5 Employees of Christian Boarding School in Missouri Charged with Abuse

By Associated Press
fundamentalist Missouri boarding school
Agape Ranch and Boarding School near Stockton, Missouri, a facility operated by Agape Baptist Church. (Image: KY3 / Video screengrab)

A southwest Missouri prosecutor said Tuesday he has charged five employees of a private Christian boarding school with abusing students — far fewer than the number of charges recommended by state investigators.

The five employees of the Agape Boarding School near Stockton were charged with a total of 13 third-degree felony assault counts, Cedar County Prosecuting Attorney Ty Gaither said.

The charges come after the Missouri State Highway Patrol investigated allegations of abuse at the school.

Based on that investigation, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt recommended prosecuting 22 employees with 65 counts on behalf of 36 victims, including felonies for abuse of a child and tampering with a victim, and misdemeanors for endangering the welfare of a child and failure to report child abuse.

After Gaither said last week that he planned to charge far fewer employees than recommended, Schmitt asked Gov. Mike Parson to remove his office from the investigation because he didn’t believe Gaither intended to “seek justice” for all the victims.

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Gaither said this office believed “these to be the appropriate charges under the fact of the investigation,” The Kansas City Star reported.

Although Gaither asked for the attorney general’s assistance in the case, Missouri law gives county prosecutors sole authority in deciding what charges are filed.

A Missouri law passed in 1982 exempted religious residential care facilities from state licensure requirements. After the allegations of abuse at Agape arose last year, the Legislature passed a law that gave the state greater oversight of unlicensed residential care facilities for children.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Brett Harper, of Oregon, who attended Agape from 1999 to 2003 and has pushed for three years for an investigation into abuse at the school.

“It’s one third of the people who should be charged and he lowered the charges,” Harper said Tuesday. “Nobody would call that justice.”

The Star reported that two former students contacted the FBI last week and were told the agency’s office was looking into the Agape case. An FBI spokesman in Kansas City did not confirm or deny an investigation.

According to online court records, the probable cause statements describing the alleged offenses will be kept confidential to protect victims’ rights.

Two of those charged are former students who became Agape employees: medical director, Scott L. Dumar, and Seth Duncan, the son-in-law of David Smock, a Stockton doctor who for years has provided medical care for Agape students. The others charged are Christopher R. McElroy, Everett L. Graves and Trent E. Hartman.

An investigation into the school began after The Star reported on the abuse allegations last year. Since then, former students testified at legislative hearings that they tried to report the abuse at Agape and the now-closed Circle of Hope Girls Ranch for years, but that Cedar County authorities and other officials did not respond to the complaints.

Circle of Hope Girls Ranch near Humansville was closed last year after authorities removed about 25 students amid an investigation into abuse and neglect allegations.

The owners, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, were charged in March and await trial on 100 criminal counts — all but one are felonies — including statutory rape, sodomy and physical abuse and neglect. Both have pleaded not guilty and were released in July on $10,000 bond pending trial.



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6 thoughts on “5 Employees of Christian Boarding School in Missouri Charged with Abuse”

  1. One thing not mentioned here: how many of those who were going to be charged, offered to turn State’s evidence in exchange for leniency? Do you punish the low level employee who was probably afraid of his or her job, or of being kicked out of the church, or do you want the snakes at the top?

    1. Mark I want them all. For example your child has been hurt by someone and I know what happened but afraid to be kicked out of church. What kind of useless human being am I and what kind of godless waste of a church do I attend. Nail them all. When I read that scripture is used to justify not bringing the cops in, then I see people that should be shamed out of existence. I’m 67. I’ve read of abuse in churches all my life. I’ve never understood how people can justify protecting the abusers vs protecting the victims and using scripture as the power.

      1. Gary is correct……silence perpetuates all forms of abuse. Abuse is exactly like an iceberg, the vast majority of it can’t be seen and silence from those with knowledge of an abuser…… continues protecting the abuser and the victim count increases.

        The strangest part of choosing to be silent is the effort needed to ignore the damage to a victim and the effort needed to continue hiding from the truth. Those mental & emotional gymnastics seem mind boggling to me.

        I will always struggle when people stay on the sidelines instead of stepping in and stopping the abuse

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