A youth counselor, who worked with girls at Seattle's residential recovery program for prostituted youth, was fired Thursday after being charged with allegedly making sexual comments to a 16-year-old in his care. Ralph Wells, 32, has been charged with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
A youth counselor, who for 2 ½ years worked at Seattle’s residential-recovery program for prostituted youth, was fired Thursday after being accused of sexual comments and suggestive behavior toward a 16-year-old girl in his care.
Ralph Wells, 32, was charged last Friday with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, after a joint investigation by the Seattle Police Department and state Child Protective Services that was launched in early February, according to charging documents King County prosecutors filed.
Wells was arrested Feb. 1 and spent less than 48 hours in the King County Jail before he was conditionally released, jail records show.
After the alleged victim reported what happened, Wells was immediately suspended without pay, said Deborah Edison, a spokeswoman for YouthCare, a Seattle nonprofit that operates The Bridge recovery program. He was officially terminated Thursday, she said.
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Edison said all program staff members were subjected to rigorous background checks by a private contractor and were also screened by the state Department of Social and Health Services. The checks on Wells raised no red flags, she said.
According to charging papers, a number of girls were watching a movie at The Bridge house, a secured facility, on the night of Jan. 30.
Several girls, accompanied by a staff member, went outside around 9 p.m. for a smoke break, but the 16-year-old stayed behind in the living room, the papers say.
“Interested in her”
Wells allegedly sat beside the girl on a couch, put his arm around her, told her he “was interested in her” and said he was finding it hard to come to work because he was distracted by her, the papers say.
The girl — who later described the incident as “awkward” but not “scary” — said nothing and Wells got up when he heard the door beep, indicating the other girls were returning.
Later that evening, the girl took her medication and went to bed, the papers say. Over the course of the night, Wells repeatedly came into the girl’s room, which she shared with another resident, and beckoned her into the hall, where he allegedly pulled down her shirt to partially expose her breasts and touched the top of her thigh, charging papers say.
During one incident, he allegedly unbuttoned his pants and asked if the girl “wanted to play,” the papers say.
During the final alleged encounter, which occurred in the living room, Wells allegedly rubbed the inside of the girl’s thigh and made sexual comments, charging papers say.
She told him she had to go to sleep because she had school in the morning, went upstairs and locked her bedroom door. When she awoke, she found the door unlocked and ajar, the papers say.
The girl, who was sleepy and fuzzy from her medication, initially didn’t think the incidents had happened, then blamed herself because she had dressed in a pair of shorts and a night shirt, charging papers say.
She didn’t tell anyone until the next evening, when she told her roommate and another resident, the papers say.
Sometime later, a number of the girls got into a van to accompany another resident who was returning home, charging papers say. A few minutes into their drive, the 16-year-old began having a panic attack and blacked out, prompting the driver to pull over and summon medics, the papers say.
The two other girls “were very upset and angry about what she had told them” and reported the alleged incidents with Wells to other staff members, charging papers say.
Subsequently, other residents said Wells had “made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to them,” the papers say.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org