Youth counselor dies after being attacked at Lincoln Hills School

Second counselor injured, two youth charged with Felony Murder

A facility designated to replace the Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake youth detention center in Irma will be constructed in Milwaukee.


Two youth counselors were attacked at Lincoln Hills School in Irma Monday night, June 24, 2024, and one counselor has now died from injuries sustained in the attack. Corey Proulx, age 49, was pronounced deceased at 3:39 p.m. on Tuesday, June 25. He was declared brain dead and the family donated his organs to extend the gift of life to others. “There were brain injuries that were incompatible with life sustained,” said Lincoln County Coroner Valerie Caylor. An autopsy will be completed after organ donation, she said.
According to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO), the Lincoln County 911 Dispatch Center received a call from Lincoln Hills School staff at approximately 7:47 p.m. indicating a student had assaulted two staff members and one of the staff members had collapsed. On-site, the emergency response team went into action and performed CPR on Proulx until law enforcement and medical first responders arrived, a source said. He was then airlifted to Aspirus Wausau Hospital due to critical injuries. He never regained consciousness.
A 25-year-old unidentified female staff member was also transported to Aspirus Merrill Hospital where she was treated and released and is expected to make a full recovery, the LCSO said.
A June 25 press release from the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) said, “One staff member was assaulted in the residence hall when the youth returned from outdoor recreation. The youth shortly thereafter encountered and assaulted a second staff member, causing the staff member to hit their head on the concrete.”
It also confirmed: “The 16-year-old youth who was involved did not have any injuries requiring medical treatment.”
“Lincoln Hills School is currently operating normally though some youth were moved to a different residence hall due to the ongoing investigation,” the release said. That initial release also said, “No other youth were involved in this isolated incident.” However, a second youth has now been identified and charged in relation to the attack.

The attack

The Criminal Complaint against suspect Javarius Hurd gives a more accurate and complete description of what happened: “Victim 1 [female] was standing inside the Krueger Living facility near the doorway in the lower day room that lead (sic) to the outside courtyard. Hurd obtained a cup of a liquid substance, believed to be soap, from another youth and threw it at Victim 1’s upper body/face area. Hurd then physically attacked and assaulted Victim 1 unprovoked by repeatedly punching Victim 1 in Victim 1’s upper body/face area. Hurd then fled outside into the courtyard where other youth were present. Victim 2 followed Hurd outside to detain him.”
Hurd then ran toward the basketball hoop in the fenced courtyard and Proulx approached him. “Hurd struck Victim 2 [Proulx] multiple times unprovoked in Victim 2’s upper body/face area. Hurd maintained a fighting stance and punched Victim in the face two times,” the Complaint read. It then refers to video of the incident from Lincoln Hills School surveillance. “The video appears to show that Hurd punched Victim 2 using full force by extending his arm outward, and routing his body to allow maximum force. After Hurd punched Victim 2 using full force the second time, Victim 2 became incapacitated and went limp.” He fell to the ground and “struck his head on the pavement.”
“Hurd proceeded to climb up the basketball hoop and sit on the hoop overseeing the courtyard,” the Complaint said.
The Complaint further detailed that the attack was planned. “Hurd explained that he had built up aggression toward Victim 1 [female].” He said his built up aggression stemmed from his belief that she was abusing her power and “treating him unfairly.” He said he had planned to attack her and had asked another youth “to obtain the cup of soap from staff for him to throw” at her.
In the Criminal Complaint filed against Rian Nyblom, Nyblom confirmed he had obtained the cup of conditioner that Hurd ultimately threw in Victim 1’s face. “Nyblom told investigators that he knew why JH wanted the conditioner,” the Complaint said. “Early in the day, Nyblom and JH came up with a plan to physically attack Victim 1. For unknown reasons, the two of them abandoned the first plan and came up with another plan, which was the plan involving the conditioner. Nyblom stated he knew JH was going to ‘splash’ Victim 1 with the conditioner and then start swinging on her without warning.”

