Woman sued, accused of sexually abusing juvenile detention detainee 300+ times

Deborah Sutter is seen in this mugshot released by the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office in Texas on May 23, 2018.
Deborah Sutter is seen in this mugshot released by the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office in Texas on May 23, 2018. (FBCSO)

HOUSTON – A lawsuit was filed against a volunteer mentor who is accused of sexually abusing a boy while he was detained at the Fort Bend Juvenile Detention Center. Named in the lawsuit alongside Deborah Sutter are Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls, Detention Director Kenny Johnson, Prison Rape Reform Act Coordinator Chance Bagley and several other people who work for the Sheriff's Office.

Sutter, 64, was arrested and charged with indecency with a child on May 22, 2018. She worked as a volunteer mentor who was hired by Fort Bend County, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit claims that Sutter sexually abused the boy more than 300 times, starting from the time he was 15 (March 2017) and lasting more than a year. The boy was "abused three times per visit, twice per week, for a total of 312 times," according to the lawsuit.

Investigators said a staff member at the detention center was looking at the video feed from a surveillance camera in a room during a visitation and noticed Sutter inappropriately touching the boy.

"What really caught his attention was their seating arrangement. They have a certain seating arrangement that is prohibited. They are supposed to sit across from each other. They were side by side. She knew there was video in there. But the seating arrangement between her and the juvenile was kind of as concealed. She positioned herself in that room. She didn't think some of her actions would be seen," Detective Thomas Cantu said at the time of Sutter's arrest.

According to the lawsuit, Johnson and Bagley both saw the videos of the sexual assaults.

When detectives investigated prior meetings between Sutton and the boy, they said they saw more inappropriate contact on a number of occasions.

Officials said Sutter confessed to the crime when she was questioned.

“All she said was that she felt sorry for the child. He seemed to be doing better. He was getting into a leadership program with (the) juvenile detention center," Cantu said.

According to the lawsuit, Sutter's actions caused the boy to suffer "mental anguish, stress, anxiety, humiliation, fear, headaches, lack of sleep, nightmares, severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and mortification."

At the time Sutter was charged, the Fort Bend Juvenile Probation Department released this statement: 

"The Fort Bend Juvenile Probation Department has a zero tolerance policy on any form of abuse or inappropriate conduct. The safety and well being of our youth is our highest priority and one we do not take lightly. This inappropriate volunteer is no way a representative of our other valued community mentors. Be assured that misconduct by anyone towards our youth is taken seriously, investigated, and vigorously prosecuted."

Sheriff Nehls released the following statement Sunday:

“I am glad this woman is no longer a volunteer at Fort Bend County Juvenile and hope she is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Fort Bend County Juvenile Detention is not a part of the Sheriff’s Office. We are not involved with those held there, their employees or volunteers.”