Tag Archives: Child Sex Abuse

CHILDREN WERE FAIR GAME AT THE NH JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER PT-2

The state was supposed to rehabilitate them. Instead, hundreds of children were allegedly abused in N.H.

Updated April 22, 2022

MANCHESTER, NH  –  Even now, as one division of the state attorney general’s office works to investigate the hundreds of allegations, another department within the office has sought to discredit a victim’s accusations as it defends the state against civil claims.

“If you look at it today,” says David Meehan, a former YDC resident whose 2020 lawsuit helped bring the facility’s sordid history into public view, “we’re not that far really from where we were.”

They were among the state’s most vulnerable children.  They came from cities and small towns, from broken homes and shattered families.  By the time they arrived, some had already been subjected to a lifetime’s worth of abuse.

Violent youths, including the teens involved in the Pamela Smart case, were housed at YDC.  But for decades, many others were sent for minor offenses:  stealing or skipping school or because a parent had lost custody and there was nowhere else to put them. Once, in the 1970s, a judge reportedly ordered a 13-year-old girl to the facility because she declined to testify against a 30-year-old man charged with raping her.

When Meehan arrived at YDC in 1995, a scrawny and scared 14-year-old, he’d already heard the stories.  A runaway snatched up by police for a string of burglaries, Meehan was in the back of a sheriff’s car bound for the courthouse, he said in an interview, when the kid next to him — a return offender — told him about the beatings and rapes he said happened there.

It was about a year after his arrival, Meehan recalls, that a guard arrived in his room one day to conduct a contraband search.  At the man’s orders, he undressed.  As a result of the sexual assault that followed, Meehan alleges in a lawsuit, he contracted gonorrhea, for which he had to be treated at the facility’s infirmary.

The assault would be the start of a horrific two-year stretch of what Meehan says was sometimes daily abuse.

There were occasions, Meehan says now, when he would be raped by two different guards in the same day.  Once, Meehan says, he was forced to watch as a guard sexually assaulted a female resident (girls were housed separately at the facility).  Another time, he says, he was taken to the off-site apartment of a counselor who cocked a pistol, held it to Meehan’s head, and ordered the teen to perform oral sex on him.

Another resident, Robert Boudreau, 48 now, remembers acting out in order to get put into solitary confinement.  Being chained alone to a metal bed, he reasoned, was preferable to what he says awaited him in the front seat of a then-staffer’s car.

Michael Donovan, a self-proclaimed country kid, says he ended up at the facility in the late 1970s after his mother lost custody and a pair of local group homes were too full to take him.  He was raped by staffers on seven or eight occasions in the weeks before his uncle — the only person he would tell about the abuse — managed to get him out, he says.

During nights at the facility, Donovan says now, “you just hoped it wasn’t your turn that night.”

The first time guards came for Michael Gilpatrick, not long after a runaway attempt, he figured he was going to get written up.  But this time, the boy, housed in the facility’s East Cottage in the late 1990s, was taken into a stairwell, where two guards held him down while two others raped him, he alleges.

Like many others, he kept his mouth shut — even after the sexual abuse allegedly continued in the months and years that followed.

“Who do you go to?” says Gilpatrick.  “They have control over visits, [whether you’re allowed] to go on furlough, discipline. They were in charge of everything.

“They were like God.”

.jpg photo of Sununu Youth Services CenterThe youth detention center was built on a stretch of pastoral farmland in Manchester, a sprawling property abutting the winding ribbon of the Merrimack River with a working farm and a collection of fruit trees.

It was 1858, and New Hampshire officials, taking a cue from other states, set out to create a place where delinquent children could be housed separately from adult offenders — a pioneering notion at the time.  Their vision was grand:  Youth would be housed, fed, and rehabilitated before emerging, thankful and reformed, as productive citizens.

“[Children] shall look back to their sojourn here, not as to a place of degradation and punishment, but as to a kind and affectionate home,” US Representative T.M. Edwards said during the facility’s dedication ceremony.  “Not with feelings of shame and aversion, but with hearts filled with gratitude to the state for its parental interposition in their behalf in the hour of their extremest need.”

