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Operators of Nevada boarding school free after posting bail

Updated February 15, 2019 - 12:22 pm

Marcel and Patricia Chappuis, the married operators of a private boarding school at the center of an ongoing abuse and neglect investigation, are no longer in custody.

The couple, who were transferred sometime Thursday evening from Las Vegas to the Nye County Detention Center, posted bail late Thursday. A status check in the case is scheduled for March 4 in Beatty Justice Court.

Marcel Chappuis, 72, a psychologist who owns Northwest Academy, and his 66-year-old wife, Patricia, each face 43 counts of allowing child abuse or neglect in connection with an ongoing investigation into their school in Amargosa Valley.

Most of the counts stem from an investigation into the school’s tap water, which officials have said contains high levels of arsenic. But Patricia Chappuis also faces two felony counts of child abuse or neglect in connection with “previous physical altercations with students,” according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

They made their initial court appearance Thursday morning in Las Vegas Justice Court. During the bail hearing, Judge Telia Williams denied attorney Malcolm LaVergne’s request to reduce the couple’s bail, which was set Tuesday by a Beatty Justice Court judge at $100,000 for Marcel Chappuis and $40,000 for his wife.

The couple were taken into custody late Tuesday at their son and daughter’s Las Vegas home on the 7600 block of Painted Dunes Drive by the Metropolitan Police Department, which was assisting Nye County authorities, marking the second and third arrests in the case.

The first arrest was made Jan. 29, one day after the Sheriff’s Office launched its investigation into the school. Caleb Hill, 29, was arrested on suspicion of child abuse after a former student reported being slammed to the ground by Hill on several occasions, the department has said.

Jail records showed that Hill remained at the Nye County Detention Center on Friday.

The allegations against Hill sparked the investigation, which also led to the discovery that the school was not complying with a state agency’s instructions to avoid exposing students to the contaminated water.

Investigators determined that school officials had been limiting students to three small water bottles daily and often ran out of bottled water, sometimes going without it for up to three days.

Following the couple’s arrests, the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health took steps to shut down the school. The school surrendered its child care license Thursday evening, and all students had been relocated, according to a division spokeswoman.

Formal charges against the couple and Hill had not been filed as of Friday morning.

Contact Rio Lacanlale at rlacanlale@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Follow @riolacanlale on Twitter.

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