Mesa Youth Services, Inc. has been dismissed from a local family’s suit over the sexual abuse of their child.
The family sued Mesa Youth Services, which operates Partners of Mesa County; Delta-Montrose Youth Services, Inc., which operates Partners of Delta, Montrose and Ouray, and their child’s assailant, Joshua Hemphill, a former deputy who had once been a Partners mentor.
According to information in the responses to the family’s sealed complaint, the plaintiffs broadly alleged negligence on the part of the entities and that as the result of Hemphill’s abuse, they and their son were harmed financially and emotionally, suffering damages of at least $100,000.
The entity defendants denied the allegations and filed for dismissal.
Hemphill, who was a former Mesa County Jail detention officer, was working as a deputy in Dolores County in 2017, when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation interviewed him about sexual abuse of the Montrose boy. He resigned his post and was arrested about a month later.
Hemphill was separately charged with sex offenses against two Mesa County boys.
He is now serving a minimum 15 years in prison and could remain there for life under Colorado’s indeterminate sentencing provisions for his type of offenses.
Mesa Youth Services argued in an August motion that it should never have been named in the civil action: no allegation was ever made that Hemphill had mentored the local victim through the MYS program.
On Sept. 8, the court granted the plaintiffs’ motion to dismiss, without prejudice, Mesa Youth Services from the complaint. The motion states the dismissal does not affect the claims against Delta-Montrose Youth Services.
The next day, Sept. 9, District Judge Mary Deganhart granted the plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment against Hemphill.
Hemphill was properly served with the suit but failed to respond with a timely answer, the motion Deganhart granted says.
The motion for default is not the final judgment; the plaintiffs first want their damages to be assessed by judge or jury and that has not yet taken place.
Delta-Montrose Youth Services remains as a defendant in the case.
In its prior motion for dismissal, DMYS denied allegations that it had paired the plaintiffs’ son with Hemphill.
Hemphill had been dismissed from the local Partners program in 2014 for policy violations.
According to information from his criminal case, Hemphill had in 2014 been the mentor for another boy in the program. In 2017, that individual, then living out of state, reported Hemphill had groomed and abused him.
Although the young man’s report did not lead to charges, it did lead the investigation to the Montrose victim, whose parents had once trusted Hemphill enough to allow him to live in their home. The family grew wary, however, as Hemphill continued to cross boundaries and disregard their requests. They cut ties with Hemphill and eventually obtained a restraining order.
Although Hemphill had been a Partners mentor, Delta-Montrose Youth Services in its dismissal motion stated the civil plaintiffs’ child had never been partnered with anyone at DMYS and that Hemphill himself hadn’t been paired with anyone after June of 2014.
The entity acknowledged receiving an email from Hemphill in 2016, but ignored it because he was no longer a mentor with the program.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.