Search warrant served at Circle of Hope Girl’s Ranch
CEDAR COUNTY, Mo. – In August, the state launched an investigation into allegations of physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse at the Circle of Hope Girl’s Ranch in Humansville.
When the investigation was launched, several girls were removed from the facility by state authorities. Now, Cedar County Prosecuting Attorney Ty Gaither confirms a search warrant was executed on September 1st.
We don’t know much about the search warrant at this point. But we did hear from another alleged victim.
“I don’t know how it’s taken this long for these things to finally happen,” says Gabrielle Stevens.
25-year-old Gabrielle Stevens was at Circle of Hope for almost a year between the ages of 15 and 16, back in 2010.
“I remember that first night that I was there, for dinner time we went through, like, everyone would go through the line and get food, and they were having like a walking taco type food, and they put ranch on it. I have two foods that I can’t eat, and that’s mayonnaise and ranch. I said, ‘No thank you, I don’t like ranch.’ So they dumped like four ladles of it on my food and said now you’re gonna eat it,” says Stevens. “I was like, ‘I can’t eat that. I will literally throw up if I eat that.’ So they said when you’re here, you eat what’s in front of you, and if you don’t eat it in the time frame, you’ll be eating it cold for the next meal. So, I tried to take a couple of bites of it. I ended up throwing up all over the place. I want to say it was Ms. Stephanie came out, pushed me down to the ground, and pushed my face down in the puke and said, ‘You eat what we give you, and if you throw up, you’ll be having your face in it.'”
She details 11 months that went much the same way, where she witnessed and experienced physical, mental, and emotional abuse day in and day out.
“The way they would talk to you, the things they would say. The things that you were required to do every day. Literally kneeling in gravel in 90 to 100-degree weather picking weeds for hours and hours and hours. Things like that. That’s what we did every single day,” says Stevens. “I probably cried myself to sleep the majority of the nights that I was there.”
And much like when we spoke with Amanda Householder, the adult daughter of founders Boyd and Stephanie Householder, Stevens also spoke about when girls would be “restrained,” oftentimes for hours at a time, for breaking the Householder’s rules.
“It happened to two girls when I was there, and they would take them to a room and do it, and I mean, you would hear them screaming in pain for anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours. The girls afterward, they would have bruises on their elbows, on their wrists, on the back of their necks, down the back of their legs, and on the back of their knees for days or weeks after that. That’s how much weight they were putting on these young small girls” says Stevens. “I remember that just terrifying me.”
Stevens also recalls not being allowed to have any form of contact with the outside world for the first month that she was there, and even after that, all phone calls were monitored and all letters were read by Boyd Householder before they were sent to parents.
“The only time we ever left was to go to church on Sundays. And I think maybe twice I went to the store, but other than that I was always there. We were always in groups of like three or more, and we were always with staff or in certain shirt colors so they could ensure that we weren’t by ourselves unattended to where we could run away or something like that. If you were on the phone there was some time limit, and you had to have it on speakerphone. And if you started to cry, or tell them anything that was going on, or ask them please come get me, they would hang up immediately… and your phone privileges were taken away,” explains Stevens.
She ended up going home after 11 months, a much shorter amount of time than the two-year attendance contract she says parents had to sign, and a lot less time than some others who she says were there for four or five years.
“The only reason I was able to get out early was I basically found a way to write my mom a letter that didn’t say anything like, ‘Help, come get me.’ I found a way to word my letter to her in a way that she would know that she would never say those things. There’s something going on,” explains Stevens. “And I knew if that didn’t work, I was gonna be there for another year… and at that point, I didn’t know if I could do it.
She says it took several years to work through the trauma she experienced, but now she’s making a life for herself. She attended college in Indiana, has four kids, and is getting ready to get married.
She’s also glad to see there’s an active investigation into the facility — but wishes it would have happened much sooner.
“I don’t know if people just didn’t believe. But it’s like after you have that many people coming out of the same place saying basically the same story, and they weren’t even there at the same time. How do you not think like, ‘Hey, this is a red flag, maybe we should look into it?'” says Stevens. “I just… I just don’t understand how people get away with that. How do they do that? And I’m just really hoping that they get to justice for all the things that have happened to all the girls.”