From the start, however, rehabilitation was often pursued with brutal force.

The facility was a haven of cruelty. One early punishment, known as the “water cure,” involved staffers spraying cold water into the face of a girl dressed only in her underwear, her hands held in restraints to prevent her from shielding herself, Governor Charles W. Tobey revealed in the 1930s.  Girls were forced to lie on a bed or a laundry basket as they were beaten as many as 250 times with rubber piping.

“[They] beat them so bad that the staff would have to have other staff come in because they were so tired from beating the kids,” says Gary Wall, a onetime intern at YDC who is writing a book about the facility’s first 100 years.

Tobey, for his part, minced no words in labeling the facility a place with “punitive methods savored of barbarism and the Dark Ages.”

But while the facility would undergo a variety of changes in the decades to come — alternate names, new buildings — its penchant for violence and abuse, former residents say, would remain deeply ingrained.

Visitors to the facility, too, recall disturbing scenes.

Pamela Kirby, who regularly visited her son at YDC when he was living there in the 1990s, told the Globe she watched a campus baseball game in which one player traversed the field in leg shackles.  Another parent, G. Michael Sanborn, whose foster son was a resident at YDC a few years later, recalled a visit to the facility in which he saw several children walk past without pants.

Unsettled, he inquired about the bizarre scene.

To dissuade runaway attempts, Sanborn says he was told, staff sometimes took the children’s clothing.

In 2000, the state’s child welfare agency — facing a growing list of accusations about abuse at the facility — launched an investigation.

Among the allegations were claims that children were locked in their rooms for weeks and months at a time, that a boy’s head had been repeatedly slammed into a pool table by a staffer, and that a resident had lost a fingertip after a staff member slammed his hand in a door.

CHILDREN WERE FAIR GAME AT THE NH JUVENILE DETENTION CENTER PT-1

The state was supposed to rehabilitate them. Instead, hundreds of children were allegedly abused in N.H.

Updated April 22, 2022

 MANCHESTER, NH  –  She didn’t cry when the pregnancy test came back positive.  She didn’t scream or shout or attempt to explain to officials how she — a girl confined to New Hampshire’s state-run juvenile detention center  –  could have possibly become pregnant.

No one at the facility seemed all that interested in getting to the bottom of it, Michaela Jancsy says now.  And besides, the counselor had told her to keep quiet.

She’d met him a couple years after arriving at the facility as a 12-year-old facing assault charges, who had asked to be placed at the center rather than another group home.

He was in his 30s, she says, with a wife and at least one child, and tasked with keeping watch over the children of the detention center.  In a place where adults regularly ignored and tormented her, she saw him as a rare ally.  He sneaked her extra bottles of shampoo and would sometimes step in when other staffers got rough.  During one-on-one meetings in his office, he showered her with praise:  Others might not see her potential, he told her, but he did.

Within months, she says, he began driving her to a wooded area of Manchester, raping her, again and again, in the back seat of his pickup.

When the pregnancy test came back positive, Jancsy says, it was handled quietly;  aside from the nurse who administered the test, Jancsy recalls no one from the state facility approaching her to inquire about how it might’ve occurred.

Soon after, a staffer drove her to an off-site medical office.  A doctor provided two pills to terminate the pregnancy.  That night, she lay crying in her room, her stomach pulsing with pain, wishing for her mom.

Jancsy left the state-run facility at 17 and did her best to build a life.  She got married, had children, tried — with varying degrees of success — to bury deep the things that had happened at the youth detention center.

And they might’ve stayed buried, had she not turned on the television one evening not long ago to find a news report that took her back a decade and a half.

An investigation into the juvenile facility had been opened.  Authorities were looking for victims.

She picked up the phone.

For more than 150 years, the State of New Hampshire has funneled its troubled children to a sprawling correctional facility in northwest Manchester.  Through the years, it has housed a steady flow of youth offenders, the numbers fluctuating from less than a dozen at times to more than 150.

