Mother, step-father accused in Seneca Falls boy's death plead not guilty

Alison and Donald Bovio in Seneca County Court on May 24, 2018 (Photojournalist Quindell Williams)

A mother and step-father indicted for the death of a 3-year-old boy have pleaded not guilty.

In Seneca County Court Thursday morning, Donald and Alison Bovio, both 38, each pleaded not guilty to the 12-count indictment against them, which includes three murder charges.

Donald and Alison Bovio, the step-father and mother of Panagiotis "Peter" Stephanides-Vacchino, were first charged after an investigation into a medical call 911 received from Donald Bovio reporting a child had fallen down a flight of stairs, according to Seneca Falls Police Chief Stuart Peenstra. Police said the child, a 3-year-old boy, was unresponsive and had substantial trauma to his head and body.

The boy was flown to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse for treatment. Peenstra said during the treatment at the hospital, it was determined the boy's injuries were not consistent with a fall.

The Bovios were indicted by a grand jury shortly after Stephanides-Vacchino passed away last week. The indictment includes:

  • 3 counts of second-degree murder
  • 2 counts of first-degree manslaughter
  • 1 count of second-degree manslaughter
  • 1 count of reckless assault of a child
  • 2 counts of second-degree assault
  • 1 count of fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon
  • 2 counts of endangering the welfare of a child

The pair was originally arraigned on an assault charge before Stephanides-Vacchino's death and ordered held on $50,000 cash, $100,000 bond. Seneca County Judge Jason Cook granted District Attorney Barry Porsch's request to have bail increased to $400,000 cash, $800,000 bond for Donald and Alison Bovio during Thursday's arraignment.

Court documents obtained by CNYCentral state that both suspects allegedly struck the victim "with a belt numerous times and intentionally caused his head to strike a hard floor surface." This apparently caused the victim to become unconscious. Documents also said the victim was unable to breathe on his own and stated he has "bleeding on his brain."

The child was unresponsive and had no brain activity as a result of these injuries, the documents said. These incidents allegedly happened at 25 Peterman Road Apartment 2A in the Town of Seneca Falls.

Speaking outside Seneca County Court Thursday, Seneca Falls Police Chief Stuart Peenstra added to those allegations, saying Stephanides-Vacchino was a victim of maltreatment and abuse.

"This child was abused for quite some time from what we can tell," Peenstra said. "He was malnourished — he was approximately 20 pounds — when we came in contact with him.

"We're working diligently on making sure that we're going to have justice for this young boy," the chief added.

Peenstra said the Bovios were living out of bags in the apartment; he said it isn't clear if the couple, who had recently moved to the area from Massachusetts, had not unpacked yet or if they had items in bags to allow for a quick departure.

The funeral for Panagiotis "Peter" Stephanides-Vacchino is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Dartmouth, Mass. Calling hours are Friday at 4 p.m. at the Rock Funderal Home in New Bedford, Mass.

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