Two in custody

Two suspects have now been taken into custody, both charged with Felony Murder, among other charges.
On June 26, Javarius Hurd, age 16, was charged with Felony Murder – Battery, Special Circumstances; Second Degree Reckless Homicide; and two counts of Battery by Prisoners. He is being charged as an adult and held at the Lincoln County Jail on a $100,000 cash bond.
On June 27, Rian Nyblom, age 17, was arrested and charged with Felony Murder – Battery, Special Circumstances; and two counts of Battery by Prisoners in connection with the attack and death. Nyblom was incarcerated in the same unit as Hurd at the time of the assault. Nyblom is being held at the Lincoln County Jail on a $20,000 cash bond.

Tremendous loss

The death of Proulx has left Lincoln Hills Staff and the Merrill community reeling.
Proulx had returned to serve as a youth counselor at Lincoln Hills School last spring after briefly leaving the school two years prior, according to a June 26 release from the DOC.
“It is with tremendous sadness and regret that I announce the loss of a dedicated professional, colleague, and friend in the line of duty,” said Jared Hoy, DOC secretary. “A career in corrections, with its dual mission to protect the public and guide individuals toward rehabilitation, can be demanding and requires so many sacrifices for our staff and our families, and Corey made the ultimate sacrifice. Our DOC family is mourning Corey’s loss, and we are keeping all of his family members and friends in our thoughts.”
Proulx’s fiancée and daughter shared with Secretary Hoy that they would like everyone to know that Corey was an amazing partner, father, son and human being. At this time, the family does not wish to comment further and asks for privacy as they grieve.
In a message to staff at Lincoln Hills School, Superintendent Klint Trevino wrote the following: “Corey was a dedicated and compassionate member of our team, always striving to make a positive impact on the lives of the young individuals we serve. His commitment to our mission was unwavering, and he will be deeply missed by all of us.”
Secretary Hoy traveled to Lincoln Hills School on Wednesday to support staff and deployed Peer Supporters from across the agency “to help staff process this tragic event.”
Gov. Tony Evers ordered the flags of the United States and the state of Wisconsin to be flown at half-staff immediately on June 26 at the time of his Executive Order through sunset on June 27, in honor Proulx. “Our hearts break for Corey, his family and loved ones, his colleagues at the department, and all those who knew and loved him. By all accounts, Corey was a dedicated public servant who led with kindness and compassion in his commitment toward helping and supporting the youth he worked with,” said Evers. “Wisconsinites today are honoring Corey and his service as we mourn his tragic passing and keep Corey’s family and loved ones, colleagues, and all those who knew and served alongside him in our hearts and our prayers.”

Ongoing investigation

The June 25 DOC release indicated the “incident” was referred to the LCSO. The LCSO confirms this is now a joint investigation by their agency and the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, Wisconsin State Patrol, and the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office, and the investigation is still ongoing.

Local representatives call for accountability

Congressman Tom Tiffany (WI-07) called out Gov. Evers in a statement released after receiving the news. He expressed condolences to Proulx’s family and friends but said, “The Evers administration has had five years to come up with a plan for Lincoln Hills.”
“. . . Such an incident should have never occurred. Over six years ago, I warned the federal judge who sided with the ACLU that his decision would jeopardize the safety and security of staff at this facility. Despite this warning, the Evers administration failed to take necessary actions to protect the staff. As then-candidate Evers asked Governor Scott Walker in 2018, ‘How many staff have been harassed and abused [at Lincoln Hills]? How many lives have been ruined?’ I ask Governor Evers the same question today.”
“The staff, who dedicate their time to making a positive impact on our youth, deserve a safe working environment. Their families also deserve to know their loved ones will return home safely.”
He called for “responsible leaders who prioritize staff safety, not lenient policies that empower dangerous delinquents.”
Rep. Calvin Callahan (WI 35th District Assembly R-Tomahawk) also expressed his sympathy and outrage, calling Proulx’s death “the murder of a correctional officer at Lincoln Hills.”
“I am saddened and angered to hear of the passing of Corey Proulx, a dedicated and loving person,” Callahan said. “I am outraged by this current administration’s inability to protect its employees. Now, an innocent man has been killed on their watch. This should NEVER have happened, and I will do everything in my power as your state representative to make sure those who are responsible are held accountable. This will not stand; the staff at Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake and Corey’s friends and family have my word.”

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