For some it may have proved a temporary haven, a place to transition from a broken life to a better one.  But many who spent time there depict it as a house of horrors.  Rampant sexual abuse by staffers, beatings so severe they broke bones.  Residents forced by staff to fight each other for food.  Solitary confinement stays that stretched for months.  The kind of violence that leaves lasting psychological damage, rippling through generations.

The stories of abuse have, for decades, stayed largely shielded from public view.  Hints of what went on inside the institution’s red-brick dormitories came in dribs and drabs  –  the rare termination of a problem employee, independent investigations that outlined the center’s disturbing culture but seemed to do little to curb mistreatment.

A reckoning is finally taking shape now.  And just as in some other cases of rampant child abuse  –  the clergy abuse scandal in Boston and in the Diocese of Manchester, for example  –  it is not the institutional hierarchy or government agencies that have led the way to accountability.  It is the victims themselves, the children grown to adulthood, demanding action and recompense and brave enough to share their stories, who have joined in civil lawsuits wending their way through the state court system.

More than 500 men and women have so far come forward with allegations of sexual or physical abuse at the hands of staff, a pattern of mistreatment spanning six decades.  At least 150 staffers have so far been implicated by alleged victims, according to court filings and attorneys for the plaintiffs.  The breadth of wrongdoing, experts say, has quietly approached or exceeded some of the country’s most high-profile child sexual abuse scandals.

“New England should be beyond outraged,” said Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, a group that advocates for child protection legislation.  “Outraged in flashing red lights.”

The alleged victims span generations and social strata.  Among those who have come forward: a New Hampshire state representative who has long been critical of the center’s history but who revealed in an interview with the Globe  –  for the first time publicly  –  that he, too, was sexually assaulted by a staff member during his time at the facility.

“It was essentially a youth prison,” said Cody Belanger, a 27-year-old Rockingham Republican, who was detained at the center at the age of 13 or 14.  “We felt that we weren’t worth anything, that they weren’t even going to bother listening to our concerns.”

For decades, he was right.  Few did.

Now, though, as the number of alleged victims continues to grow, state leaders are promising change.  A criminal investigation is underway, though officials say it could take years to complete.  State legislators are considering a massive settlement plan that would set aside $100 million for victims.

Governor Chris Sununu has said he wants the building — commonly known as the Youth Development Center, or YDC — razed, and some officials have called for it to be abandoned by next spring.  The governor’s link to the facility is personal as well as official: in 2006, it was renamed the Sununu Youth Services Center, after his father, former governor and White House chief of staff John H. Sununu.

A spokesman for the current governor told the Globe that Sununu has been “incredibly clear and vocal” that the allegations must be investigated and dealt with.

“We’re going to right what we need to right,” Sununu said during his State of the State address in February.  “And we’re designing for the future in a way that can be more sustainable and create a better product for all of us.”

Despite such recent acknowledgment of their demands for justice, however, former residents are pushing for more.  To date, they say, there has been no public apology from the state.  Eleven former workers have been charged with participating in the abuse, but no one in past YDC leadership has been forced to answer for the abuses that occurred at the facility under their watch.

TX AG Teams Round Up Child Predators

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General LogoAG Paxton’s Law Enforcement Round Up

April 1, 2022

HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNIT

In Smith County, Brandon Lee Mon Johnson pled guilty to continuous trafficking of persons and sexual assault of a child on February 28 in Smith County.  Johnson was sentenced to 40 years confinement in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison.

CHILD EXPLOITATION UNIT

In Bexar County, Mel Alan Loeffler was arrested on March 3 on five counts of possession of child pornography. Loeffler provided a voluntary statement and confessed to downloading and viewing images and videos of child pornography.  He was then transported to the Bexar County Jail where he was booked without incident.  This case was received as a NCMEC CyberTipline Report.

In Bexar County, Rudy Jesse Garza was arrested on March 2 for one count of possession of child pornography.  Garza was transported to the Bexar County Jail where he was booked without incident and will appear before a magistrate.  This case was received as a NCMEC CyberTipline report.

