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Cedar County prosecutor files assault charges against 5 at Christian boarding school

Published: Sep. 28, 2021 at 11:41 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2021 at 8:22 PM CDT
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STOCKTON, Mo. (KY3) - The Cedar County prosecutor filed charges against several workers of the Agape boarding school near Stockton after accusations of abuse.

In all, five faces charges. They include:

-Seth Duncan: 5 counts of third-degree assault

-Scott Dumar: 4 counts of third-degree assault

-Trent Hartman: 2 counts of third-degree assault

-Christopher McElroy: 1 count of third-degree assault

-Everett Graves: 1 count of third-degree assault

Former students accuse workers of the school of assault and other abuse. Former student Colton Schrag says he’s disheartened to see only five people charged in this investigation.

“The message should’ve been we hear you, we’re gonna try to protect you and help you get out of this situation and then we’re gonna shut it down,” Schrag says. “But the message we received was we’ll do the bare minimum to get you off our backs but we don’t actually really care about you guys.”

Operators advertise Agape as a national boarding school for at-risk or unmotivated boys. The campus is also home to Agape Baptist Church. When it comes to troubled teenage boys, Schrag says they’re often overlooked and people may not be as open to hearing their stories.

”If I was to speak out at that time like I did, ‘Hey they’re beating on us,’ it kind of just fell on deaf ears,” Schrag says. “You automatically think like what did that kid do. He’s there for a reason he’s not a good kid.”

Schrag spent three-and-a-half years at Agape. During his time there, Schrag says students endured physical, mental, and psychological abuse.

“From getting drug out of your bunk into the hallway with staff members elbowing you, hitting you, kneeing you, and slamming you onto the ground,” Schrag says. “Even also some of them withholding meals from you or putting you on a small portion so you can’t eat like the rest of the students.”

Boyd and Stephanie Householder face 100 criminal abuse charges as the owners of the Circle of Hope Ranch. Their daughter, Amanda Householder, says the couple worked at Agape before opening their school.

“My dad learned at Agape how to restrain the students, how to withhold their food, their water,” Householder says. “Basically, Agape is the blueprint for Circle of Hope.”

The Missouri Attorney General’s office identified 65 criminal counts against 22 co-defendants. Those charges included abuse of a child, failure to report child abuse, endangering the welfare of a child, tampering with a victim, and assault. However, the Cedar County prosecutor charged five defendants with multiple counts of assault.

“It’s not even a slap on the wrist for Agape,” Householder says. “It’s a slap in the face for the victims of Agape.”

The Missouri Highway Patrol says it began its investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect at the facility in late February.

According to Householder, some of the people charged were former students at Agape.

“They were just doing what they were brainwashed to do from childhood,” Householder says. “They were students and then they turned staff. It’s very angering to me that the people who forced the people to act the way they’re acting are not being charged.”

Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither asked the governor’s office for help in his investigation of the Agape Ranch and Boarding School. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office also investigated the accusations.

In a letter to Governor Parson, the Attorney General has asked to be removed as a special prosecutor in this investigation.

The letter reads:

“Mr. Gaither’s decision to pursue a relatively small number of minor felony offenses reveals he has no real need of expertise and resources of the Attorney General’s Office. More importantly, however, in deciding not to charge a number of other offenses, Mr. Gaither has expressly rejected the assistance and expertise of the Attorney General’s office, and he has indicated that he does not intend to seek justice for all of the 36 children who were allegedly victimized by 22 members of the Agape Boarding School staff.”

Governor Parson deferred questions regarding this investigation to the attorney general.

“That’s going to be between the attorney general and the local prosecutors,” Governor Parson says. “Local prosecutors ask the attorney general for help sometimes. I’m not sure what all happened in that so I think that’s better addressed by the attorney general and the prosecutor in Cedar County.”

The attorney general denied KY3′s request for an interview on Tuesday.

Schrag says his goal is to prevent as many kids as possible from going to Agape in the future.

“The people that are being charged at Agape right now are small fish, like did the minimum,” Schrag says. “There’s a lot of heavy hitters that are still in that school that did more of the abuse on a daily basis that is probably doing it. They’re going to walk around thinking they’re untouchable now.”

The Cedar County prosecuting attorney did not respond to KY3′s request for an interview.

KY3 requested the probable cause statements on those five charges and are waiting for the documents.

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