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Ex-employee accused of raping teen at troubled Nye County facility

Updated May 27, 2022 - 4:15 pm

A former employee at a youth residential facility in Amargosa Valley was arrested in Las Vegas after he was accused of raping a teenage girl and sexually exploiting two other juveniles.

A 16-year-old told Nye County deputies that Christopher Burleson, 34, had raped her and forced her to perform other sexual acts while at Never Give Up Youth Healing Center, according to an arrest warrant released Thursday by Beatty Justice Court.

The girl, whose name was redacted from the report, said Burleson made her go into an empty dorm sometime between Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 and choked her while he forced her to perform sexual acts.

Deputies found surveillance video confirming that Burleson entered the dorm the teenager was in and left six minutes later, according to the arrest warrant.

Never Give Up released a statement Friday through a public relations firm. It stated, in part:

“When Never Give Up, under the previous management, was made aware of this situation, it was immediately self-reported to the local authorities and an internal investigation was completed while working alongside other authorities. Previous management, at the time of this incident, followed all policies and procedures of the facility.”

According to the statement, “the staff member in question” resigned before the investigation was completed.

“Since 2017, Never Give Up has provided desperately needed behavioral and mental health services to hundreds of Nevada’s most complex and fragile youth,” the statement continued.

A criminal complaint filed Wednesday expanded the allegations to include two other victims, a 17-year-old and a 14-year-old who were clients of the facility.

The complaint alleges that Burleson forced the 17-year-old to perform sexual acts in his presence sometime between September and Nov. 5.

While the 14-year-old was at the facility for treatment from prior sexual abuse, prosecutors wrote, Burleson forced her to answer inappropriate questions “for the Defendant’s sexual gratification.”

In August, Nye County sheriff’s deputies were called to break up a riot at the facility after 84 youths were overpowering staff members and trying to escape, according to a statement from the Sheriff’s Office at the time.

No juveniles were injured, but one staff member was flown to a Las Vegas hospital for treatment.

Two children were taken into custody at the scene for their involvement in the riot, and two others were found in Pahrump the next morning and arrested.

The criminal complaint against Burleson list his last address as an apartment complex near West Russell Road and South Tenaya Way.

Burleson was arrested at around 10 p.m. April 29 at a Las Vegas home, according to an arrest report from the Metropolitan Police Department, but the exact address was redacted from the report.

He was charged with sexual assault, three counts of sexual abuse and exploitation of a child, and two counts of sexual conduct with a child under his care.

In 2019, the Nye County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into allegations of physical and sexual abuse at Never Give Up, which is located on the same rural Amargosa Valley property as the private boarding school Northwest Academy, which closed earlier that year amid abuse allegations.

The married owners of Northwest Academy, Marcel and Patricia Chappuis, faced numerous felony counts of child abuse and neglect before resolving their criminal case in July. The charges largely stemmed from documented issues with the tap water at the school for “troubled youth.”

Marcel Chappuis, a 75-year-old psychologist who is no longer licensed to practice in the state, pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of disturbing the peace. His 68-year-old wife, Patricia, agreed to plead guilty at a later date to a gross misdemeanor. The exact charge was not specified.

It was unclear Friday whether the Sheriff’s Office was still investigating Never Give Up.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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