In recent weeks, the Cedar County Republican broke the news of mental, physical and sexual abuse allegations — along with the removal of at least 25 young females by state authorities — from the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in rural Humansville.
As the CCR has continued its coverage of the ongoing situation and investigational developments, parents of former COH student have started to come forward in an effort to break many long-standing silences.
Over the past week — and as multiple news outlets from several states across the Ozarks have picked up the story — mothers and fathers of past COH attendees have reached out to the Republican to share their alleged experiences.
‘I JUST WANT JUSTICE FOR THESE GIRLS’ (subhead, bold)
When one single mother from a southern state found herself dealing with a troubled teenage daughter, she went through all the responsible motions many parents know all too well — counseling, psychiatric treatments, faith-based programs and rehabilitation efforts — in an effort to prevent her child from becoming another statistic in the criminal justice system.
“A [Baptist] church here recommended Circle of Hope to us,” the mother said, describing when she was at her wits end with an unruly child. “We belong to the Baptist faith and it sounded like the perfect fit for what I felt my daughter needed at the time.”
The mother said she made arrangements and set about getting everything required to admit her daughter to the COH program in rural Humansville.
“We went and got everything on their supply list,” the mother explained. “All sorts of Oklahoma University clothing, bedding, all that sort of stuff … we spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars packing her up with nice things to take with her to go there.”
She went on to state only a single personal T-shirt was returned with her daughter’s belongings and asserted the school had kept all of the personal affects her daughter had brought with her.
When it came to this mother’s communication with her child, the mother said she had misgivings right from the start of her daughter’s stay at COH.
“She was forced to tell me things I knew were completely untrue, too,” the mother said, recalling odd communications with her daughter during her three-month stay at the facility. “She was on speakerphone with me during one of her first calls where she said she ‘had a baby at 11-years-old and her grandmother helped her give it up for adoption.’ I didn’t even know what to say back to her. I knew that was a huge lie and the red flags went up from there on out.”
She went on to confirm her daughter had been in her custody throughout all her youthful years, including the timeframe referenced above, and had never been pregnant — nor was her daughter even physically developed enough at age 11 to conceive a child.
“Phone calls were monitored and they (COH staff) would hang up anytime my daughter didn’t answer a question in a way they approved of. I never got to have a direct conversation with her the whole time she was there,” the mother said.
When inquiring about her daughter’s scholastic efforts, she said real answers from the Householders were hard to come by.
“We were told the girls got religious schooling there,” she said. “My daughter came out of there behind all the kids her age and never really got any sort of education there at all. It’s like, they were being forced to do farm work all the time and being punished instead of getting counseling, therapy or doing any sort of regular schoolwork.”
On Feb. 14, 2015, the mother and a family friend arrived at COH to remove her child from the organization — three months into her daughter’s stay at COH facility.
“I was shocked when I saw her,” the mother said of her daughter’s appearance. “She had lost 50 pounds and she was never a girl who needed to lose weight.”
The mother said the Householders objected to their untimely arrival and said her daughter would “give her problems if they removed her from the program.”
According to the mother, she and her daughter both were told to sign waivers before allowing her daughter to leave the COH premises.
“When we got there and I saw my child, at that moment, I would’ve done anything to get her out of there,” she said.
The mother went on to state her daughter alleged she suffered and witnessed physical abuses, such as being thrown to the ground and having multiple girls be ordered to administer pressure to points on her body for hours on end, being forced to remain in push up position until complete physical collapse, cold weather isolation where her daughter was forced to stay outside in sub-freezing winter weather in nothing but a t-shirt and a slip, having bathroom privileges denied for 12-hour timeframes, being forced to eat oatmeal and grits until she vomited, and “being stood in an office while Boyd [Householder] gave commands to a white German shepherd dog to attack her — biting her leg — and the subsequent wound was allegedly dressed with nothing more than toilet paper.”
“I absolutely believe her,” the mother said of her daughter’s accusations. “These are things a young girl just couldn’t make up. She’s always been a blunt and direct girl, too. She wasn’t lying about this stuff.”
According to the mother, the years ahead with her daughter after her time at COH were no better for quite some time, either.
“It took her almost five years to forgive me for doing what I thought was best for her at the time,” she said. “She went through hell and came back mentally and emotionally damaged. She rebelled by taking out her anger on me because I was the one who made the decision to put her there.”
Her daughter also has made additional allegations regarding sexual abuse at COH; however, the details of these accounts are graphic and may currently be the subject of both criminal and civil investigations, thus, the CCR has respectfully opted not to disclose this information at the current time.
Presently, the mother said her daughter has been drug-free for more than five years, is completing emergency medical technician certifications and has a 4-year-old child of her own, who is a part of Evans’ daily life now as well.
Speaking to the future, the mother said her goal for her daughter is simple and rooted in what any parent would need now.
“I just want justice for these girls,” the mother said with emotion. “This kind of thing can’t be ignored. These girls can’t heal and this won’t stop until the truth is told and justice is served.”
‘IT’S TIME TO GET HER OUT’ (subhead, bold)
Last week, on the condition of anonymity, the father of a previous COH attendee contacted CCR after seeing local news coverage featuring the removal of 25 young females from the supposed faith-based reformatory facility.
