Months later, science teacher Vinny Ferraiolo’s death ruled homicide

Posted at 10:41 PM, Jun 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-04 14:39:40-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Vinny Ferraiolo, the popular science teacher at Thomas Dale, was also the owner of exotic pet shop Off the Ark off Iron Bridge Road.

That’s where six months ago, on January 3, he was found dead inside, hanging from a rope. At the time police said they did not suspect foul play, and his case was a death investigation. The death certificate obtained by CBS 6 shows that the Medical Examiner doesn't agree.

On the death certificate of the beloved teacher, the condition resulting in death is listed as “ligature strangulation” but the “manner of death” is marked “homicide.”

That’s shocking to his good friend Troy Thomas, who was constantly on the road with Ferraiolo doing exotic pet shows.

"I would never think anyone would want to do harm to Vinny,” said Thomas.  “Everyone loved Vinny.  He put a smile on everyone's face from young kids to the elderly."

Vinny Ferraiolo owned Off the Ark Exotic Pets.

Vinny Ferraiolo owned Off the Ark Exotic Pets.

Thomas didn't understand how police could say there were no signs of foul play, and said he went into the store right after police pulled up the crime tape.

"There was blood everywhere, on the microwave, counters, back room, all different places,” Thomas said.  “It didn't make sense."

On March 28, nearly three months after Ferraiolo’s death, the death certificate was amended from “pending” to homicide. No press release was ever distributed, no announcement made that the status changed.

"In Virginia the M.E.'s office is responsible for investigating all deaths and they take everything into account before finalizing their report," said crime expert Steve Neal, a former Chesterfield detective.

Vinny Ferraiolo was very loved respected by his students at Thomas Dale.

Vinny Ferraiolo was very loved and respected by his students at Thomas Dale.

Chesterfield Police issued a statement that said: "We are aware of the Medical Examiner's finding and our investigation is still ongoing. As with any ongoing investigation, anyone with information should call police at 748-1251or Crime Solvers at 748-0660. We have no additional comment at this time."

For the hundreds who gathered in the days after his death and for the thousands who had passed through his classroom, many questions remain.  Chief among them: who killed their favorite teacher and why?

"I'm shocked to see it in writing and upset it wasn't noticed before and takes six months to come out," said Thomas.

Ferraiolo's brother William Ferraiolo said that he had seen the Medical Examiner’s report and that there are questions.

“But I am not convinced it's a homicide or persuaded, but I am not a medical examiner or pathologist, so I can't really comment any further,” he said.

Again, if you have any information about the case, call Chesterfield Police at 748-1251 or Crime Solvers at 748-0660.

A vigil for Thomas Dale teacher Vinny Ferraiolo was  held at Off the Ark Exotic Pets

A vigil for Thomas Dale teacher Vinny Ferraiolo was held at Off the Ark Exotic Pets.