Utah youth home employee arrested on sexual abuse charges
(KSL.COM) MONA, Utah – A female staff member at a youth treatment center has been arrested for investigation of performing sexual acts on five juvenile boys.
Katherine Lynn Estep, 44, of Payson, was arrested for investigation of five counts of forcible sodomy and seven counts of sex abuse of a minor.
The alleged activity happened at The Journey Impact Ranch in Mona and involved five juveniles, according to the Juab County Sheriff’s Office.
Meanwhile, all 13 of the boys at Journey Impact Ranch are in the process of being moved from the facility to various other locations, Utah’s Department of Human Services spokeswoman Heather Barnum told the Deseret News. The 16-bed facility is contracted by Human Services.
“We are already in the process … to find an alternative program that best meets their individual needs,” Barnum said.
Barnum said she could not comment on the investigation of Estep by police. She said the Department of Human Services was notified of the allegations against Estep on Wednesday and immediately began its own investigation.
Child Protective Services is reviewing The Journey Impact Ranch’s “incident reports,” Barnum said, and “reserves the right” to pursue any information that affects the facility’s licensure and contract status.
“Anytime there’s a serious accusation such as this one,” Barnum said, “(Child Protective Services) reviews these claims.”
Barnum clarified that Human Services would not be responsible for Estep’s employment-related discipline for her alleged crimes.
A person who answered the phone at The Journey headquarters in Provo declined to comment for this story.
The Department of Human Services cannot release further details about its investigation into the boys home while it is ongoing, according to Barnum. The department is cooperating with Juvenile Justice Services as the boys are relocated, she said.
“The ultimate goal is to ensure that our youth are safe and in a nurturing environment,” Barnum said.
Estep was being held Monday in the Juab County Jail on $550,000 bail.
Dominick Ludwick, who entered the program at Journey Impact Ranch after unsuccessful stints at other boys homes, described Estep as lenient to a fault. Ludwick said he was not one of the boys who Estep involved herself with sexually but said he was able to use an electronic cigarette she gave him and get access to a cellphone, which is disallowed at the facility.
“She would let us do whatever we wanted pretty much,” Ludwick said.
Ludwick was transferred back to his parents’ home in Syracuse on a trial basis last week. His mother, Tina Ludwick, said boys were “scattered” after caseworkers learned of what had allegedly occurred at the facility.
Tina Ludwick said her son’s caseworker reportedly told her that Juvenile Justice Services was requiring the boys to be transferred.
“My heart just sunk,” she said.