“My wife and I looked at each other when we saw this on TV and our jaws dropped,” the father said. “We knew it was time to speak out, even if we had to do it cautiously.”
During his conversation with CCR staff, the father emotionally talked about struggling with an unruly teenager far past what many think of when it comes to family issues and in-home friction between parents and coming-of-age children.
“She was running away, sneaking out with boys, getting into real trouble and we were genuinely worried she was going to wind up in the legal system and have a criminal record,” the father said of his family’s decision to place their daughter in an out-of-home program.
Shortly after making this decision, the father said he and his wife settled upon COH because of what they had been told by leadership from a church in the area.
“We were led to believe this specific church in the area actually was part of the Circle of Hope organization … we found out later this was a complete lie.”
The father said COH co-owner, Stephanie Householder, identified herself as a registered nurse and assured him the girls in the care of the facility always had medical attention, but said he later came to find his daughter received no medical services to speak of whatsoever.
“She never received any counseling, therapy or behavioral services in any way,” the father said. “It was more like they were performing slave labor instead of getting an education or any real help for their issues.”
The father said he and his mother noticed inconsistencies in their communications with their teenage daughter as well.
“Visits were canceled because we were told she didn’t have those privileges,” the father said. “When we objected, he (Householder) would remind us we signed a contract agreeing to participate with their program and we couldn’t get anywhere with it.”
He went on to describe written communications from his daughter which were typed out and signed by the child, rather than something written in her own hand. The father additionally said the “language was odd and it didn’t sound like her at all,” and added “it sounded like she was somehow trying to impress us and had all sorts of spiritual language in them,” which was out of character for his daughter.
After several months of back-and-forth, the father and mother decided the time had come to make their presence known to the Householders and visit their child “whether she had the ‘privilege’ or not.”
Upon what turned out to be their last visit to COH, the father went on to state his daughter was in ”gross, dirty clothing, a long skirt … and had lost an incredible amount of weight to a point that looked medically unhealthy” to him.
“She looked starved and had no energy,” the father said upon arrival for his family’s last trip to COH.
“Boyd [Householder] greeted us and instantly advised we speak to our daughter in one specific room,” the father said. “And, Stephanie [Householder] said our daughter would ‘win an academy award for playing you’ before I got to speak to her. It felt weird because there was plenty of space to meet with her right out in the open. I couldn’t figure out why they were both trying to convince us of something before we got to speak to our daughter. I don’t know why, but after all the other suspicious stuff we were picking up on, her mother and I felt like the room they put us in might have been bugged with a recording device.”
The father went on to say he asked his daughter a number of questions in yes-or-no phrasing — which she answered in the affirmative, but shook her head left and right to signal the opposite.
After meeting with their daughter in this prescribed room for only a matter of minutes, the father said he immediately walked out and told the girl’s mother “it’s time to get her out.”
With much outward and vocal objection from Boyd Householder, the father said he and his wife took their daughter out of the Householder’s care immediately.
“He tried to convince us to let her stay there until we found another program for her,” the father said. “When we declined, he told us she would be worse off than when we’d brought her there to begin with tried to convince us to convince her to keep her there.”
The father said he, along with the girl’s mother, were adamant about leaving with their child at any cost.
“Boyd stared her down as we were leaving,” the father said. “It was just wrong. It all felt so obviously wrong.”
‘YOU NAME IT, SHE SAW IT’ (subhead, bold)
Talk of abuse began to come from the family’s daughter almost immediately after removing her from COH.
Allegations regarding violently physically restraining girls using pressure points, picking girls up by the neck and slamming them to the ground, sleep deprivation punishments such as wiping walls with dry rags all night, supervising what were dubbed “meetings” where girls were pitted against one another to physically fight out issues between themselves, denying girls bathroom privileges all night, then throwing large quantities of ice on them for wetting the bed — all of which have been corroborated by statements made to CCR staff by numerous other accusers.
“You name it, she saw it,” the father said of his daughter’s accounts, pausing to verify portions of his statements with his daughter who was present during his recent communication with CCR staff.
Though things are better for this family now, the father said his daughter rebelled after being removed from COH and resented both him and her mother for “forcing her to be in a hell we knew nothing about.”
Looking ahead and sharing his appreciation for the light now being shed on the investigative efforts, the girl’s father shared a message of solidarity and encouragement for those coming forward as the situation continues to develop.
“All of these potential victims have our complete support,” the father said on behalf of his entire family. “This is overdue, we were floored to see this come to light and it’s about time. We hope this allows more of these victims to feel they can come forward now.”
Though recently confirming the investigation by several departments within the State of Missouri, Cedar County prosecuting attorney Ty Gaither’s office declined to comment on the matter further because it was “an ongoing investigation,” but did confirm 25 young girls had in fact been removed from the facility last month.
Cedar County sheriff James McCrary has confirmed his office has followed up on all reports regarding COH during his time as the elected sheriff and referred further questions to the local juvenile office and state entities.
At time of press, no charges have been filed in relation to the allegations made against Circle of Hope Girls Ranch.
The Cedar County Republican will continue to cover this investigation as it develops and bring topical, pertinent information to our readers in a timely manner.
Staff at CCR has yet to receive a response from the Householder family and/or their legal representation, Kirksey Law Firm, Bolivar, despite repeated recent attempts for comment.