What is going on at Tierra Blanca Ranch?

Photo on the Terra Blanca Ranch website

UPDATE:  10/14/13 –  The Amber Alert has been cancelled for all the teens the state said was missing, but turned out to NOT BE MISSING.

They were all physically accounted for Sunday, New Mexico State Police said in a release Sunday evening.

Chandler’s attorney stated that “efforts by police to verify the whereabouts of the boys likely were complicated by custody proceedings filed by the state. ”

In other words, I believe he trying to say they all went into hiding.

This is a big pissing match between child services, the New Mexico Police and Terra Blanca Ranch.

I personally believe the Amber Alert was misused by the state as their disappearance NEVER MET the Amber Alert Criteria.

The back story on this case is below and starts at the “previous story” paragraph. 

UPDATE: I was curious what the Amber Alert said for these missing teens and wanted to read it for myself.  I was looking for a description of the teens and a vehicle they might be traveling in.

What I found was a bunch of empty boxes.  Click here to see.

Most of the time we are complaining about the lack of Amber Alerts when a child has gone missing by authorities, and Law Enforcement responds that there is a certain criteria that has to be met before an Amber Alert can be issued.

The criteria is according to the Dept of Public Safety New Mexico:

•    There must be evidence of a non-family OR custodial abduction
•    Of a Child 17 years of age or less
•    There must be specific information concerning the abductor and/or child, which would prove useful to the public in hopes of recovering the child
•    There must be reason to believe the child is in imminent danger of bodily harm or death
•    AND the child must have already been entered in to NCIC as missing

So you can imagine my confusion when I find that the criteria was not met in the Amber Alerts for these missing nine teens.  If you go to the New Mexico State Police Amber Alert website you will see the names of the 9 teens including Scott Chambers, but there is NO information.  There was no specific information concerning the teens like a description or even a picture that would be helpful to recovering them, plus there wasn’t even a description or license plate of the car. Why am I bothered by this?  Because how many times have we all been left scratching our heads not understanding why a child did NOT get an Amber Alert when there was far more information to go on than in this case.

Also, Scott Chandler is named as a suspect but he appeared for a press conference and he was not detained.  If he is wanted by the New Mexico police then why didn’t they pick him up.  Why is there a Amber Alert still out for him?

Previous story:

An Amber Alert released on Saturday stated that at least nine teens were missing from Tierra Blanca Ranch, a youth facility for troubled youths.  Charlie Lamb, 13, Mayson Myers, 13, Michael Rozell, 15, Peter Adams, 16, Evan Kogler, 16, Ryan Sibbett, 16 , David Easter, 17, Bryce Hall, 17 and Oscar Ruiz, 17, were named in the Amber Alert.

Since then, two of the missing teens, Ryan Sibbett and Michael Rozell have been found in the custody of their parents and seven remain missing, reports CNN.

Pete Domenici, the attorney for Scott Chandler the owner of the ranch stated that all
the teens were on a “scheduled activity” and had since been picked up by their parents, regardless of that information the Amber Alert remains.

Scott Chandler

“We have not visually seen these kids to confirm their whereabouts, which is why the Amber Alert remains active,” said the authorities

There is speculation that the absence of the teens may have been because it was known that CYFD was to appear at the ranch on Friday with a search warrant to take custody of all the kids, so the teens made themselves scarce along with the Chandler family, until the parents could collect them, before CYFD did.   When CYFD appeared at the ranch Friday it was vacant.

There have been many media reports about the State Police taking reports from residents of the program about alleged abuse at the Tierra Blanca Ranch.  One witness stated that saw one teen beaten by an employee while another was shackled after he had been forced to run all day  They also stated that the employee, who no longer works there beat the boy in the face with a small metal baton.  All these reports seem to have happened in 2006.  One report is particularly confusing as it states that police were called to the ranch and found a boy in shackles, but then it states the boy escaped and called the police to come get him.  No date of when this occurred was stated.