In Brazos County, Wayne Marcus Silva was arrested on March 8 after being charged with three counts of possession of child pornography.  The 49 year-old Brazos County resident gave a full confession to posing as a 16-year-old male to communicate via social media with a 12-year-old female in Seattle.  Silva requested the child send him nude photographs and videos of herself.  Silva’s case will be presented to a Brazos County grand jury for five counts of possession of child pornography and sexual performance by a child.  This apprehension first came as a referral from the Seattle Washington Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce.

In Kerr County, Christopher Allen Cuellar pled guilty to three counts of aggravated sexual assault of a child, three counts of indecency with a child through sexual contact, and two counts of promotion of child pornography on March 1.  Cuellar is scheduled for a sentencing hearing in May.  This case was referred from a proactive undercover ICAC investigation from North Carolina.

In McLennan County, a Grand Jury returned a one-count indictment for possession of visual depictions of sexual activities by minors against Steven Rathbun on March 8.  This case was referred by the NCMEC CyberTipline report.

In Williamson County, Aidan Wix was sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication on four counts of possession of child pornography on March 2.  He confessed that he downloaded and possessed multiple images of child pornography.  Wix was previously arrested on four counts of possession of child pornography.

To read about more arrests click here.

Texas Attorney General Law Enforcement Roundup

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General LogoTX AG Paxton’s Law Enforce­ment Round Up

February 23, 2022 Press Release

HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNIT

In Bexar County, a suspect was arrested on January 25 for a probation violation and the suspect’s cell phone was seized as evidence in connection with a child pornography investigation.  The Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Fugitive and Human Trafficking Units made the arrest.  The OAG will be the lead agency for this investigation.

FUGITIVE APPREHENSION UNIT

In Multiple Regions, during the month of January, the OAG Fugitive Apprehension Unit (FAU) conducted a roundup focusing on parole violators on parole for sex offenses, or those previously arrested for sex offenses, those wanted for failure to register as a sex offender, and suspects wanted by local agencies for various sex offenses.  Of the 112 total arrests made by FAU in the month of January, 42 met the roundup criteria.

In Bell County, Antonio Trevino was arrested on February 2 for violating the conditions of his parole by incurring monitor violations.  Trevino was previously convicted of assault, injury to a child, serious bodily injury with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to life in prison.

In Bexar County, Michael Rene Rodriguez was indicted on December 21 by a Bexar County Grand Jury on five counts of possession of child pornography.  Rodriguez was subsequently arrested on all five counts.  The Digital Forensics Unit assisted in this investigation.

In Bexar County, Norberto Lazaro Delagarza, a Tango Laredo (Larete) Gang member, was arrested on February 1 for violating the conditions of his parole by absconding and on an outstanding federal warrant for probation violation for dangerous drugs.  Delagarza was previously convicted of manufacturing delivery of a controlled substance, a 1st degree felony, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison, plus 10 years of probation.  In 2016, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  The United States Marshals Service and the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force assisted in this arrest.

In Bexar County, Quincey Alexander Daniels was arrested on February 2 for violating the conditions of his parole by being indicted for the charge of a felon in possession of a firearm.  Daniels was previously convicted of burglary of a habitation, a 2nd degree felony and was sentenced to 10 years of probation.  In 2018, his probation was revoked, and he was sentenced to 8 years in prison.  He was also previously convicted of assault on a family member by choking/strangulation and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

In Bexar County, Benjamin Scott Polasek was arrested on February 2 for violating the conditions of his parole by using alcohol and marijuana, being released from sex offender treatment, and having contact with children in San Antonio.  Polasek was previously convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child, a 1st degree felony and was sentenced to 72 months on probation.  He was later placed on parole and sentenced to 6 years in prison.

In Brazoria County, Brandon Jamal Jones was arrested on February 1 on an outstanding warrant for possession of a controlled substance.  New charges for possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute were issued at the time of his arrest.  The Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force assisted in this arrest.

