By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
A Centralia woman who formerly worked as a counselor at Green Hill School in Chehalis made her first appearance in Lewis County Superior Court Tuesday on charges of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old inmate starting in 2013.
Katherine M. Kimbrel, 41, of Centralia, has been charged with first-degree sexual misconduct with a minor, first-degree custodial sexual misconduct and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
The first two charges are class C felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison. The third is a gross misdemeanor.
Superior Court Judge Andrew Toynbee granted Kimbrel $5,000 unsecured bail, allowing her to remain out of custody for future court hearings, citing her lack of criminal history.
“I do acknowledge that these are serious charges,” Toynbee said.
Kimbrel was also granted court-appointed counsel. Her arraignment is scheduled for Feb. 15.
According to court documents, in August 2016 a former resident of Green Hill School, who was 19 at the time, reported “being a victim of sexual assault,” when he was a resident of the facility.
Green Hill School is a medium/maximum security facility for juvenile offenders located in Chehalis and managed by the state Department of Social and Health Services’ Juvenile Justice and Rehabilitation Administration. The facility provides educational and vocational training to older, male, juvenile offenders.
The man reported he and Kimbrel had sexual contact and a sexual relationship starting in 2013, when he was 16, and ending in 2015, both when he was an inmate at Green Hill School and a resident at Olympia’s Touchstone Community Facility, which is also run by DSHS.
He reported that when he was living at the Olympia facility, Kimbrel would pick him up from work and take him to her apartment.
“Kimbrel was interviewed and admitted to an unprofessional sexual relationship with (the victim) inside and outside the Green Hill School facility,” according to court documents.
According to court documents, three past allegations of similar behavior against Kimbrel had been investigated but shelved for lack of evidence.
This is the second former Green Hill counselor charged for having sex with a student in the same time frame.
Erin Stiebritz pleaded guilty in September, 2016 to one count of first-degree custodial sexual misconduct.
Allegations first surfaced in 2014 regarding Stiebritz and an inmate at Green Hill, and the Washington State Patrol began an investigation the following year.
The alleged victim in that case initially told police his sexual relationship with Stiebritz began after he turned 18 but was still an inmate at the juvenile facility. However, he later changed his story and denied anything had happened.
Stiebritz was sentenced to two weeks in jail and 46 days in counseling.