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Thu, March 21

Counselors face assualt, kidnap counts

PRESCOTT ­ Prescott Police Monday arrested two student council counselors on 18 counts of aggravated assault and 18 counts of kidnapping each.

One of the two is the youngest son of Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett.

PPD Lt. Pete Hodap said the charges against Kyle Wheeler, 19, of Glendale, and Clifton Roy Bennett, 18, of Prescott, stem from an investigation that involved at least 18 juvenile victims, who attended a June 2005 Student Council Camp at Chapel Rock, 1131 Country Club Dr. in Prescott.

A PPD report states that on Dec. 13, 2005 a juvenile victim reported that the junior counselors held him down and assaulted him with a broom handle while at the camp between June 12 and June 17.

"Mr. Bennett was talked to and he admitted to some involvement," Hodap said.

Hodap said that the victims were fully dressed, "but there was some penetration.

"It is a type of hazing," he said, adding that he doesn't know whether any of the victims suffered injuries.

Hodap said that detectives have identified a third suspect, a juvenile, but they have not interviewed him.

The juvenile, who reported the incident, told the police that depending on the counselors' mood, "or if a boy did something that they didn't like Š the boy got 'broomsticked.'"

He stated that after someone had clogged up one of the toilets, the counselors lined up all the boys and "broomsticked" them for not confessing who did it.

The juvenile also stated that the boys had their clothes on except for one boy who had his pants pulled down and his underwear on when they assaulted him with a broomstick, the report states.

In addition, the boy stated that Wheeler grabbed and choked him, but he didn't pass out that time because he started coughing and Wheeler let him go, the report states. The second time it happened, the boy passed out, the report states.

The juvenile also witnessed Wheeler grabbing another boy around the neck with his hand and holding him until he passed out.

The report also states that the counselors sprayed air freshener into the closed cabin and one of the boys with asthma got sick and ended up leaving the camp.

Senator Bennett said that he learned of the investigation and his son's arrest on Monday. He then read a written statement that he issued for media representatives.

"As I'm sure you can understand, right now I'm a father concerned for the well-being of his son. I have very few details and have had virtually no opportunity to speak with my son Clif or the authorities involved. Because this involves serious allegations, any further comment on it at this time would be inappropriate."

Hodap said that Chapel Rock was renting out its property to the Arizona Association of Junior High Student Councils and had nothing to do with the incident.

Contact the reporter at mburicadam@prescottaz.com

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