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Update: 7th Man Charged In N.H. Youth Detention Center Sex Abuse Probe

Youth Services Center
Youth Services Center
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(Updated Thursday at 2pm)

Seven men are facing criminal charges for allegedly sexually abusing minors at the state’s youth detention facility between 1994 and 2005.

The charges against six of the defendants were announced Wednesday by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office, and are part of an ongoing investigation in decades of alleged abuse at what is now called the Sununu Youth Services Center, in Manchester.

A seventh man, Florida resident Gordon Thomas Searles, was arrested Thursday in Florida and is awaiting extradition.

The defendants, who range in age from 51 to 79 years old, have not yet entered a plea. They are expected to be arraigned on Thursday.

Two of the men--Jeffrey Buskey of Quincy, Mass., and Steven Murphy of Danvers, Mass.--were arrested in 2019 on similar allegations of sexually assaulting minors while employed at the facility. Prosecutors dropped those charges last year as the state sought to broaden its investigation.

Along with Buskey and Murphy, Bradley Asbury of Dunbarton is facing one felony count of aggravated sexual assault, as an accomplice. Frank Davis of Contoocook is facing a single felony assault charge and five sexual assault charges. Lucien Poulette of Auburn is accused of more than 30 counts of sexual assault, with charges stemming from allegations made by seven former residents. James Woodlock of Manchester is facing three counts as an accomplice to sexual assault. 

Searles is facing a single felony sexual assault count based on allegations made by a resident of the facility in the mid-1990s.

Asbury, Buskey, Davis and Murphy worked at the facility in the 1990s, according to state officials. Poulette was employed by the state from 1983 until 2015, while Woodlock was on staff from 1988 until he was placed on leave in 2019. He was terminated on Wednesday. 

“The aforementioned arrests do not represent the culmination of the investigation but are merely a step forward in this comprehensive and multi-faceted investigation,” said Deputy Attorney General Jane Young in a statement. 

Along with the criminal inquiry, more than 230 men and women have joined an ongoing class action lawsuit that alleges widespread abuse at the youth detention facility dating as far back as the 1960s. That matter is pending in a state superior court. 

Lawmakers are considering closing the Sununu Center as part of ongoing budget negotiations. The facility is reportedly housing just a fraction of its total occupancy.

(Editor's note: this story was updated at 7pm with employment information about the defendants.)

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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