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New Mexico Youth Ranch at Center of Abuse Investigation

A New Mexico youth ranch is under fire as nine kids are reported missing with Amber Alerts being issued.
New Mexico Youth Ranch at Center of Abuse Investigation
Image from tierrablancaranch.com

A New Mexico youth ranch, Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program, is in some serious hot water after allegations of abuse were lodged. When investigators decided to check it out, they showed up and nobody was home. The leader of the ranch, Scott Chandler, had vanished with all nine of the teenage boys he was supposed to be reforming. This sparked an Amber Alert and now everybody wants to know what happened to those kids.

The sprawling 30,000-acre compound is an unlicensed program that has been operating for nearly 20 years at the hands of the Chandler family. This latest news is part of an ongoing situation. The state received complaints, says New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez. She told a television news station, “We have allegations of abuse. We're required by law to investigate, and when you suddenly show up to the place and everybody's gone, it's of huge concern to us.”

The abuse that was reported at the New Mexico youth ranch includes things like teens being shackled and beaten if they violated any of the rules of the program. Other reports indicate violators were given starvation food rations. That certainly sounds extreme. Can you imagine the parents of those troubled teens? If you send your kid somewhere to get help, you certainly don’t expect them to be beaten. Seriously, that is just going to make the child that much more difficult, if not impossible to handle.

But there is a bit of a twist to this story. The ranch has a lawyer who has filed a lawsuit against the state over the way the investigation has been conducted. Apparently, the Chandlers wanted to keep all of this on the down-low and try to settle all of this behind closed doors. When authorities decided to issue an Amber Alert for the 9 missing boys ranging in age from 13 to 17, it kind of destroyed any veil of secrecy. Now the ranch people are mad.

In fact, the attorney says the missing boys were all on a scheduled camping trip and were not really missing at all. He goes on to say the kids are actually with their families. But the state investigators aren’t buying it. A sergeant with the New Mexico state police states, “We have not visually seen these kids to confirm their whereabouts, which is why the Amber Alert remains active.” However, the ranch’s attorney, Pete Domenici says, “They are safe and have already been picked up by their parents or their parents are en route to pick them up.”

It certainly sounds as if there is some funny business going on. The parents of the children who are in the program have reportedly been threatened according to the attorney. He says this investigation has been gone about all wrong. Investigators interviewed kids at the ranch without the main guy being present, which he is not cool with. Why not? Something to hide?

The investigation stems from abuse reports that date back to 2006. And the most recent incident involved the death of a former student. He died in a “traffic accident” that happened on the ranch. When parents decide to put their kids into the program, they are required to sign over power of attorney to Chandler. They also give the New Mexico ranch permission to use physical punishment as part of the behavior modification process.

Two boys who completed the program came out in defense of the New Mexico youth ranch. Two of how many that have been through it? One of the boys who claims it helped him turn his life around, has parents who totally disagree with the ranch’s effect. The father is not cool with it, but mom thinks it is great. So far, one of the nine missing kids has been found. Hopefully, investigators can get to the bottom of this quickly. It sounds shady. There is no reason anybody should need a power of attorney.

 

Update: All Missing Boys are now accounted for.

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