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Southern Utah man accused of abusing girls at residential treatment program

A St. George man employed at a residential treatment program for troubled girls was arrested Thursday for investigation of sexually abusing two of the girls.

A St. George man employed at a residential treatment program for troubled girls was arrested Thursday for investigation of sexually abusing two of the girls. (Spaxiax, Shutterstock)


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TOQUERVILLE, Washington County — A St. George man has been arrested and accused of sexually abusing two students while he was employed by a residential treatment center for troubled girls.

Paul Anthony Nichols, 22, was booked into jail in Washington County Thursday and charged in 5th District Court on Friday with rape, a first-degree felony; and four counts of forcible sexual abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree felonies.

According to two girls, both under the age of 16, Nichols — who investigators say started working at the Lava Heights Academy on Sept. 9 — engaged in a game of "truth or dare" with students he was assigned to supervise just three days after being hired.

The girls recounted to detectives at least eight occasions that Nichols allegedly touched them inappropriately or engaged in inappropriate activities with them, according to a police booking affidavit.

Nichols was questioned on Thursday and arrested.

Lava Heights Academy helps girls between the ages of 12 and 17 "who are struggling with mental and behavioral issues," according to the website.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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