Authorities spent Friday night searching for nine teenagers who went missing from a New Mexico ranch for troubled youth.
State police say they issued a search warrant at the Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program in Hillsboro to investigate claims of abuse.
“State authorities have been investigating claims that teens were beaten and forced to wear leg shackles and handcuffs for violating ranch rules.” (Via KTVK)
But when investigators showed up, the teens who are between the ages of 13 and 17, along with the program operator Scott Chandler, were nowhere to be found.
“Police call him a person of interest in the teens.” (Via KOAT)
The ranch’s lawyer claims the teens were away from the ranch for a few days because of a previously scheduled activity, but are safely back with their parents. However, state police say they cannot confirm that and issued an amber alert that remains active.
Operators of the ranch have denied any allegations of abuse, according to the Albuquerque Journal. In fact, the ranch claims investigators have been illegally interviewing students and telling parents to pull them from the program.
The operators have filed a lawsuit against investigators accusing them of unfairly targeting the ranch after a fatal single-vehicle crash that killed one student last September. It’s unclear how many teens were attending the program during this investigation.
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