JEFFERSON CITY – The owners of the now-closed Circle of Hope Girls Ranch have been charged with over 100 counts of abuse and neglect from the allegations of 16 women.
The charges span from child endangerment to rape. In a news conference Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Schmitt said Boyd Householder was charged in Cedar County with 80 felony charges, including six counts of second-degree statutory rape and 56 counts of abuse and neglect of a child.
His wife, Stephanie Householder, faces 22 charges, 10 of those being for the abuse and neglect of a child.
“With 16 victims so far, we believe this to be one of the most widespread cases of sexual, physical and mental abuse patterns against young girls and women in Missouri’s history,” Schmitt said.
The couple is in custody in the Vernon County Jail.
The ranch had been open since 2006.
As Schmitt read out some of the specifics of the counts, he mentioned his daughters, calling the abuse at Circle of Hope “unthinkable.”
He acknowledged that rumors of abuse at Circle of Hope had existed for years but added that his office was only brought into the case in November. That was done under the request of Cedar County’s prosecuting attorney and was appointed as special prosecutor by Gov. Mike Parson.
He said his office made the case “a top priority.” Schmitt said his team compiled the extensive charges from documents seized from the property and interviews with victims.
Circle of Hope Girls Ranch closed its doors in September. The Kansas City Star has reported that the Householders deny all allegations of abuse.
The couple’s daughter, Amanda Householder, lived with her parents at Circle of Hope Ranch and has been advocating for its closure on social media for a year. She said she has been in contact with over 80 women who allege abuse.
The charges come on the anniversary of Amanda Householder going public with her story.
“A year to the day (after) we decided to no longer remain quiet and to go fully public with our story, they were arrested,” Amanda Householder said. “All of our hard work has paid off.”
Amanda Householder emphasized her shock that any action was taken. She said when she first went public, she was on the verge of giving up. “I don’t know how to put it other than, like, we were finally heard.”
The charges were filed as House Bill 560 makes its way through the legislature. The bill would establish regulations meant to ensure that homes like the one the Householders ran are regulated.
Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, is a co-sponsor of the bill with Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Wardsville.
“I think that anyone’s who’s listening to the details of the counts is going to be horrified and chilled,” Ingle said. “So, I don’t know how that would not be compelling, so I hope that it will help encourage lawmakers to move forward.”
The bill was voted out of committee in February. Amanda Householder said that while these changes are a victory, legislation is the only way the state can assure these abuses won’t continue.
“They need to be held accountable too,” Amanda Householder said. “I’m hoping the bill will pass and something gets done.”
The Householders started their career in homes for troubled teens at Agape Boarding School. Agape is also in Cedar County and is currently under investigation by Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Householder said the children are her focus but she feels as though these charges help her feel a sense of justice as well.
“I’m not a victim like the girls,” she said. “They were sent away to get help, and they were traumatized at the hands of my parents. But I’m a victim of my parents because I was raised that way, I was beaten, I was humiliated. I was tortured as a child.”
Householder said she has not been approached to serve as a witness in her parents’ trial but she would be willing to testify.