New Hampshire

7 Arrested in NH Youth Development Center Child Sex Assault Investigation

The accusations against the men stem from alleged assaults that took place between 1994 and 2005, prosecutors said, but abuse allegations related to the center stretch over six decades

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Seven men were arrested Wednesday in an investigation into child sex assault allegations at New Hampshire's state-run youth detention center decades ago, authorities said.

One of the men faces over thirty counts of sexual assault stemming from allegations by seven former residents of the Youth Development Center in Manchester, according to an announcement from New Hampshire state prosecutors.

The Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly known as the Youth Development Center, has been the focus of a broad criminal investigation since July 2019. Two former counselors at the Manchester facility were charged with 82 counts of rape at that time, but the charges were dismissed last year in order to strengthen the wider investigation. Both of them were arrested again Wednesday.

Six men were initially arrested, prosecutors said: Bradley Asbury, a 66-year-old from Dunbarton; Jeffrey Buskey, a 54-year-old from Quincy, Massachusetts; Frank Davis, a 79-year-old Contoocook; Stephen Murray, a 51-year-old from Danvers, Massachusetts; Lucien Poulette, a 65-year-old from Auburn; and James Woodlock, a 56-year-old from Manchester.

A seventh man was arrested late Wednesday in Florida, prosecutors announced Thursday: Gordon Thomas Searles, a 65-year-old from Brooksville, Florida.

It wasn't immediately clear if the men had attorneys who could speak to the charges. Some were set to be in court to face the charges Thursday.

Complaints filed in court against the men show that some are accused of raping children at the facility by force or coercion, including instances where several of them held a child down to facilitate the attack.

Five of the men were charged with sexual assault, including Poulette, who faces 33 counts, including 11 of aggravated felonious sexual assault. Asbury and Woodlock are accused of being accomplices to sexual assault.

Several of those arrested Wednesday were previously named in a civil lawsuit filed last year in which more than 200 men and women allege they were physically or sexually abused as children by 150 staffers at the Manchester facility from 1963 to 2018. According to their attorney, children were gang raped by counselors, beaten while raped, forced to compete for food in "fight clubs" set up by counselors and locked in solitary confinement for weeks or months.

"They were subjected to physical abuse in the form of beatings, sexual abuse of every kind that you can imagine, held in solitary confinement for weeks and months at a time," said Rus Rilee, an attorney representing the victims.

A state-run juvenile detention center in New Hampshire is accused of covering up allegations of rape.
A state-run juvenile detention center in New Hampshire is accused of covering up allegations of rape.

The accusations against the six men arrested Wednesday stem from alleged assaults that took place between 1994 and 2005, prosecutors said. But abuse allegations related to the center stretch over six decades, with one person who has sued the state representing 230 clients who say they were abused between 1963 and 2018, when they were ages 7 to 18.

Prosecutors said in a statement Wednesday that the investigation into child sex abuse at the Youth Development Center remains ongoing, characterizing the arrests as a step in the probe. Anyone with information that could be useful in the probe can call a hotline at 271-4000.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement that the arrests "make clear that this Administration is committed to holding these perpetrators accountable for their detestable actions. This is not over and we will continue to investigate these horrific allegations."

The Manchester facility, now called the Sununu Youth Services Center after former Gov. John H. Sununu, the current governor's father, serves children ordered to a secure institutional setting by the juvenile justice system. The average population last year was just 17 residents overseen by about 90 employees, though it once housed upward of 100 youths and employed a larger staff.

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