6 charged in NH youth detention center sex abuse probe

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FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2020, file photo is the Sununu Youth Services Center in Manchester, N.H. New Hampshire's attorney general's office said six men were arrested Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in connection with sexual abuse allegations at the state-run youth detention center. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

CONCORD, N.H. – Six former staffers at New Hampshire’s state-run youth detention center were arrested Wednesday in connection with the abuse of 11 children over the course of a decade, including one who continued working with children for nearly 20 years after he is accused of holding a boy down while colleagues raped him.

The Sununu Youth Services Center, formerly known as the Youth Development Center, has been under investigation since July 2019, when two former counselors were charged with raping a teenage boy 82 times in the 1990s.

Those charges were dropped last year in order to strengthen the expanded investigation, but both men were arrested again Wednesday and charged with rape, the attorney general's office said. Two others also were charged with rape, while other two were charged with being accomplices to rape. The allegations span from 1994 to 2005.

The attorney general's office didn't comment on the possibility of further arrests, but said the latest developments were "merely a step forward" and that the investigation will continue.

“Today’s arrests make clear that this administration is committed to holding these perpetrators accountable for their detestable actions,” said Gov. Chris Sununu. “This is not over, and we will continue to investigate these horrific allegations.”

The center is named for former Gov. John H. Sununu, father of the current governor.

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.

“My clients are thrilled that the state has taken the important next step in holding these men criminally responsible for the unspeakable crimes they have committed,” attorney Rus Rilee said. “We have faith that this is just the beginning of the arrests and indictments of not only all of the perpetrators, but also all of those that allowed it to happen.”