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Teen to be tried as adult in attack on counselor at youth camp

Updated August 22, 2022 - 4:00 pm

A 15-year-old boy will be tried as an adult on charges that he raped and attempted to kill a counselor at Spring Mountain Youth Camp, a judge ruled Monday.

Tavari Pearson, who is accused of beating the counselor with a rock and raping her at the Mount Charleston camp, was certified as an adult during a hearing in Juvenile Court.

During the hearing, Chief Deputy District Attorney Ravi Bawa described the victim as “a person who has dedicated her life to helping people, to therapy.”

“And then to be victimized in this way is heinous and egregious,” the prosecutor said.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal typically does not identify victims of sex crimes.

Bawa said the victim, a counselor hired by Clark County, told police that she had seen Pearson virtually for 16 sessions before meeting with him in person on May 6. She offered to go for a walk with him after he was kicked off the track team.

The woman said that while on the walk, Pearson beat her with a rock, put his hands on her throat and touched her pants. She did not remember if she lost consciousness. Detectives found DNA evidence indicating she had been raped.

Bawa said the counselor was taken by helicopter to University Medical Center, where she was treated for a brain bleed and cuts to her face and scalp.

The woman, who has attended every court hearing since May, declined to comment after Monday’s ruling.

Pearson told police that he suggested they race while on their walk and that, during the run, the counselor fell off a hill and hit her head.

The camp houses male youth between the ages of 12 and 18 who have committed delinquent acts. Officials have said the facility typically does not allow boys who have committed sex offenses.

In 2008, juvenile probation officer Aimee Williams was attacked with a bar of soap by a teen at Spring Mountain Youth Camp. The boy was caught soon after in the below-freezing December conditions in the mountains.

Bawa said Pearson was a registered juvenile sex offender after he was found guilty of open and gross lewdness, and he was sent to Spring Mountain Youth Camp in October because he failed to complete his probation at a group home in Las Vegas.

The prosecutor said that when Pearson was 13, he was accused of sexually assaulting a younger girl, and during his brief enrollment at Arbor View High School, Pearson was accused of touching female students’ buttocks and getting into fights.

Defense attorney Jeff Banks argued that Pearson was not attempting to kill the counselor at Spring Mountain Youth Camp, though the attorney conceded that a battery occurred. He said the prosecution had to prove that Pearson raped the woman, because she did not specifically tell police that she was raped.

“Mr. Bawa has to show how the DNA got there,” the attorney said. “It’s not Tavari’s job to sit here and explain how it got there. It’s Mr. Bawa’s job to explain.”

Banks blamed Pearson’s mother for not putting the teen on medication or getting him more education assistance programs when he was younger. The attorney argued that the teen could benefit from stricter correctional placement, ideally at Caliente Youth Center.

After an hour of argument from the attorneys, Family Court Judge Sunny Bailey ruled that Pearson would be certified as an adult.

“The version of events given by the subject minor shows an ability to understand the gravity of his current allegations,” she said in her ruling. “He demonstrated an ability to come up with a version of events in order to manipulate the narrative.”

He is facing seven felony charges, including attempted murder with a deadly weapon, sexual assault with a deadly weapon resulting in substantial bodily harm, battery, coercion and battery by strangulation on a protected person.

Pearson’s mother and aunt sobbed as they left the courtroom Monday.

In April, 16-year-old Jonathan Martinez Garcia was arrested after a teacher at El Dorado High School was attacked in her classroom. District Attorney Steve Wolfson said the teen was automatically charged as an adult because of the severity of the charges. He was indicted in August on charges that include attempted murder and sexual assault.

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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