KY juvenile justice worker quits after police discover text messages with girl in custody

  • In US
  • 2022-12-08 16:53:10Z
  • By Lexington Herald-Leader

Lexington police say they are investigating a youth worker who quit the Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center this year after officials questioned his text messaging with a girl who was in custody.

Darren L. Stevenson, 29, resigned his job at the state-run youth detention center on April 11. At the time, Stevenson had been on special investigative leave for three months due to the allegations pending against him.

Stevenson declined to comment to the Herald-Leader this week.

"I don't think I want to talk about that," Stevenson said in a brief phone interview. "I'm living my best life."

On Oct. 13, internal investigators at the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet submitted a 45-page report in which they said evidence substantiated an allegation that Stevenson engaged in sexual activity that encouraged the use of a youth for the sexual gratification of himself or another.

Specifically, investigators said, a search of the girl's cell phone by a Lexington police detective revealed messages exchanged over several days between her and Stevenson, who was nicknamed "Papi" inside the center.

In the messages, Stevenson asked the girl for passwords to her social media accounts "so he could help her sell photographs and video of a sexual nature," cabinet investigator Stephen Davis wrote in his report. Stevenson logged on to the girl's accounts and contacted her through Snapchat while she was in custody, Davis wrote.

"A search of the phone revealed numerous photographs (of the girl) in lingerie and nude. There was also a pricing list showing prices for photographs and videos," Davis wrote. The girl "admitted they were going to charge people for photographs but were then not going to send them."

Police Detective Matt Collins and state investigators opened the case last December after youths held at the center said Stevenson gave girls his phone or iPad and asked them to take nude photos of themselves in the bathroom. Some youths at the facility referred to Stevenson as a "weirdo" and a "pervert," Davis wrote.

While they were investigating the first allegation, a girl held at the facility told them that Stevenson had entered her room, asked her to lift her shirt and licked her breasts, according to Davis' report. But the girl had covered the security camera in her room and could not provide an exact date or time for the alleged incident, Davis wrote.

Stevenson declined to give a statement to state investigators about the allegations, according to Davis' report.

State investigators ruled both the allegations about the nude photos and the episode in the girl's room to be unsubstantiated, meaning "there is insufficient evidence to determine if the incident occurred," Davis wrote.

However, once police recovered the text message exchanges from the girl's phone, Davis said the third allegation, about the use of a youth for sexual gratification, was substantiated.

The case is now closed at the Department of Juvenile Justice and its parent agency, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, because Stevenson has resigned, said cabinet spokeswoman Morgan Hall.

"If an employee resigns during an investigation there is no further action that the department or cabinet can take against them." Hall said.

No criminal charges have been filed, according to Fayette County court records. But the Lexington police investigation of the case remains open, police spokeswoman Hannah Sloan said this week.

The Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center is one of eight such facilities operated around the state by the Department of Juvenile Justice. They are chronically under-staffed and, in some cases, overcrowded, with repeated instances of assaults, riots and escapes.

In recent months, the Fayette County facility, located on Spurr Road in Lexington, typically has held between 40 and 50 youths.

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