The owners of a now-defunct girls' home in Missouri have been charged by the state's attorney general with more than 100 felonies collectively — including sexual abuse and statutory rape — after 16 alleged victims came forward with purportedly corroborated claims.
What are the details?
Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) announced the charges against married couple Boyd and Stephanie Householder, who founded Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in 2006 as a Christian reform school for troubled teens.
NBC News reported:
Court records show Boyd Householder, 71, faces 79 felony counts and one misdemeanor, including charges for child molestation, sodomy, sexual contact with a student and neglect of a child. Stephanie Householder, 55, faces 22 felony charges for abuse or neglect of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child. The alleged incidents occurred from 2017 to 2020.
According to KRCG-TV, the allegations outlined in court documents accuse Boyd Householder of "repeated statutory sodomy," "multiple incidents" where he had sexual intercourse with a victim under the age of 17, slamming victims' heads into walls, beating girls with his hands or with a belt, and instructing several girls on the best way to kill themselves.
"There are no words I can say today to describe the mix of great sadness, horror, disgust and sympathy that I feel about these reports of cruel and almost unbelievable reports of abuse and neglect," Schmitt said during a news conference.
He added, "We believe this to be one of the most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse we've had against young girls and women in Missouri's history."
Schmitt's office took on the case in November, after the Cedar County Prosecutor's Office asked for assistance.
Boyd and Stephanie Householder are being held at the Vernon County Jail.
Girls' home had been reported at least 19 times
NBC News reported "since the boarding school opened, concerned parents, staff members and others had reported Circle of Hope at least 19 times to three sheriff's departments, state child welfare and education officials, the highway patrol, and the state attorney general's office."
The outlet did not cite the dates of when the prior complaints were filed, but noted that "the wave of state action began after the Householders' daughter, Amanda, and women who attended Circle of Hope as teenagers started to post videos on TikTok last spring alleging abuse at the ranch. The videos prompted the Cedar County Sheriff's Office to investigate, the office confirmed."
"This is a moment that does deserve to be celebrated," Amanda said of her parents' arrests in a TikTok video on Wednesday. "I am sad because they are my parents, but something my parents would always tell me is, 'You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.' Well, my parents made their bed and now they're going to have to lie in it. As hard as that is for me, it's about time."