Crime

Former employee of Boise County teen treatment center charged with sexual abuse

Richard P. Swalley
Richard P. Swalley

A phone call from a school resource officer to the Boise County Sheriff’s Office in early January led to an investigation into suspected sexual misconduct by a 37-year-old Garden Valley man who works at a facility there for troubled children.

Boise County Sheriff Chief Deputy Dale Rogers said he questioned Richard P. Swalley the day after he received the report. Swalley was then taken into custody Jan. 6 at a house where he was living on the grounds of Project Patch.

“He made disclosures that were strong enough to arrest him,” Rogers said.

Swalley is facing six felony counts of lewd conduct with a minor under 16. The criminal complaint alleges that he committed six lewd and lascivious acts on a minor who was 12 to 14 years old between January 2012 and December 2015 in Boise County.

Rogers said officials are not releasing any information about the victim to help protect the child’s privacy, but he did say that the child is not a resident at the treatment facility, which currently houses about 30 children.

The investigation has found no evidence of abuse of children at Project Patch, according to Rogers, Boise County Prosecutor Jolene Maloney and state health officials. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare hasn’t received any reports or complaints that Smalley committed any crimes at Project Patch.

“The scope has not led up there at all,” Maloney said.

Project Patch, a nonprofit, has administrative offices in Vancouver, Wash. It operates a 170-acre Youth Ranch in Garden Valley. The program’s executive director, Chuck Hagele, said staff called parents of all the children at the facility to notify them about Swalley being charged. Children at the facility range in age from 12 to 18.

Swalley, who is being held at the Ada County Jail on $75,000 bond, is scheduled to be in Boise County for a preliminary hearing at 11 a.m. Monday before Magistrate Judge Roger E. Cockerille.

Hagele said Swalley has been fired.

PREVIOUS CASE

The state licenses Project Patch as a “children’s residential care facility.” As such, it is required to conduct criminal history and background checks on employees. Project Patch instituted additional measures after one of its employees was charged with lewd conduct with a resident in 2009, state health officials said.

The facility added an additional psychological test called the Diana Screen to try to identify possible child molesters. They also put up video surveillance cameras, which allow for real-time viewing and later reviewing of footage.

In 2011, Ryan VanHook was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual battery of a minor 16 to 17. VanHook, now 39, won’t be eligible for parole until he serves seven years.

VanHook was a dorm manager at Project Patch. He groomed a girl at the facility and then had a two-week sexual relationship with her before abandoning her. The victim and her mother sued VanHook and Project Patch, and an Ada County jury awarded them $2.3 million.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

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