Molestation, abuse and ‘riot’ being investigated at Christian boarding school near Tri-Cities
by ALLISON STORMO AND MERON PROBERT; ALLISON R. STORMO WALLA WALLA, WA (5-20-20)
A suspected child molestation, abuse and car theft are among the allegations under investigation at a Christian boarding school east of the Tri-Cities.
On Tuesday, Walla Walla County deputies were again called to the Master’s Ranch in Prescott after 30 angry teens armed themselves with shovels and brooms.
It was the latest of seven calls in 13 days made to sheriff’s deputies.
Trouble at the ranch came to a head Tuesday after state Child Protective Services officers removed eight boys from the school on Monday, and 30 more were removed by CPS or parents on Wednesday.
While ranch owner Pastor David Bosley called the CPS action a “raid,” a sheriff’s office news release Wednesday said it was a standard site visit from the state after receiving multiple allegations about possible abuse and neglect.
“A site visit is common and may or may not yield a child being placed into protective custody after an investigation by law enforcement and CPS is conducted,” the sheriff’s office.
Bosley posted on Facebook that the facility is shutting down until it can work out its issues with the state. The boarding school cares for about 40 at-risk boys ages 9 and 17 from several states.
Earlier on Tuesday he called the state’s move “unplanned” and “poorly thought out,” saying that it converted a normally peaceful academy into “Lord of the Flies chaos.”
“That’s exactly what you started. Now I’ve got a situation on my hands that you did. … Now, it’s getting out of hand or it’s not even controllable. .. I’ve never had anything like this happen in the history of our ranch…,” he said on a Facebook video that has since been removed.
He could not be reached Wednesday. He told the Herald on Tuesday that he is driving from Missouri to return to Washington state.
Bosley and his wife Tresa took over the former Jubilee Christian Academy and ranch from orchardists Ralph and Cheryl Broetje in 2018.
The Bosleys have operated a similar school in Missouri since 1997.
A series of complaints have led the state Department of Children, Youth and Families to start an investigation into whether the unlicensed facility is following state laws. It was not clear Wednesday what state laws govern the faith-based facility.
Bosley told the Herald on Tuesday that the allegations came after he fired two employees.
Two former employees contacted the Herald on Wednesday to say that they weren’t fired, but resigned on their own.
Derek Lorenz told the Herald he quit May 6 over a disagreement with managers about disciplinary actions toward the boys, some policies and procedures and concerns about the welfare of the boys.
Lorenz said he made a call to DCYF about some of his concerns.
Another employee who called the Herald said he also contacted the Walla Walla Sheriff’s Department.
The sheriff’s office confirmed Wednesday that multiple investigations are ongoing. A news release said their main concerns are the children’s well being and making sure all allegations are investigated thoroughly.
SHERIFF’S DEPUTIES CALLED
The sheriff’s office said they were first called May 7 after five boys ran away from the ranch and stole a car from Vista Hermosa in Prescott.
They turned up in Walla Walla after shoplifting from the College Place Walmart. The teens were booked into the county’s juvenile justice center.
Three days later, two other boys ran away from the ranch and were found and returned to the school.
Then on May 12, deputies investigated a report that a staff member used excessive force with an 11-year-old boy. There is no report of an arrest, or whether the investigation is continuing.
The next day, a male employee at the school was arrested. Jail records show Max Shelton, 20, is being held on $10,000 bail on investigation of third-degree child molestation and communication with a minor for immoral purposes.
He allegedly had inappropriate contact with a teenage girl.
When police talked with Shelton, he had a swollen eye, blood on his jeans and complained about being hit several times in the chest by Bosley and another staff member, according to court records.
Then on Monday, detectives and CPS case workers showed up to investigate the allegations of abuse and neglect. After an extensive investigation, eight boys were taken into protective custody.
The kids were taken to Walla Walla to be cared for until parents could pick them up.
A mother of one of the boys called the Herald to say that she had extensive concerns about her son’s time there. She saw videos on Facebook on Tuesday of Bosley saying he was driving from Missouri to Washington and that was the first she knew fully of the situation.
She then called CPS to make the necessary arrangements for them to remove her son from the facility and take him to the Pasco airport to meet his father, who flew in from out of state to pick him up.
On Tuesday, there was a report of 30 angry teens with shovels and brooms outside the main house at the ranch.
“A large police patrol response, from multiple agencies, along with detectives and CPS answer the call,” said the news release, though it’s unclear what happened after they arrived but no injuries were reported.
The sheriff’s office said by 3:20 p.m., Bosley announced the ranch was shutting down and all remaining students, about 30, were taken by parents or CPS officials.
“We understand this is a very concerning situation for parents, students and staff alike. We ask for cooperation as we work to determine the extent and validity of every allegation,” said the release.
The Master’s Ranch website schoolforboys.com describes its program as a mentoring, military-like environment that integrates educational, spiritual and personal growth curriculum to help at-risk boys succeed in life.
The one-year program also offers vocational training, athletics and community service projects as part of the Master’s Baptist Church which does business as the Master’s Ranch and Christian Academy.