MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Youth Villages behavioral counselor was arrested Monday morning for statutory rape by an authority figure, statutory rape, and solicitation of a minor.
Deniro Smith, 25, is accused of engaging in sexual activity with a juvenile at both the Youth Villages campus and Smith’s home several times between April and October of 2014.
The victim’s mother says after her child went to Youth Villages in Bartlett, his problems got worse.
“The child came to the mother, very distraught, very upset,” his mother’s attorney, Murray Wells, said.
The boy claimed Smith, his counselor at Youth Villages, had a sexual relationship with him. He said it started on campus and continued after the boy left Youth Villages, with the two meeting up in the northeast Memphis apartment where Smith lived.
“I seen him this morning, that was my first time seeing him when police got him,” neighbor Arnisha Taylor said.
The mother’s attorney says she reported the relationship to Bartlett police but had trouble getting anyone to listen.
“She had to go back, dig stuff up provide access to TBI, to be like no, this really happened. Nobody was accepting it, maybe because it was outrageous, it didn’t seem believable,” Wells said.
The mother reportedly found messages exchanged back and forth via Kik, an app on the child’s phone. Between that and Facebook messages, it was enough to charge Smith.
The boy’s mother contacted WREG, but wasn’t ready to speak about the incident just yet.
The juvenile is no longer a resident of Youth Villages and remains in the care of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.
Smith is being held at the Shelby County Jail.
Youth Villages released the following statement:
We are deeply concerned about this. The safety and well-being of the youth we help is always our utmost concern. Because of that, all of our employees must pass extensive background checks. We expect all employees to behave legally and professionally at all times. All our staff know that, and it’s constantly reinforced. This person no longer works here, and we are fully cooperating with the authorities on this matter.