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Employee at Utah youth psychiatric center accused of fathering 15-year-old’s baby

SHARE Employee at Utah youth psychiatric center accused of fathering 15-year-old’s baby
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Atonio Kavea

Washington County Sheriff’s Office

ST. GEORGE — An employee at the now-closed Red Rock Canyon School is accused of fathering the baby of a 15-year-old girl who was once a resident there.

Atonio Viliami Kavea, 29, of St. George, was arrested on Friday, according to a statement released Tuesday by the Porterville Police Department in Porterville, Calif. He was booked into the Washington County Jail, where he awaits extradition to California.

The teenager told Porterville police she had become friends with Kavea while she was a student at Red Rock Canyon School in St. George, a youth psychiatric treatment center where Kavea worked, according to a search warrant affidavit. She said she and Kavea continued their relationship online after she left the facility and that the relationship became sexual in January 2018, when she was 14 years old.

Porterville police said in a statement that the girl told them in August 2018 she was pregnant and that Kavea was the father. By then she was 15.

A DNA test conducted by the California Department of Justice after the girl gave birth in April confirmed Kavea was the father, police said.

The girl told investigators Kavea traveled to California about once a month, where he would pick her up and take her to hotels to have sex, according to the affidavit. Kavea drove to California 15 times, police said. The alleged encounters took place in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Visalia and Porterville.

A warrant was issued for Kavea’s arrest on Aug. 7, with bail set at $150,000, according to Porterville police. Kavea was taken into custody by St. George police on Sept. 27 and booked into the Washington County Jail.

The Red Rock Canyon School, an inpatient treatment facility for juveniles ages 12 to 18, closed its doors this summer. The school had been plagued in recent years with numerous allegations that staffers had physically or sexually abused residents, some of which landed the facility at the center of a number of lawsuits.

A riot at the center in April that sent five people to the hospital resulted in a letter from the state’s Department of Human Services that outlined nine violations by the center and warned that the facility must make more than a dozen changes to keep its license. A staff member was charged in late June for allegedly punching a teen girl during the brawl.

Porterville police are asking anyone with information about Kavea’s case to call Porterville police detective Maria Aguillon at (559) 782-7400.