Owners of Circle of Hope girls ranch face judge in abuse case

Published: May. 20, 2021 at 12:06 PM CDT|Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 4:30 PM CDT
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STOCKTON, Mo. (KY3) - The owners of the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in Cedar County faced a judge Thursday, accused of abusing girls.

Boyd and Stephanie Householder face 100 charges of abuse related to their operation of the boarding school. The judge threw out two counts, one against each.

Investigators removed all the girls from the facility in August 2020. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced charges against them in March. Both face many counts of abuse or neglect of a child. Boyd Householder faces 20 sexual abuse charges.

Thursday morning, the couple walked into court in jail suits and handcuffs for their preliminary hearing. Boyd Householder carried a Bible. State investigators and Cedar County deputies took the stand, testifying about interviews with girls from the ranch. They shared accounts about girls being restrained on the ground and held against walls. Girls claimed Boyd Householder used pressure points to cause pain.

Some said they were forced to wear a neck brace as discipline, hold themselves in push-up position, got dirty socks or underwear stuffed in their mouths, and their mouths duct taped shut. One girl told investigators she had socks placed on her hands and her arms taped to her waist. Another claimed she was isolated in a quiet room for days, up to two weeks, chained up at times, and given only bread and water.

Multiple investigators testified the girls told them they were only allowed to make calls if someone was in the room to make sure they didn’t say something they shouldn’t. Another investigator said the Householders made it difficult to speak with the girls on a visit a few years ago.

One girl told investigators she was promoted to secretary, and Boyd Householder first inappropriately touched her, then had sex with her many times in various places on the ranch.

The defense brought up these girls have histories of violence, false accusations, lying and other behavior problems.

KY3′s Linda Simmons sat in the courtroom. She witnessed Boyd and Stephanie Householder reacting to the accusations, sometimes laughing and smiling, other times with confused expressions.

The two will return to court June 14.

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