A man entrusted to offer mental health counseling to delinquent teenage girls has been arrested for betraying that trust, charged with sexual assault.
Ernest Lerenza Parker, 52, 7000 block St. Josephs St, Milton, is in the Santa Rosa County jail under a $1,010,000 bond. He is accused of "inappropriate sexual conduct" with multiple juvenile victims.
Sheriff's investigators say Parker worked at the Milton Girls Facility in East Milton. This is the same facility where Shannon Abbott, a correctional guard, was charged with felony battery after video revealed she slammed a 15-year-old client of the facility into a wall, the pinning her to the floor with excessive force, reports say.
A month after Parker was arrested, it was announced the program director of the facility, Carol Andrus, was being investigated for excessive force. The facility was under contract as a privatized center with ultimate responsibility falling back on the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
DJJ closed the facility in December and moved the girls. It remains closed today.
Parker saw the court-committed girls as a Mental Health Technician II. One of the functions of the Milton Girls Facility was to help troubled teens "in providing life skills, psychological counseling, behavior modification, and schooling while maintaining them in a secure environment," according to officials.
Sheriff's Officials are looking for additional witnesses or victims. The Department of Children and Families, along with DJJ, the Office of the Inspector General, Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Department and the State Attorneys Office First Judicial Circuit, are working together to conduct this investigation.
Parker's charges include:
4 ct. Battery
7 ct. Sexual assault victim 12 yoa special conditions
3 ct. Lewd lascivious molestation Victim 12 yoa up to 16 yoa
1 ct. Lewd lascvivious conduct by Person 18 yoa or older
6 ct. Contrib to delinq minor or dependency of