In Brazoria County, John Louis Gutierrez was arrested on February 2 for failure to maintain mandated sex offender registration requirements and a corresponding failure to comply with sex offender duty to register for life/annually.  Gutierrez was previously convicted of indecency with a child through sexual contact and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

In Brazoria County, Barrion Demond Oliver was arrested on February 2 for failure to maintain mandated sex offender registration requirements and a corresponding failure to comply with sex offender duty to register for life/annually.  Oliver was previously charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child but pled down to indecency with a child through sexual contact and was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

In Comal County, Robert Ryan Aguirre was arrested on January 31 for violating the conditions of his parole by incurring GPS monitor violations.  Aguirre is on parole for multiple convictions.  Aguirre was previously convicted of possession of a controlled substance, a state jail felony, violating bond more than two times within 12 Months, a 3rd degree felony, and was convicted of assault of a family member with a previous conviction, a 3rd degree felony.

In Dallas County, Kolten Eugene Lindsey was arrested on February 2 for violating his parole by a monitor violation.  Lindsey is a convicted sex offender previously convicted of indecency with a child by exposure and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.  Lindsey is currently on parole for a 2010 conviction for tampering with physical evidence in Victoria County, for which he was given a 10-year suspended sentence.

In Dallas County, Michael Aaron Chisler was arrested on February 2 for violating his parole by absconding from a half-way house and on an outstanding warrant for failure to register as a sex offender.  Chisler was previously convicted of possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

In Fort Bend County, Elijah Jean was arrested on February 2 for an outstanding warrant for homicide, tampering with physical evidence and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  The Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force assisted with his apprehension.

In Harris County, Richard Reyes was arrested on January 28 for failure to maintain mandated sex offender registration requirements, and warrants were issued for failure to notify of a change of address with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles- sex offender docket and failure to report a residence change to another state- sex offender docket.  Reyes was previously convicted of lewd and lascivious battery, with a victim under 16 in Duval County (Florida) and was sentenced to 3 years’ probation. Reyes’ probation was later revoked and he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  The United States Marshals Service, Gulf Coast Violent Offender and Fugitive Task Force assisted in this apprehension.

In Harris County, Anthony Angelo Burrell was arrested on February 2 on multiple outstanding warrants for: compelling prostitution under 18 years of age, trafficking of a child, possession of a controlled substance, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance.  The Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force assisted in this apprehension.

In Harris County, Travis Vossler was arrested on February 1 on an outstanding warrant for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  The Gulf Coast Violent Offender Task Force assisted in this arrest.

In Hopkins County, William Michael Miller was arrested on January 30 on warrants for indecent behavior with a minor, computer- aided solicitation of a minor, and a warrant for 7 counts of pornography involving a minor.  This arrest was made after a request for assistance was made by the Louisiana Office of Attorney General.  The Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force assisted in this arrest.

In Williamson County, Larry Ray Johnston was arrested on February 1 for violating the conditions of his parole by incurring monitor violations.  Johnston was previously convicted of burglary of a habitation with intent to violate or abuse the victim sexually and was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

In Van Zandt County, Christopher Steven Butler, a Peckerwood Gang member, was arrested on February 2 on an outstanding warrant for bond revocation and for the manufacture/delivery of a controlled substance.  The Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force assisted in this apprehension.

In Van Zandt County, Desiree Teresse Rinehart was arrested on February 2 on an outstanding warrant for a bond violation for abandoning/endangering a child and criminal negligence.  The Joint East Texas Fugitive Task Force assisted in this apprehension. 

TX AG Investigates Chinese Owned Co For Crimes Against Children, Drug Smuggling

.jpg photo of Texas Attorney General LogoAG Paxton Investigates TikTok for Potential Facilitation of Human Trafficking & Child Privacy Violations

AUSTIN, TX  –  Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued two Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) to TikTok Inc.  This investigation focuses on TikTok’s potential facilitation of human trafficking and child privacy violations, as well as other potential unlawful conduct.

“Chinese-owned company TikTok may be complicit in child exploitation, sex trafficking, human trafficking, drug smuggling and other unimaginable horrors,” Attorney General Paxton said.  “I will get to the bottom of these concerns and make sure Big Tech doesn’t interfere with the safety and security of Texans.”

To read the CIDs click here