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Verdict reached in Massage Envy assault case

Posted at 5:55 PM, May 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-07 15:23:27-04

This Sunday is Mother's Day. A day that will be forever marred for one local woman. 

Her Mother's Day massage turned into a nightmare when she fell victim to an assault. 

Now, Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears reports, for the first time a Las Vegas jury finds fault and misconduct at Massage Envy.  

It's been five years since Audra Duvall was molested on a massage table and the emotions are still raw.

"I'm so proud that I was finally believed. I understand why people don't come forward. This was the hardest thing I've ever had to do."

As a victim, she's been validated. A recent civil jury verdict awarded her more than $72,000 for assault and battery by massage therapist Limmie Young and gross negligence by the Massage Envy franchise that employed him.

"Right before the verdict was read," Audra recalls, "I was bawling uncontrollably. I think it was because I wanted it to be done. Whether I was believed or not, we knew that we told the truth."

In May, 2011, Audra went to Massage Envy in Centennial Hills to use a Mother's Day gift certificate from her family.

"My massage was only half an hour. It was designed to be a 90-minute session. What would've happened to me if I would have let him continue?"

State and court records show therapist Limmie Young "Grabbed Audra by the armpits and shook her to make her breasts jiggle." He also exposed her breasts and genitals, lifted her leg and "Pressed his groin to hers" and placed his genitals in her hand. He had her blindfolded during the whole episode.

"I don't know how I got myself out of there but I know for a fact that my family and who I am as a person--that's the only strength that I had in my reserves to sit up and say, 'Stop.' "

When she asked for help from Massage Envy employees, she says she got none. 

The lawsuit says "She wasn't offered an incident report. No one took down her contact information and no one told her "What steps to take after being violated by Young." 

What did she get? A voicemail message a few days later from Massage Envy apologizing for her "Negative experience" and offering her a complimentary massage.

"It's not going to stop until they do something about it. And most of the management hide things," said Audra.

The Centennial Massage Envy location is a franchise owned by Franchesta Marbury Hammonds under the corporate name Aposseadesse. 

Hammonds owns multiple Massage Envy franchises in the valley. 

The jury found she was almost as liable for what happened to Audra as the therapist himself. 

Through her attorney, Hammonds declined comment for this story. 

Records show she and her staff did not report Audra's incident to police at all, and didn't tell the Nevada State Board of Massage Therapy until after a second inappropriate encounter was reported by another female client.

"Had Massage Envy taken action, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you," said Stacey Ackerman, who was massaged by Limmie Young two weeks after Audra. 

State records show Young exposed Stacey's private areas and rubbed her genitals.

She reported it to management and, later that day, Young was fired. But state records show Young had three previous complaints of inappropriate contact at Massage Envy on Grand Canyon. 

He was ultimately fired there, but then hired by Hammonds a year later at the Massage Envy where Audra's five-year ordeal began.

"I feel extremely proud of the fact that we didn't settle. And the point of this was to make sure that voices were heard and that they're not going to get away with this kind of thing."

Limmie Young is no longer licensed as a massage therapist in Nevada. 

Neither he nor his attorney returned our calls for comment. 

Massage Envy's corporate office wouldn't talk to us on camera either. 

They sent a statement, which said,

"In lieu of the statement provided below, we are not able to grant any interviews or take any follow up questions."

STATEMENT FROM MASSAGE ENVY: “In September 2015, prior to trial, the court dismissed all claims against Massage Envy Franchising, LLC and, therefore, we were not involved and cannot comment on the trial. We continue to make member and guests’ comfort and safety a priority by requiring all franchisees to use the industry’s most robust pre-employment screening and training program for therapists and strict adherence to our Zero Tolerance Policy regarding inappropriate conduct.”