Second Plaintiff Joins Lawsuit Alleging Culture of Sexual Abuse at Green Hill School

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A second former inmate of Green Hill School in Chehalis was added this week to a lawsuit against the state for alleged widespread sexual misconduct perpetrated by female staff against teen residents of the juvenile correctional facility. The lawsuit also names a third staff member accused of misconduct between 2013 and 2015. 

Two former counselors — Erin Stiebritz and Katherine Kimbrel — have faced felony criminal charges for alleged misconduct. Stiebritz pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2016, while Kimbrel’s case is ongoing. The third woman, who has not yet been charged, was a security guard at the facility, according to the lawsuit. 

“The knowledge of this culture of abuse went all the way to the highest levels of management of Green Hill School and, upon information and belief, the highest levels of Juvenile Rehabilitation of the Department of Social and Health Services,” the lawsuit states. 

The lawsuit was first filed on Feb. 28 in King County Superior Court, naming a single plaintiff identified by initials C.O-H. An amended complaint including a second plaintiff, identified as J.C., was filed electronically on Sunday with the King County Clerk’s Office. The suit was filed in King County because the first plaintiff now lives there, attorney Tim Tesh said. 

Tesh has filed motions to identify the plaintiffs, now adults, by initials due to their status as victims of sexual misconduct. 

The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages, but tort claims filed by each of the plaintiffs ask for $10 million in damages each. 

The Chronicle reached out to DSHS for comment on the expanded lawsuit Thursday.

“DSHS does not comment on pending litigation, but the agency is committed to compliance with the standards set forth in the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA),” according to a statement from DSHS. “Our staff members are trained on compliance, and youth are provided with information on PREA.”

Green Hill School is a medium/maximum security facility for juvenile offenders located in Chehalis and managed by the state Department of Social and Health Services’ Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Administration. The facility provides educational and vocational training to older, male, juvenile offenders.

 

The lawsuit lists defendants as DSHS, former Green Hill Superintendent Marybeth Queral and Lori Nesmith, a former associate superintendent at Green Hill, as defendants, saying they negligently failed to protect students from sexual abuse and for violating the Prison Rape Elimination Act by not properly reporting allegations of abuse. 

The suit names three female staff members who worked at Green Hill and are accused of having inappropriate sexual contact with the juvenile offenders at the facility. Two of them have faced criminal charges.

Stiebritz, 38, a former counselor at Green Hill, was charged in January 2016 and pleaded guilty that September to one count of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct. She was accused of having a sexual relationship with an 18-year-old inmate. 

Stiebritz was sentenced to two weeks in jail and 46 days in counseling. 

On Wednesday, she was charged in Lewis County Superior Court with failing to register as a sex offender. She was allegedly a week late in registering her address with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office after moving. 

Kimbrel, 41, of Centralia, was charged in January in Lewis County Superior Court with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and communication with a minor for immoral purposes. She allegedly had a sexual relationship for two years with a then 16-year-old Green Hill inmate when she worked at the facility beginning in 2013. 

C.O-H is the alleged victim in that case. The lawsuit also accuses Stiebritz of having inappropriate contact with C.O-H., but he is not the victim listed in court documents associated with her case. 

According to the lawsuit and court documents, Green Hill received multiple complaints about each woman.

The Chronicle is not naming the third woman identified in the lawsuit as a perpetrator of abuse because she has not yet been arrested or charged with a crime. She worked at the facility at the same time as Kimbrel and Stiebritz. 

The woman, a security guard at Green Hill, is accused in the suit of escalating inappropriate behavior with the second plaintiff, J.C., beginning in 2014. 

“(The woman) would threaten J.C. that unless he complied with her demands, she would make sure he was punished,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit also states that J.C. was victimized by Kimbrel and Stiebritz as well. Neither has been charged for incidents related to him. 

The Washington State Patrol, which has investigated the allegations of abuse at the school, did not return a request for comment on investigations into abuse at Green Hill. 

“All I know is what I’ve heard from my client about her,” Tesh said. “The State Patrol is not done with these investigations.”

Lewis County Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead confirmed his office has not received a referral for charges on the third woman. 

In 2009, former Green Hill cook Deanna Witters, 52 at the time, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree custodial sexual misconduct at the school for a relationship with an inmate. 

Witters gave information to investigators about sexual misconduct between inmates and at least five staff members, according to Chronicle reporting at the time.

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