Social Worker and Neighborhood Leader Charged with Abusing Teenage Brothers

April 07, 2018 02:19 PM

Two men, who are friends and neighbors, have been charged with crimes involving the abuse of two teenage boys.

The boys are brothers.  Because they are minors, their names are not public.


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Newly released court documents say the alleged abuse surfaced in May last year, when Child Protection Services received a complaint.  The deeper case workers delved into the complaint, the more upsetting the case became.

One of the people charged is a longtime social worker in Minneapolis, 67-year-old Steven Tibbetts.  He lives on Aldrich Avenue North.

The other man charged is 49-year-old John Richards, a neighborhood leader with the Webber Camden Neighborhood Association.

The two brothers needed a safe place to live and they moved into Richards' home on Bryant Avenue North. He's charged in Hennepin County with malicious punishment of a child and for using "unreasonable force or cruel discipline." The charge says the violence started with Richards allegedly finding an excuse to hit the older brother. The torment increased over time and frequency. The teen claimed Richards would force him to stay up all night and run in place.  He said Richards had security cameras in and around the home, where he would watch and make sure the teen was still running. 

The teen also said Richards would take a broken extension cord with exposed wires and zap him. If he resisted the boy said Richards and another man would hold him down. On occasion, the teen said he was forced to run in place holding a bucket of water over his head.

While Richards denied the abuse, he did tell authorities he had the teen run in place as a form of punishment. A trial date is set for June.

The investigation led officers to Richards' friend and neighbor, Steve Tibbetts. According to Tibbett's online profile, he specialized in grief and trauma therapy and was a licensed social worker in Minneapolis.  

The younger brother said he was often sent to Tibbett's home to do "chores." Tibbetts would order him to take off all of his clothes, then sexually touch and fondle him.  The boy was 14 at the time and says it happened repeatedly.  

Tibbetts was arrested for criminal sexual conduct and being in a position of authority over the minor. He has a hearing later this month. 

Neither Tibbetts or Richards are in custody. They've been told to stay away from the victims.


Beth McDonough

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