Photo from the Tierra Blanca Ranch website

4 On Your Side news has been investigating the case and spoke to several teens on camera that told their story.  They said they were required to work an area around the ranch 15 hours a day and then sleep in tents at night.  The video can be seen below this article.

The Tierra Blanca Ranch is were the High Country Youth Program has been based at for 20 years.  It is run by the Chandler family and headed up by Scott Chandler.

The ranch takes “troubled” teens that are voluntarily placed by their parents.

Back in April 2012, Claudette Ortiz for the Sun-News wrote an article about Tierra Blanca Ranch.  In the article she interviewed Emily Campbell a staff member that interned at the ranch 11 years ago.  Campbell supports the ranch and the whole Youth Program. In the article she tells stories of several teens she was able to help.

Ortriz also said that she walked through the camp and saw “boys studying together at the table.”  She notices a picture on the refrigerator of a “new kid around the campfire looking down at his feet, but a later picture of him has him looking straight into the camera. Now he is seeing his surroundings and feeling connected to them.”

Reviews on Yelp are mid range with some reviewers warning others to stay away and others talking about how it helped their child.  Most of the positive reviews are filtered on Yelp and you have to go to the bottom of the reviews and click on a link to access them.  Yelp explains, “Yelp has an automated review filter to keep the site’s content as useful and trustworthy as possible.” Why the positive reviews are not showing may be because they are from brand new users.

Photo from the Tierra Blanca Ranch

Also posts from people on Social Media coming from those that attended the ranch as recently as this year, are all supportive.

“Update finally after a kid from there dies in a car accident September 22nd 2013.  We have gotten to the media to take interest in the allegations myself and other parents have with this place.  Good news is not looking like they will be in business much longer taking your money, and lots of it I may add, so your kid can be their free ranch hand,” posted Barbara H.

Another alleged parent claimed  that in 2003 and 2004 their son was forced to run until exhausted and abused and beaten by staff members.  That post is followed up by Agent Donn Herrerra of the New Mexico State Police that wants the parent to contact her about his information.

Most seemed concerned with the unaccountability at the ranch and the child labor practices and alleged abuse.

The most interesting review is from a young man who attended the ranch from 1999-2000.  He speaks of his confusion when he first came to the ranch with the environment and the hiking, but finishes with a thank you to the people that run the ranch and in particular Clint Chandler that he “still talks to today for giving him a completely different perspective on life.”

So, if Campbell, who evidently still works there and Ortiz and Yelp reviews are mostly positive about Tierra Blanca Ranch what is really going on?

Back in 2006, when Elizabeth McGrath stated that the ranch had come on to the Children, Youth and Families Department “radar,” a decision was made that the Tierra Blanca Ranch was a Wilderness Program.  This meant it no longer fell under the CYFD licensing regulations any longer.  Although there where allegations of abuse at the ranch, there was no authorities to follow up on it.

The State Police reports mentioning abuse and shackling are from 2006.  There are no more police reports found again (by me, but please let me know if you find any after that date) until Sept. 2013 after the  single-vehicle traffic accident where Michael Meyers rolled a Ford F250 on the main ranch road which caused  Bruce Staeger, 18, a ranch employee and teen who was resided there to be ejecting from the bed of the truck that resulted in his death.

Last Thursday, Pete Domenici, the attorney for Tierra Blanca Ranch stated that the ranch was being “unfairly targeted by a state investigation.”  Scott Chandler filed a lawsuit asking the District Judge to bring the state investigation to a halt.

Chandler said, “It wasn’t an investigation. They came in and threatened to shut the program down. Parents are being threatened. Children told they have to leave by Thursday. That doesn’t sound impartial.”

If the CYFD does not follow under the licensing regulations then why do they suddenly now?  Why could they not get involved back in 2006, but now they can.  Seems like it took a very long time for CYFD to decide they were concerned with the teens at the ranch.

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About Missing Persons Admin 4632 Articles

Jerrie Dean, who is retired from Federal Law Enforcement, is the Founder of Missing Persons of America.

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