ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Woodland youth counselor charged with criminal sexual conduct

A Hermantown man is charged with sexually abusing at least five boys ranging from ages 13-17 while working at a youth care facility in Duluth. Mark David Painter, 28, a former employee of the Hills Youth and Family Services in Woodland, was arrai...

painter for web.jpg
Mark David Painter

A Hermantown man is charged with sexually abusing at least five boys ranging from ages 13-17 while working at a youth care facility in Duluth.

Mark David Painter, 28, a former employee of the Hills Youth and Family Services in Woodland, was arraigned Friday in State District Court on five felony counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

A criminal complaint indicates that the juveniles told investigators that Painter, who was hired at the facility in March, would offer them cigarettes and other contraband in exchange for sexual acts.

The Duluth Police Department was alerted to the situation on Saturday, when officers were called to locate three runaways, who stated that they had left the facility “due to being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted at the campus by a staff member, according to the complaint.

Police said they conducted an “extensive” investigation in the following days, speaking with all of the juvenile residents under Painter’s care. He was taken into custody Tuesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Hills is an organization offering after-school care, youth mental health services and treatment for adjudicated youth. Formerly known as Woodland Hills, it is based at 4321 Allendale Ave.

“Our focus is on the youths who might have been harmed by this individual,” spokeswoman Tonya Land said in a statement. “Our therapists are working with them, their families, and the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault to provide them with the help and support they need.

“The individual charged in this case is no longer employed by The Hills Youth and Family Services. We have assisted the Duluth Police Department in its investigation and will continue to do so.”

Senior Judge Peter Albrecht set Painter’s bail at $100,000 with conditions or $150,000 without and granted his request for a public defender.

Police were called to the residential treatment center at 7 p.m. Saturday and found the three juveniles walking along a nearby street, the complaint states. All three males reportedly told police that they had been sexually abused by a staff member, who was later identified as Painter.

Investigators interviewed the other residents under Painter’s care and reported that at least seven explained that he “created a system wherein he would make ‘deals’ with the juvenile residents - trading sexual acts for contraband that he would bring in and provide to the juveniles.”

Other residents confirmed that they had been solicited to engage in the “deals” but declined, according to the complaint. Police also reviewed surveillance video and Painter’s work record to corroborate the claims.

Investigators said they were able to identify five separate victims who were assaulted on at least eight occasions, sometimes in the presence of other victims, in exchange for cigarettes, tattoo ink or other goods.

ADVERTISEMENT

A search of Minnesota and Wisconsin court records reveals only a traffic citation on Painter’s record. He is scheduled to be back in court on Aug. 14.

Related Topics: WOODLAND
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.