Popular Thomas Dale teacher found dead inside his pet store

Posted on: 6:41 pm, January 3, 2014, by and , updated on: 01:33am, January 4, 2014

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR)—Close friends of Thomas Dale biology teacher Vinny Ferraiolo confirmed to CBS 6 that the teacher was found dead inside the exotic pet store he has owned for years.

The call came in from a neighboring business around 12:30 p.m. Friday and police discovered Ferraiolo dead inside his shop, Off the Ark.

Friends tell us that he is survived by his wife, and five children, one he recently adopted from Haiti.

Students and staff will return to school on Monday, but they will not be without support from the school.

“The Thomas Dale High School crisis team met today to discuss the structure for making support services available to students and staff when school reopens Monday,” Shawn Smith, Spokesman, Chesterfield Schools, said.

It quickly became clear on social media that Mr. Ferraiolo was very respected by his students. As the news spread, the Thomas Dale Knights were seen tweeting their condolences.

Ferraiolo had excellent reviews–going back to 2003–on the website Rate My Teachers, which allows students to explain the highs and lows of their classroom experience.

“He inspired me to do something more, and to become a teacher myself,” a student wrote in October 2011.

“He is cool too. He talks to people about problems and helps them out,” another student wrote.

Police said this is an ongoing death investigation, and have said they do not suspect foul play.

There will be a candlelight vigil in front of the Off the Ark, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5.

CBS 6 has interviewed Ferraiolo several times in the past few years (click the video below for his interview on VTM).


  • Elizabeth James says:

    He was always so friendly and knowledgeable. My family always enjoyed talking with him at the shop and the reptile show. He will be missed. God bless his family.

    • Harrison Brooks says:

      This man saved my life and I can never thank him enough . He showed me that when you get a second chance take it and run. He was a great teacher and friend . And you will never be forgotten.rip Mr .F

  • CJ Parsons says:

    I will pray for his family. Vinnie was a nice man, and admired his love of exotic pets. So very sorry to hear this news.

  • When I heard what had happened I didn’t want to believe it, he was just an amazing teacher and friend to everyone. watching the video had me crying like a baby, thinking about his kids, family, and students that will never be able to learn anything else from him. He was my teacher back in high school and when I started a family of my own I would bring my kids to his store because I wanted them to meet the best teacher there ever has been.

  • Crystal says:

    I don’t understand. I literally JUST got an email from him at 8:30 this morning!!

  • Crystal says:

    Whne did this happen? Very Sad…..he was a cool guy.

  • Alexis says:

    R.I.P. Mr.Ferraiolo… He will always be loved and missed by Thomas Dale students!!! He was a great man and was always heard of being an amazing teacher… He will be forever remembered by TDHS!!!

  • Andrew says:

    Hew was the Best teacher i knew always giving me funny and truthful advice when every I needed it and I always loved going to this pet store and i would never think of this to happen and hope it gets investigated thoroughly

  • Cindy says:

    Vinny was the best person. My daughter was sexual attacked and Vinny helped us through it all. He especially helped my daughter thorough the hardest time of her life.. He was one of a kind and made the world a better place. He will be missed and remembered for ever

  • Samantha Schickler says:

    RIP Vinny! You will be missed dearly! I still laugh at the fact for 10 years, you still could never remember my name and always called me Barbie every time I came in to see you… Miss you!

  • Angel Rakestraw says:

    Vinny Ferraiolo was a good friend, my former teacher and a great man and for this to of happened to him…. it’s hard now for me to keep control right now. RIP Vinny Ferraiolo! You will be missed here in my home!

  • This is so sad to hear, he was was one of my favorite teachers from Thomas Dale. I was one of his first students when he started out there, and I remember how excited I was to get to his class. He made it a point to make sure that everyone was involved, even if he had to bend the rules a bit to get us involved. He would dress up as Superman, or do crazy projects outside, rearrange the classroom desks into a circle, or jump on his desk to make sure we were awake. I felt lost in the TD school system, but he always made me feel rewarded and excited to learn. Even after 15+ years I miss his classes!

  • Nita says:

    I can remember when one of my sons had Mr. Ferraiolo. He ask the class to mail him a potatoe chip. Only one chip & had to come in regular mail. Well we dicided to put glue all over the chip. let it dry then mailed it. Mr. Ferraiolo was very impress. He said no one had ever came up with that before. Very kind man. So sad the future Thomas Dale students will not get to experience this Awesome teacher.

  • Cathy says:

    So sad.Tragic loss. He was so sweet (adorable even).

  • Amon says:

    I can’t believe this happened!! He was the best teacher I had every had!! He has the best teaching strategies and of the course the best test😋 ‘r.Ferriolo you will be missed forever!

  • James Shelton says:


  • Aaron Balderson says:

    I wasn’t one of his students, as I went to a different school, but he taught me a lot. Most of what I know about exotic pet trade and care is because of him. He was always a really upbeat guy, always asking about your own life, just wanting to help people and connect with them. He is sure to be dearly missed.

