The state was supposed to rehabilitate them. Instead, hundreds of children were allegedly abused in N.H.
Updated April 22, 2022
MANCHESTER, NH – Jeffrey Buskey, accused by Meehan of repeatedly assaulting him, faces 25 counts of aggravated sexual assault. Stephen Murphy was working as a clubhouse attendant for the Boston Red Sox in 2019 when he was charged with 26 counts of assault; though prosecutors later dismissed those charges and brought a new indictment charging Murphy with 15 counts of aggravated sexual assault. He is currently suspended from the organization pending the outcome of his case, a Red Sox spokeswoman said.
Attorneys for nine of those charged either declined comment or didn’t return messages left by the Globe. Those representing Murphy and James Woodlock issued statements maintaining their clients’ innocence. All 11 have pleaded not guilty.
In a statement, New Hampshire’s Department of Justice touted the breadth of its ongoing investigation, citing a growing team of prosecutors and investigators devoted solely to examining abuses at the detention center.
“At this point we expect that the investigation and prosecution of these crimes will continue for years,” said Attorney General John Formella. “While so many have come forward, the reality is that we do not yet know the full extent of those who may have suffered as residents at YDC, and we may not know for some time.”
Today, though, former residents insist it’s impossible that facility administrators were unaware of the abuse. Some say they reported it to supervisors during their time at the facility only to be brushed off. When Meehan eventually went to police in February 2017, he says, the state trooper who arrived to speak with him was a former gym teacher at the detention center.
“One of the first things she said was she’d been waiting for us to come forward,” Meehan told the Globe.
Among those currently facing charges, meanwhile, is Bradley Asbury, who in 1994 was one of three supervisors fired from the Youth Detention Services Unit in Concord, where juveniles were held as their cases were being adjudicated. In terminating Asbury, the state concluded that he’d demonstrated a “willful misuse” of his supervisory position, according to a defamation lawsuit Asbury later filed.
The following year, however, Asbury successfully appealed his firing and was reinstated, going on to become a union leader and staunch defender of staff accused of abusing residents.
“We don’t have time to abuse them,” he once told the Associated Press.
Just a few years after he was rehired by the state, prosecutors now allege, Asbury held a resident down while another counselor sodomized him.
The settlement plan currently being considered by New Hampshire lawmakers — which would cap payment at $1.5 million for sexual abuse victims and $150,000 for victims of physical assault — has also been a source of contention. A pair of New Hampshire attorneys representing hundreds of the alleged victims — Rus Rilee and Dave Vicinanzo — say that without some changes, they will advise their clients against signing on.
“The state’s inability to unequivocally apologize for what they did to these kids and do everything they can to make them whole without retraumatizing them is inexcusable,” said Rilee, who along with wife and law partner, Laurie Rilee, has been working on the case since 2018. “[It’s] unbecoming of the state.”
But money, say the alleged victims of YDC, has never been the point.
Stephen Hayward will be dead, he believes, before he ever sees a dime from the state. He wants only for the world to know what happened.
Robert Boudreau, for his part, says there’s no amount that could ever make up for what’s been taken from him; in his mind, justice would be served if he could watch the men who abused him stand before a judge and admit to the things he says they did.
And then there is Cody Belanger.
After emerging from the facility more than a decade ago, Belanger went to college, started a business, got married. But he never forgot the sexual assault he endured during his brief time at YDC, an incident that left him sobbing on the floor of a facility bathroom.
In 2020, at the age of 25, Belanger was elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Last year, after the passage of a state budget calling for the Sununu Center to shut its doors by next March, he was appointed to a committee tasked with devising a plan for closing the facility and determining how — or whether — to replace it.
Not long after, meanwhile, Belanger crossed paths with the governor at the State House in Concord. A relatively new legislator, Belanger didn’t know Sununu well. Still, he felt comfortable enough to levy a request.
When the facility finally comes down, he said, I want to be holding a sledgehammer.