A Missouri boarding school employee is charged with abuse

An employee of a rural Missouri boarding school is accused of bloodying a boy’s face while boxing

Jim Salter
Wednesday 06 March 2024 17:28 GMT
Boarding School Arrests-Missouri
Boarding School Arrests-Missouri (David Clohessy)

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An employee of a rural Missouri boarding school is accused of bloodying a boy's face while boxing — the third person associated with the same school to be charged this month.

Caleb Sandoval, 22, was charged Monday with abuse or neglect of a child. His initial court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

A probable cause statement said Sandoval is a teacher at ABM Ministries in Piedmont, Missouri, which operates as Lighthouse Christian Academy. Sandoval, who is the son of Julio Sandoval, the school's director, does not have a listed attorney. A phone message was left with the school.

ABM Ministries owners Larry Musgraves Jr., 57, and his wife, Carmen Musgraves, 64, were charged over the weekend with first-degree kidnapping for allegedly locking a student in a small room. The allegations are the latest against people associated with Christian boarding schools in Missouri.

The probable cause statement against Caleb Sandoval said a 15-year-old student suffered a bloody nose while boxing with him sometime between Sept. 1 and Jan. 1.

Sandoval initially told investigators he was teaching the boy to box in preparation for a Mixed Martial Arts camp. But he later said the sparring took place about a week after the boy made sexual comments about Sandoval and his wife, according to the probable cause statement.

Sandoval told investigators that he punched the boy about two times in the body and three times in the face, the last punch causing him to fall. Sandoval said he saw that the boy's nose was bleeding so he helped him clean up and provided over-the-counter pain medication, the statement said.

ABM Ministries is a private Christian boarding school for boys in Wayne County, about 130 miles (209 kilometers) south of St. Louis, that previously also accepted girls. Its website claims success in helping boys who are troubled, learning-impaired or dealing with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or other disorders.

Wayne County Sheriff Dean Finch began investigating several months ago after a former student living in Alabama contacted him. The Musgraves are now charged with kidnapping that student for allegedly locking her in a small room against her will.

Finch said that since early January, his office has received reports of five runaways from the school. In one instance, two boys were picked up by a neighboring resident and taken home. The boys asked her to call 911.

A federal lawsuit in 2009 that accused a former principal of sex acts with a female student also alleged that the Musgraves failed to take action to protect the girl. Court records show that ABM Ministries and the Musgraves agreed to pay $750,000 in a settlement, and the principal agreed to pay $100,000.

Julio Sandoval was formerly an official at Agape Boarding School in Stockton, Missouri, which closed in 2023 after years of investigations and allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

The allegations at Agape and at the nearby Circle of Hope Girls’ Ranch prompted a state law in 2021 requiring stricter rules for such facilities. Missouri previously had virtually no oversight for religious boarding schools.

Cases are still pending against Agape’s longtime doctor and five other employees.

The former owners of Circle of Hope are scheduled to go to trial in November on 100 child abuse counts. They have pleaded not guilty.

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