  • Monica Trent says:

    my son was his student last year….he will forever be missed…we need more teachers like him…..an excellent science teacher and a wonderful advisor to our pets…..like my mastifff gretta……he had a love for mastiffs that i cant forget…….bless you Vinny. ….thank you for all your kind words of advice

  • jcs says:

    This is just too hard to grasp. I remember him WAY back when he worked at Sergio’s while he was still in college. Then he gave his time to come and talk to the students at the detention center. My prayers to his family, friends, and students.

  • Hicks, A says:

    Had it not been for Vinny and the incredible staff at Off the Ark Exotic Pets, we wouldn’t have Jasper (i.e. our Green Tree Python) today. Thank-you for your knowledge, expertise, and friendship. We/I will miss you!

  • MMM says:

    “Looks like it is too “mushy” outside for real science today”…..RIP……will NEVER FORGET..

  • Nikki Hagen says:

    I will always remember him walking into the shop and him always saying, “good afternoon ladies!” And I remember trying to bleach his hair blonde, but he liked it yellow more so he made me leave it! He was so funny and always made me smile! My prayers go to his wife and kids now!

  • Stray says:

    I cannot believe this is happening. One of my favorite people in the reptile/exotic community. I cannot believe it. Best of wishes and all my thoughts and respects to his wife and children and close friends.

  • James E Turner says:

    By far one of the best people ive ever met on a man to man stand point and also as a business man I will miss haveing him for guidance with my pets and I hope the shop remains open I haven’t went anywhere else in almost 9years but most my condolences go out to his family

  • Lisa Daniels says:

    I cannot say enough good things about Vinny. His professionalism and enthusiasm will forever be missed. My family and I learned so much from him and I’m grateful to have known him. I’ll never forget my female boa giving birth on his shop counter! My heart goes out to his family.

  • Gary Newton says:

    Mr. F was a great person and teacher. I will miss him as a teacher and a friend in 7th period. RIP

  • Joshua Perkins says:

    Mr. F was the greatest, i feel as tho i have lost a member of my family with his passing. it is a sad day in the world today.

    R.I.P. Vinny Ferrioala
    May your eternity be as full of peace as the minds of everybody you touched.

  • Shanika Hazelwood says:

    Heartfelt sympathy goes to the family. I pray peace be with you all. Vinnie will be missed by many. My son was one of his customers and loved going to his store. He was a huge help. R.I.P

  • Nikki Bass says:

    He was an amazing man. I learned a lot from him. He always had funny stories to tell and crazy adventures to share. I love to learn about reptiles so I always came to him to talk about them. you will be miss very much my friend. R.I.P Vinny.

  • This is so terribly sad to hear. Mr. F was an amazing teacher and helped so many students that were struggling in school. He made time for everyone and he will not be forgotten. The world needs more teachers like him. My deepest condolences to his family. He talked about them often in class and he was a truly great man. RIP, Mr. F.

  • dede berry-Johnson says:

    My heart is so heavy right now to hear the passing of Vinny. I’m in shock. I met vinny thru Xavier, when vinny sold me my first ball python in 2010. Vinny was a science teacher at Thomas Dale high school and owned a pet shop called off the ark exotic pets. He has helped me with my 9 snakes thru out the years. My condolences goes out to his family. R.I.P. Vinny, you will never be forgotten

  • derek fiorello says:

    rip bud you will e missed thanks for everything that you have for me in the past school and my pet shop graduation and all great teacher great exotic pet specialist most of all a friend to his students

  • Alisha says:

    ive never met this man but ive heard so much about him due to the fact my sister is an employee of his at off the ark. its sad to hear and i know he’ll be missed



  • Amber Seay says:

    I knew Vinny through the owning of multiple reptiles and he is the only one I trusted with any of my scaled babies! He was a big advocate for all of us reptile owners and he will sorely missed in my home!! My thoughts and prayers go to his family in their time of grievance!

  • Shea Martin says:

    RIP Mr. F, I had his class my sophomore year. He is still my favorite teacher I’ve ever had.

  • tianca says:

    MR.F was the coolest teacher I eva known he taught me alot throught the year he never gave no one a hard time he is my favorite teacher ever.R.I.P MR.F

  • Kaitlyn Cash says:

    I’ve known Vinny for a couple years now just being a regular customer of his at his animal shop. I’ve also been to a few of his animal shows which he always seemed he had a deep passion for. I remember when i also took my daughter to the Pocahontas state park halloween event in 2012 and Vinny brought an alligator their to teach all the little children about. My daughter thought that was the coolest thing & Besides candy, definitely made her night.
    Vinny was a very nice guy and a great person to know. I will never look at his shop the same without him although his employees are very nice themself. I will continue to remain a loyal customer and May Vinny keep his presence alive at off the ark
    rest in peace

  • Christopher Harris says:

    This is very hard for me as I spoke to Vinny just a few weeks ago and I wanted him to know I was about to try opening a reptile observatory in Houston Texas and would need his insight on so many things in the business. Vinny has been a long time friend to and he is missed. Even though I moved to Texas, I had been staying in touch. Vinny was a better person than this world can offer. He was one of a kind. I will miss him.

Comments are closed.