The Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center in Golden has generated a startling amount of negative publicity over recent months. But the allegations against former staffer Kirsten Gonzalez, 28, arguably represent a new low for the troubled facility, which specializes in juvenile offenders.
Gonzalez has been charged with three felonies and a misdemeanor in regard to accusations that she helped Lookout Mountain inmate Darius Peter-Dotson escape and harbored him for more than a year before he was taken into custody again. Over that span, as detailed in an arrest affidavit, Gonzalez and Peter-Dotson, who's now 21 but was nineteen when he split, are said to have maintained a sexual relationship while living together along with her two elementary-school-age children.
Sex between Lookout Mountain employees and their charges was among the many topics of our June 19 post "Inside the Sh*t Show at the Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center," which was published in the wake of a riot during which four inmates and ten staff members were injured and the escape of two sex offenders. (The next week, violent offender Quinn Scaggs busted out, too, and he remained at large until late last month, when he was captured in Colorado Springs after authorities say he took part in multiple pistol-whippings.) The environment that spawned these events was put into context by a former inmate, who shared tales of assaults, violent disruptions, frequent drug use and consensual sexual congress between adult workers and individuals in custody, most of them teenagers.
Anders Jacobson, the Division of Youth Services' executive director, didn't directly address these claims, but he acknowledged that "the center has struggled over the last year or two with hiring and retaining direct-care staff. The economy's been good in the metro area, so it's been hard to get staff to come in and get them where we need them to be. But with a consistent, well-trained staff, consistent systems and experienced leadership to oversee everything, we should have better programming that's going to equal better safety, security and staff retention, as well as the ability for youth and staff to build positive relationships with each other."
This description doesn't appear to fit the pairing of Gonzalez, a behavioral health specialist, and Peter-Dotson, who escaped from Lookout Mountain in August 2017 and wasn't tracked down by authorities until October 2018. An item on the Denver Police Department Facebook page says he was arrested on suspicion of aggravated robbery after a license-plate reader at Sixth Avenue and Federal Boulevard connected a vehicle he was driving to a carjacking report.
Early the next year, Peter-Dotson met with a parole officer and talked about serving as a "den dad" to the children of his "spouse" until his attorney warned him to drop the subject. The odd nature of this advice came to the fore again in July, prior to a scheduled Peter-Dotson court appearance, for which Gonzalez had written a letter in support of granting him parole.
Around this same time, Gonzalez was escorted from the center and later resigned her position — events that made investigators wonder if she and the inmate were more than mere acquaintances.
The supposition received additional support within days, after a manager at Lookout Mountain revealed that just before her ouster, Gonzalez admitted to signing a home pass for Peter-Dotson that had allowed him to rabbit.
In the meantime, additional interviewees talked about a "girlfriend" who matched Gonzalez's description, had kids the same age as hers and drove a white Mazda of the sort she owned. Even more damning was an email in which Gonzalez appeared to defend her pairing with Peter-Dotson. One passage read: "Him, me, our family is why he is who he is today." Another stated, "When he gets out, we are moving away to another state. We are going to buy a home, get married, have a baby of our own."
The author of the affidavit concludes that Peter-Dotson was "living with Kirsten Gonzalez during the time he was a fugitive after escaping from Lookout Mountain Youth Services Center. Kirsten Gonzalez provided [him] with the pass out of LMYSC, had knowledge of the escape and provided [him] with shelter and comfort after his escape."
Click to read the Kirsten Gonzalez affidavit. Note that Peter-Dotson's name is among those redacted from the document.
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