Boyd and Stephanie Householder, owners of Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch, a religious boarding school in Missouri, were taken into custody Tuesday, and will face over 100 charges of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, CBS News reports.
Boyd Householder has been charged with 79 counts and one misdemeanor, which includes child molestation, neglect of a child, sexual contact with a student, and sodomy. Stephanie Householder faces 22 felony counts of abuse, neglect of a child, and endangering the welfare of a child.
Boyd opened the Circle of Hope in 2006 as a school where he could reform rebellious teenagers. However, NBC News has heard from two dozen former residents, who have detailed the abusive behavior that occurred during their time at the ranch, such as withholding food and restraining girls face down for up to an hour.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said 16 victims have come forward so far in what he considers to be “one of the most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse patterns against young girls and women in Missouri history.” Schmitt mentioned that investigators have been told about instances where girls had dirty socks shoved into their mouths, while another said Boyd advised her on how to kill herself.
Court documents reveal Boyd allegedly slammed two girls’ heads against a wall and another girl was forced to stay in a room with no light or sound for “an extended period of time on multiple occasions.” Stephanie’s alleged involvement had more to do with her helping her husband with restraints and endangering these girls by allowing him to interact with them, even after they were abused.
Last year, the couple’s child, Amanda Householder, 29, received a message on Facebook from a family friend named Joseph Askins, who allegedly witnessed several abusive incidents at the school, and sent a video featuring the voice of a man believed to be Boyd encouraging the girls to assault one another.
Amanda shared the footage on YouTube and Twitter, but it took off after she created an account on TikTok called @ExposingCircleofHope, and numerous former residents spoke up about their experiences at the ranch. An investigation was launched by the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office and two dozen girls were removed last year, resulting in the voluntary closure of the school soon after. The property has also been put up for sale.