The pair were part of seven who allegedly beat David McKnight-Hillman to death. The others were juveniles.
Two 18-year-olds have been charged with a count of murder after allegedly participating in the beating death of a counselor at their South Los Angeles youth home while he was breaking up a fight.
Nyier Mason and Keith Lewis were each charged in the Jan. 2 death of 25-year-old David McKnight-Hillman at Wayfinder Family Services, a facility that provides residential therapeutic services to children and youth placed there by the Department of Children and Family Services.
According to a statement from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, deputies called to Wayfinder Saturday night found McKnight-Hillman suffering from blunt force trauma. He was transported to an area hospital, where he later died from his injuries.
“There were seven individuals identified as assaulting the victim,” the sheriffs’ statement reads. “Five were juveniles and two were eighteen years old.”
By Monday, four of the five juvenile suspects — two 16-year-olds and two 17-year-olds — had been arrested. The fifth was taken into custody Tuesday.
Wednesday, Mason and Lewis were each charged with a count murder. If convicted, both are subject to a 15-years-to-life sentence in California state prison.
“We all grieve for David McKnight-Hillman and his family,” District Attorney George Gascón told KTLA. “As prosecutors, we will fulfill our constitutional duty to hold accountable the people responsible for his murder and offer the assistance of our Bureau of Victim Services to help his family obtain the support and services they need to address their loss and heal from the effects of their crime-induced trauma.”
McKnight-Hillman was responsible for the day-to-day care of Wayfinder residents.
The June 2020 death of Cornelius Frederick, a 16-year-old boy at a Michigan youth center, called attention to regular violence that occurs inside youth care facilities, where troubled teens are too-often both victims and perpetrators.
Frederick died while being restrained by counselors, three staff members who were subsequently charged with involuntary manslaughter and second-degree child abuse.
Jay Allen, Wayfinder’s president and chief operating officer, told Newsweek in a statement, “We all mourn the loss of David McKnight-Hillman, a frontline staff member who worked with foster youth in South Los Angeles.”
“This incident is heartbreaking and our deepest sympathy goes out to Mr. McKnight-Hillman’s family, friends and colleagues,” he continued. “We are in close communication with Mr. McKnight-Hillman’s family, offering our full support, and are providing counseling services to our staff and clients during this extremely difficult time.”