‘Invisible kid’ overcame hardships, now faces trial

Years ago during an ice storm, Eudora resident Sheery Regalado heard a tapping at the front door of her home.

She opened the door and saw something that still makes her sad to remember: One of her daughter’s junior high-aged friends – a boy nicknamed “K-State” because of the purple jacket he always wore – was covered in ice and looking for shelter.

“He was not quite 13 and out in an ice storm as opposed to being home,” Regalado said.

The boy, Jason W. Dillon, was a regular presence at the Regalado home for several years and was always polite, quiet and respectful, she said. But today, at age 22, Dillon stands accused of a horrific crime: beating his girlfriend’s 3-year-old daughter to death while he was supposed to be baby-sitting her.

Regalado and her family say they were shocked to hear of Dillon’s arrest last week. The person described in police reports, they said, is nothing like the “K-State” they once knew.

“Monsters are not born, they’re made, and if people think he’s a monster, they didn’t know the kid,” she said. “Something had to have gone really, really wrong with him.”

Dillon is charged with killing 3-year-old Sydni C. Perkins on June 18 by shaking her, striking her and knocking her to the ground at his apartment in the 1100 block of George Court. He is in the Douglas County Jail with bond set at $150,000 and has a court appearance on Wednesday.

Sherry Regalado, left, and her daughter Alicia remember Jason Dillon as a sweet kid who slipped through the cracks. Dillon has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of a 3-year-old girl, the daughter of his girlfriend. Pictured with the Regalados Monday is 4-month-old Laura Eaton, whom Sheery Regalado was babysitting.

“He’s scared and he’s very upset,” said his court-appointed defense attorney, Mark Manna.

Dillon told a judge last week that he lived for 4 1/2 years at O’Connell Youth Ranch, a group home for boys. Manna said he didn’t yet know details of Dillon’s background, but he said it appeared Dillon “bounced around” from one parent’s home to another during his teenage years.

“It appears he might have had some problems when he was growing up after his parents divorced,” Manna said.

Dillon was 12 or 13 years old when he met Alicia Regalado, who was a year ahead of him in the Eudora schools. They met through a common friend, and soon “K-State” was spending nearly every day at the Regalado home – eating, watching TV, going to the creek with Alicia or just putting his feet up.

“I knew that neither of his parents wanted him around,” said Alicia Regalado, now 23. “He was always depressed, a sad-sack little kid. We just sort of adopted him as one of the family.”

When the Regalados knew Dillon, his parents were divorced. His mother lived in Eudora and his father lived in Lawrence, they said.

“We took him home one time and his mom wouldn’t unlock the door to let him in the house, so we had to take him to Lawrence to his dad’s house,” Alicia Regalado said.

The Regalados said they didn’t know either parent and didn’t know why he eventually went to live at the youth ranch. They said they never saw any bruises that would indicate he had been physically abused.

Several of Dillon’s teammates and coaches on the football and track teams at Lawrence High School said they only vaguely remembered him or didn’t know him well.

“He was kind of the invisible kid,” Sheery Regalado said.

Alicia Regalado said she once went to visit Dillon at the youth ranch but then lost touch with him.

Sheery Regalado said that about six months ago, Dillon came by the Regalados’ home asking for Alicia. She wasn’t home, so he stayed and talked with Sheery and told her he was living with a woman in Lawrence who had a little girl.

“I thought ‘He’s finally found a place,'” Sheery Regalado said.