A 24-year-old woman from Mount Sterling, Ohio, Payton Shires, who was employed by the National Youth Advocate Program (NYAP), has been taken into custody for allegedly engaging in sexual activities with a 13-year-old boy she was counseling. The arrest followed a report from the boy’s mother who discovered suspicious text messages on her son’s phone on September 27, as per court documents.
The mother, who wished to remain anonymous, alerted the police after she found text messages between her son and Shires. The messages raised concerns about inappropriate behavior, with Shires asking the boy if he had deleted certain videos and if his mother had seen them.
Following the mother’s report, the police conducted a forensic examination of the boy’s phone. The examination revealed a video showing the boy and Shires involved in sexual activities. The boy later confessed to the detectives that he had engaged in sexual activities with Shires at different locations in Columbus throughout September.
Shires, during a three-way phone call with the boy’s mother and detectives, admitted to the sexual involvement with the minor. The Columbus Division of Police’s SWAT team apprehended Shires without any complications on Friday.
On her birthday, Shires was charged with third-degree felony unlawful sexual conduct with a minor by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Division of Corrections. In Ohio, a defendant who is ten or more years older than the victim and is convicted of such a charge could face up to five years in prison. Shires might also face additional charges.
Shires, who became a licensed social worker in June, appeared in Franklin County Municipal Court on Saturday. Judge Mike McAllister set her bond at $500,000. Shires had “Child Abuse & Neglect” listed in her professional bio and served as a counselor for the NYAP.
The NYAP, which provides “flexible, creative, outcome-based solutions” for the communities it serves, expressed its sadness over the incident involving its former employee and a child under its care. The organization, which has offices in Columbus, stated, “Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility.” It remains unclear whether Shires was assigned to the boy through the NYAP.
The NYAP has reported the incident to Franklin County Children Services (FCCS) and is working with them and the Columbus Police Department on the case.