Treatment center employee sexually abused teen girls in bathroom, Utah officials say

  • In US
  • 2022-12-05 18:09:55Z
  • By Sacramento Bee

A staff member at a residential treatment center for minors is accused of sexually abusing two teens he was supposed to be supervising at the Utah facility, officials said.

Three days after Paul Anthony Nichols, 22, was employed at Lava Heights Academy in Toquerville, he joined a game of truth or dare that three teen girls were playing, according to the police affidavit from the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

Nichols dared the teens to kiss him, according to the affidavit. One of the girls, a 15-year-old, walked into the bathroom and the man followed her.

The 22-year-old man sexually abused the teen on five separate occasions, kissing her, groping her and taking nude photos of her, officials said. All these assaults happened in the same bathroom.

Another victim, a 14-year-old, was also kissed by Nichols in the bathroom the night truth or dare was played, officials said.

Lava Heights Academy's mission is to help "teens heal from past traumas, learn health coping skills, and build healthy relationships," according to the center's website, which describes the facility as a "residential treatment center offering comprehensive and therapeutically informed art programs covering all four arts modalities - music, drama, art, and dance and movement.

Both teens disclosed information about their assaults during an interview with police on Oct. 20, officials said. The man was interviewed by police and confessed to all the allegations, officials said.

In a statement to McClatchy News, a spokesperson for the academy said it is "cooperating and supporting our state officials to the fullest extent."

"Our program follows stringent hiring practices that meet all state, local and federal requirements. We also follow a zero tolerance for abuse, and if an employee acts in violation of this standard, they are immediately terminated," the spokesperson said.

He was arrested and booked into Washington County Jail.

Nichols was charged with one count of rape, five counts of forcible sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to the probable cause statement.

Toquerville is about 140 miles northeast of Las Vegas in southwestern Utah

If you have experienced sexual assault and need someone to talk to, call the National Sexual Assault Hotline for support at 1-800-656-4673 or visit the hotline's online chatroom.

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