Missouri ranch for troubled boys is sued for alleged rape

JOPLIN, Mo. | A lawsuit filed this week alleges that an 11-year-old boy was molested and raped by an older boy last year at Turnaround Ranch west of Joplin, and that the residential treatment center for youths failed to report the matter to the state's child abuse hot line.

The lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court names the boy's mother as plaintiff, and Freeman Health System, Ozark Center and Turnaround Ranch as defendants. Two counselors and a case manager are also named as defendants.

The mother of the boy claims that four incidents of assault on her son while he was a resident of Turnaround Ranch between September and November of last year went unreported to the state hot line.

The lawsuit states that another resident struck the boy with a belt on a weekend in September, leaving marks on his body. The first weekend in October, a 16-year-old resident who lived in the same cottage with him allegedly groped him.

The boy informed his counselors of the molestation, and his mother was notified and told that an internal review would be conducted to determine if the matter should be "hot-lined," according to the lawsuit.

But neither boy was transferred to another cottage, and the older one subsequently raped the younger one in a restroom Oct. 23 and sexually molested him a second time the same day, according to the lawsuit.

While the boy's mother was notified of the first of those two assaults, she claims in the lawsuit that no one at Turnaround Ranch ever notified her of the second assault that day. She took the matter to the Newton County Sheriff's Department on Nov. 2, and her son was discharged from the center four days later, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the mother and son by Eryn Peddicord, an attorney from Odessa, Mo.

Dwight Douglas, attorney for Freeman Health System, said the defendants have been aware of the allegations for several months.

"They've been fully investigated," Douglas said. "All required reports were made. After investigation, we dispute the allegations, and the lawsuit will be aggressively defended."