McLaughlin Youth Center employee charged with sexual assault of a minor, planning escape
A four-year employee of McLaughlin Youth Center is facing multiple charges after it was discovered he was in a sexual relationship with a minor inmate and attempted to help her escape.
The Anchorage Police Department first began investigating the interactions between the suspect, 47-year-old Phillip Brigham, and a 16-year-old inmate at MYC on Dec. 17, an affidavit submitted by APD Detective Jade Baker explained. Baker was called to the center to meet with administrators of MYC, who had uncovered letters between the pair.
Nicole Cuaresma, unit supervisor of the Girls Treatment Unit at MYC, said Bigham was confronted on Nov. 24 by herself and other supervisors about a number of trips with the victim to an outdoor shed and other areas of the building. She said Bigham “became visibly angry with the staff” and turned in his letter of resignation.
Cuaresma said Bigham’s letter of resignation was accepted, but at his request, he was allowed to continue working for the remainder of the week “to gather his belongings and say his goodbyes to the staff and the inmates,” Baker wrote.
“Cuaresma reported that Bigham was permitted to carry on his duties for the rest of the week and in doing so, was permitted to sign [the victim] out of the building on his last day and take her to the shed,” Baker noted.
After Bigham left MYC, the victim began receiving letters from people in the Anchorage area, which MYC staff found suspicious as the victim was not from Anchorage and, according to staff, did not know anyone from the area.
It was also noted that a new phone number had been added to the victim’s call list, listed as an alternate number for the victim’s father. He was contacted regarding the new number, and said is was not his, court records show. Cuaresma told Baker she called the number “30 to 40 times from her office,” but no one answered the phone.
On Dec. 16, the victim received another letter from someone in Anchorage. The victim was given enough time to open and read the letter before a search was conducted in her room. There staff saw the letter on the bed and determined it was written in Bigham’s handwriting, according to Baker.
The letter outline an escape plan involving the use of a gate code from another staff member, as well as preparations made for the victim at Bigham’s house. Bigham reportedly told the victim he “had made a bedroom in his garage for her,” Baker wrote.
Other letters were also found, and the victim was questioned regarding the letters and her interactions with Bigham. She reported at least three sexual encounters with Bigham in the shed and the basement of MYC starting in October and on his last day of work. She also stated their relationship had been “professional” until she attempted suicide and he helped get her to the hospital.
“She said that after that, the two of them began a relationship that she characterized as a ‘dad and daughter’ relationship,” according to Baker. “[The victim] said that Bigham would give her candy and popcorn and would let her use his phone for Facebook.”
The victim also claimed Bigham asked her to go to a bathroom and take pictures of herself on his phone, and when she returned, he asked her if she had taken any naked pictures; she stated she had not.
Baker stated in court documents she asked the victim to call Bigham on Dec. 18. The phone call was recorded and during their conversation, Bigham asked her if she was still planning on going through with their plan for her to escape, which included picking her up at a nearby McDonald’s in his “big silver Chevy,” according to Baker.
Bigham told the victim he had to go, “because he was going in for a job interview at the Covenant House,” Baker noted in her affidavit. He said he “was glad to hear her voice and that he missed talking to her,” and before hanging up, told her he loved her.
Police arrested Bigham that same day and transported him to the Anchorage Correctional Complex. He faces multiple charges, including five counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor, one count of second-degree attempted escape and one count of second-degree conspiracy to commit escape.
Bigham worked as a supervisor in the MYC Girls Treatment Center from Dec. 1, 2014 to Nov. 27, 2015.
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