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Summer camp officals apologize for alleged sexual abuse of campers

OVERGAARD — Noah John Paradis, 19, of Cochran, Georgia, has been identified by camp officials as the camp counselor and suspect who allegedly sexually assaulted minors attending CentriKid Camp in Overgaard.

In a letter, officials with LifeWay camp, in the 2300 block of Bison Trail in Overgaard, said the alleged incidents occurred during CentriKid Camp, affiliated with ministry of LifeWay and LifeWay Christian Resources.

Children from across the state attended the camp.

It appears the alleged abuse of two minors took place between June 10-14, according to camp officials. Paradis has been charged with multiple felony counts of child molestation.

Neither camp officials nor police have disclosed the exact nature of the alleged abuses since it is an ongoing investigation and there may be additional victims.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone who may have been abused by Paradis or has information to contact NCSO Det. Sally O’Hair at 928-524-4050.

O’Hair is the lead investigator in the case and has specialized training in sexual abuse cases.

LifeWay officials said Paradis was fired as soon as they learned of the charges.

“We are heartbroken for the victims and the victims’ families. I commend the victims for their bravery in disclosing the abuse,” wrote LifeWay acting CEO Brad Waggoner in the letter announcing Paradis’ arrest and termination from the camp. “Our primary concern is the safety and wellbeing of all our camp participants. We are grieved that someone representing LifeWay would behave in this manner and abuse their position of authority with a child. LifeWay is working with local law enforcement as the investigation is ongoing and will continue to follow their lead in the case.”

“We also want to come alongside the families and their church and walk with them through this ordeal,” Waggoner added. “We have alerted the six churches that attended this camp about the events that took place and included information that would enable them to report any additional incidents. LifeWay is committed to providing a safe, Christian environment for all camp participants. We continue to advance employee training for employees across LifeWay, including all summer staff who work with kids and student camps.”

LifeWay officials said camp leaders immediately notified police and the parents of the victims once they learned of the alleged abuse.

LifeWay officials said they have “decades” of experience hosting camps and perform both reference and criminal background checks on all seasonal and full-time staff.

They said that staffers are also required to take training related to sexual abuse.

LifeWay officials also said they provide an independent expert on abuse that all camp leaders can contact for additional support and direction.

“We are grieved our safeguards did not prevent this from happening,” Waggoner said. “We are committed to continually evaluating and updating our policies and procedures to ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent this type of event in the future. LifeWay will continue to be vigilant about the security and safety of the children and teens who attend LifeWay camps and events.”

The Independent contacted Carol Pipes, director of corporate communications for LifeWay, who said they could not comment because it is an ongoing law enforcement investigation.

As of Wednesday, June 19, Paradis was still in NCSO custody in Holbrook under no bond.

Laura Singleton/The Independent  

A cow elk takes a break from grazing as the sun sets in an area just outside Show Low.

A re-boot for Navajo, Gila County broadband projects

WHITE MOUNTAINS – With funding for the Navajo-Gila County Information Technology Consortium pending since last November, the group has re-applied for state and federal funding.

Their new application appears to be a long-awaited “re-boot” of the $61 million project, which would string 1,000 miles of fiber optic cable to 51 schools and libraries in Navajo and Apache Counties.

The original application, submitted in 2018-19, resulted in a variety of issues and controversy, including a protest by Cable One after the consortium awarded a multi-million dollar bid to Red Rock Telecommunications. Cellular One also filed a bid protest, but missed the Universal Service Administrative Company’s (USAC) deadline. The USAC oversees and administers federal funding on such projects.

There were also disagreements between the consortium and the Arizona Department of Education regarding the application’s funding status, reported in several stories published by the Independent last fall.

A new day

Despite the rocky road to broadband last year, the project team has re-grouped and re-applied for state and federal funding through the E-Rate program and USAC.

“Navajo County re-summited an application by the March 21 deadline for the 2019-2020 funding year,” said Arizona E-Rate Director Milan Eaton in a phone interview with the Independent on June 11. “They submitted to award their bid to ENA Technologies.”

“Now we wait for USAC to give funding approval for each project,” said Eaton. “If the project is funded, the Navajo County Consortium has until June 30, 2020 to complete the project.”

