, Holmes admitted to investigators that he had an affair with Hilton Head Island High School principal Amanda O’Nan and had had sex with her inside the school while on duty.

Holmes also admitted he had allowed O’Nan in his patrol car multiple times in violation of sheriff’s office policy.

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O’Nan denied both the affair and abusing her position with the school when the allegations — brought to the sheriff’s office by her then-husband — surfaced in 2016. On Monday, O’Nan declined comment about Holmes’ admission.

The Packet and the Gazette do not typically write about allegations of affairs, but both parties are or were in unique positions of public trust and the accusations include claims that they abused their positions and used a public school building and public equipment to do so.

“I know what I did was not proper, was not right,” Holmes said during a recorded interview with internal affairs that the newspapers acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request. “I didn’t mean to bring any bad shame to the sheriff or my family. … I’m very sorry for what I did.”

Both O’Nan and Holmes were married at the time of the alleged affair.

In the 11-minute interview with investigators, Holmes offers mostly short, direct answers without a lot of detail. In it, he says:

  • He had an affair with O’Nan and had sex with her at the school while he was on duty.

  • He drove O’Nan in his patrol car “three or four times,” and did so without his supervisors’ knowledge.

  • He is no longer in a relationship with O’Nan.

  • He briefly followed and ran a license plate check on a car that belonged to Karen Anderson, a longtime friend of O’Nan’s husband, Chris. Anderson had filed a complaint that Holmes ran her license without cause after she had gone to Holmes’ house looking for Amanda O’Nan’s car. Holmes said he felt justified because the car being there was “suspicious.” Holmes said O’Nan was not in the car at the time, as Anderson had alleged.

A message left on what is believed to be Holmes’ phone was not returned Monday.

Asked Monday afternoon if she stood by her previous denial, O’Nan said she would not answer questions.

“Obviously this is a personal matter and, at this point, I’ll just say that I need to reach out to my superintendent and my lawyer,” O’Nan said.

When the accusations first surfaced in April 2016, O’Nan denied having an affair, traveling in Holmes’ car or ever meeting with Holmes in the school after hours. “Obviously, it’s false,” she said at the time of the allegations.

O’Nan has served as the principal of Hilton Head Island High School for the past 12 years and is well-regarded for the school’s success. Over the years, the school has been recognized as one of South Carolina’s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report and the South Carolina Department of Education. In addition to its academic accolades, the school has repeatedly received top statewide honors for its athletic programs.

The school district supported O’Nan at the time, saying they had investigated the claims and had found no evidence of wrongdoing by the principal. The district would not say specifically what its investigation consisted of, saying to do so could harm future investigations. It is unclear what actions, if any, the district will take given the new information.

The accusations first arose when Chris O’Nan filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office against Holmes. Chris O’Nan told investigators that his wife would receive a text message in the middle of the night and get up and leave, claiming a problem at the school. She was also seen “meeting (Holmes) at the school and taking him into her office after midnight, where they would stay for over an hour at a time,” according to allegations in the complaint.

That complaint quotes Chris O’Nan as saying he talked to his wife about her relationship with Holmes as far back as October 2015 and that she told him Holmes was a deputy assisting her with issues at the school. Holmes began working at the sheriff’s office in 2002, but was never a school resource officer.

Amanda O’Nan and her husband have since divorced.

‘Obviously there are some policy violations’

Holmes has not officially applied for his job back.

In early 2018, he was told he would first have to bring resolution to the 2016 internal affairs investigation.

On June 21, Holmes met with Special Investigator Lt. Brian Baird and admitted to the main allegations in Chris O’Nan’s complaint. Investigators did not use a polygraph on Holmes because he “admitted to what he had done” and there was “no reason to suspect he had not told the truth,” spokesman Capt. Bob Bromage said.

At the end of his questioning, Baird told Holmes that “obviously there are some policy violations here,” but that he thought the interview would “finally bring resolution to this.”

A report authored by Baird found that Holmes violated the Sheriff’s Office’ Code of Conduct, which states that employees “conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects the ethical standards,” and its vehicle assignment policy, which requires that employees request approval before driving a non-employee in their sheriff’s office vehicle.

Bromage said it’s possible Holmes could face disciplinary action if he were to be rehired, but that he would be considered if he does eventually apply.

“He’s not lying,” Bromage said. “He’s not stealing. He’s not breaking the law. Honesty is what our residents expect, and DeJuan Holmes was honest. So should he be given consideration? Sure.”

Maggie Angst covers education for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette. In 2017, Maggie was named the Media Person of the Year by the South Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicago area.
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