I-Team 10 investigation: Hillside counselor charged
Posted at: 08/17/2012 12:08 PM
| Updated at: 08/17/2012 6:40 PM
By: Brett Davidsen | WHEC.com
A former counselor at Hillside Children’s Center is under arrest accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old boy who lived there. Police say there is one victim, but they are looking into Matthew King’s past to find out if there are others.
News10NBC mentioned King last month after the mother of another child accused him of having an inappropriate relationship with her son at Hillside. The 29-year-old was arraigned on charges of sexual abuse and child endangerment.
After the initial complaint, King was immediately suspended and then later fired by Hillside Children’s Center. It also led to a full police investigation and investigators say some of the abuses occurred on the Hillside campus.
At Hillside Children’s Center, at-risk kids are there for counseling services and as a safety net. Police say 29-year-old Matthew King of Rochester, with a title of “youth care professional” is now accused of sexually abusing one of the child residents.
Investigator Bryan Blum said, “There are several instances that occurred with the youth at Hillside, actually at the facility, and there's an instance that occurred outside the facility."
King had worked at Hillside for about a year and a half. But last month, the mother of another boy, came forward after intercepting Facebook messages between King and her child. She says the conversations were about drinking and drugs, sneaking out and about sex.
The mother spoke to News10NBC, but asked that her identity be hidden to protect her son.
The mother said, “Totally inappropriate comments to be said to a 15-year-old when you are a Hillside counselor.”
It appears her concerns are what touched off the police investigation. While King has not been charged with any crimes relating to her son, this mother fears the worst.
The mother said, “When you have a counselor in your back pocket there that's been possibly drinking and taking you out and is aware that you've been stealing and aware that you've been coming in high and doesn't let the parent know, it makes me wonder what else really went on there."
Karen Zandi said, “This kind of circumstance is of great concern to us and is certainly not treated lightly."
Hillside officials say employees are given clear expectations about professional boundaries and their interactions with the young residents. They say when they hired King, his background turned up no red flags.
Zandi said, “We engage in a very thorough screening process that does include criminal background checks and child abuse registry, so all of those clearances were completed in this situation as well."
I-Team has learned that King worked at several youth camps prior to joining Hillside. Police tell us when they searched King’s house on Bergen Street last week; they found his bedroom covered with pictures from those camps. I-Team 10 found photos on his Facebook page.
Investigator Blum said, “What we were looking for was just any items that could assist the investigation and maybe even locate further victims if there are any."
For this mother, there is outrage that she placed her trust in this counselor.
The mother said, “I called up my family and said this guy has been so nice and this is what my son needs, a positive male role model. His father wasn't one. I even said that straight to him. It made me sick."
In total, King faces nine counts, five of which are felony charges. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail. He is scheduled to return to court next week.