Eaton said that the consortium submitted a request for $537,000. The state- match portion, if approved, would be $51,000.

Overlapping proposals

The new project proposal is similar to the first in scope. It still includes Navajo schools and libraries and some Gila County schools and libraries, according to Eaton.

At this time, Gila and Navajo counties have applied separately, but with overlapping project sites. This may ultimately provide a more manageable and “fundable” solution, officials say.

The Gila County consortium proposal includes connecting about 24 schools and libraries within Gila County.

“If the Navajo County consortium is approved before Gila County, we will go with that solution, which includes sites in both counties,” said Eaton.

“If Gila County is approved first, then we’ll help them get started there. And, the sites included in each project could change depending upon who is approved first,” he added.

“Our proposed project includes the Payson school district from Gila County and Winslow, Joseph City, Snowflake-Taylor, Holbrook, Blue Ridge and Show Low libraries,” said Navajo County Superintendent of Schools Jalyn Gerlich in a brief interview with the Independent on June 12. “It also includes most of the Navajo County libraries, south of I-40, as well as Heber-Overgaard because they now have options. It’s all about looking at what’s best for your county.”

“The vendor that was awarded the bid is Education Networks of America (ENA),” said Gerlich. “They have been awarded the full project, but we’re in the waiting mode so there’s not much else to add- it’s up to USAC.”

“We’re hoping to have funding awarded in the next 60 days so we can get started,” said Eaton. “Ideally, we could have two funded projects that are easier to manage.”

Andy Staten/The Independent  

The sun setting June 16 from distant fires gives an ominous effect in the night sky. See the “El Nino effect may turn violent,” Page A4.

Report: Driver in triple fatality asleep at the wheel

APACHE COUNTY — New details have emerged about a fatal crash that killed three people in April near the “Y” on State Route 61, after The Independent obtained the crash report from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The report details the horrific crash, including that right before the collision, the driver of one of the vehicles may have been asleep.

About 7:30 a.m. April 8, two vehicles collided head-on on the non-divided two-way highway about 10 miles east of Show Low. One was a white Ford van from TLC Supported Living in Show Low. It was headed northbound to Concho to pick up a client, according to the report. Craig Jackson, 38, of Pinetop, was driving the van. He had three passengers. In the front passenger seat sat Cara Roberts; directly behind her in the back seat was Aaron Staley, 38, and across from him was Janean Bryant.

Headed southbound was Candy Mae Knudson, 38, of Concho, in a silver Dodge Neon. She was on her way to work in Show Low.

At milepost 354.9, in a no-passing zone, Jackson reportedly crossed the centerline and collided head-on with Knudson. Knudson was killed along with Staley, who was found slumped over the empty middle seat the van. Officers noted in the report that although Staley had a seat belt on, the shoulder harness appeared to be behind his back.

Emergency crews extricated Jackson and intended to fly him to a Valley hospital, but his condition was too unstable to fly. Instead, he was rushed to Summit Healthcare in Show Low where he died about five hours later, surrounded by family.

Knudson was found strapped in her seat, her cell phone on the ground outside the vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Apache County Sheriff Sgt. D. Sloan notified Knudson’s next of kin, her mother, Mary Corbin. Corbin said Knudson had told her before leaving for work that morning, “I’ll try hard not to be late tonight.” Fifteen minutes later she was dead, said Corbin. Knudson leaves behind a 2-year-old son and husband.

DPS took statements from the two surviving van passengers. Janean Bryant, who was seated behind the driver, had a broken arm and leg. She was unable to provide any information about the crash.

Front seat passenger Cara Roberts told police that she didn’t see Jackson using any device or phone, but that he was “looking down at the time of the collision,” according to the report.

Roberts was treated at the hospital and released. She was later treated for a broken pelvis, apparently missed the first time at the hospital, said her mother, Sheri Watson.

Watson later told police that Cara had told her that Jackson had “his eyes closed and he appeared to be asleep,” according to the report.

TLC Supported Living had reportedly cancelled the trip to Concho that day, but Jackson didn’t know because he had forgotten his cell phone.