Social worker admits sexually abusing boy, showing up on porch with gun after mom called cops


A 24-year-old Ohio mental health counselor memorably arrested on her birthday last October, just four months after she got her social worker license, pleaded guilty to multiple crimes Tuesday for sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy she was supposed to help.

Payton Harleigh Shires of Mount Sterling appeared in a Franklin County courtroom alongside her defense lawyer and admitted to four counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and an offense for causing panic by showing up at the victim’s home with a gun while she was out on bond — claiming the boy’s mother “ruined her life” by calling the cops on her.

The defendant also pleaded guilty to a witness/victim intimidation count, records reviewed by Law&Crime show, meaning that altogether under the plea deal, Shires will face up to 28-and-a-half years in prison when she’s sentenced on June 27.

Shires, who got her social worker license in Ohio back on June 12, 2023, went on to work with the National Youth Advocate Program. The defendant was reported to the Columbus Police Department in late September on the allegation that she admitted to the abuse during a phone call with the boy’s mother as cops listened in. The mother had said she saw messages from Shires to her son asking if the woman “had seen the videos or messages” or if those videos had been deleted.

Those texts and videos weren’t deleted, as the Columbus Police Department found.

Payton Shires

Payton Shires (left) in Franklin County court on May 28, 2024, where she pleaded guilty (WBNS/screengrab), (right) in a Columbus Police Department mug shot

After Shires was arrested on her birthday, she bonded out of jail. As a condition of her release, she was ordered not to have any contact with the victim or any other unsupervised contact with minors.

Her bond was revoked, however, when cops said that she threatened to take her own life after showing up at the victim’s home with a gun.

Authorities said she called the boy’s mother, threatened to kill her, and said the parent “ruined her life.” The mother said she saw Shires on camera sitting on the porch with the gun.

Following her rearrest, Shires and the National Youth Advocate Program were hit with a civil lawsuit, claiming that the organization that hired her as a social worker was negligent in its hiring and supervision of Shires.

The lawsuit said that while Shires was employed by the organization, the social worker “engaged in an inappropriate sexual relationship” with John Doe “at various locations in Franklin County, Ohio as well as other Ohio counties.”

The boy’s mother, Jane Doe, reported the “inappropriate conduct” to a National Youth Advocate Program supervisor on Sept. 22 and asked that Shires “be removed from Plaintiff John Doe’s care,” but the organization failed to immediately remove her and the “inappropriate sexual relationship continued,” court documents claimed.

The group previously told Law&Crime in a statement that it was “saddened by the situation involving one of our former employees and a young person served by our organization.”

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