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Missouri pastor seeks money to help reform school owners

May 19, 2021 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A southwestern Missouri pastor is pleading for money to help the owners of a former girls reform school who are facing dozens of criminal counts accusing them of abuse.

The Rev. Jerry Pyle, of Bible Baptist Church of Vernon County, sent a letter earlier this month to supporters of Circle of Hope Girls Ranch and its owners, Boyd and Stephanie Householder, asking for money to fund their legal defense, the Kansas City Star reported.

The Householders began attending Pyle’s church last year, before the ranch was shut down. Boyd Householder faces nearly 80 charges, including statutory rape. His wife has been charged with 22 counts, most involving child abuse or neglect. Both have pleaded not guilty and are expected to appear for a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

“I believe it is our responsibility to do what we can to aid them in clearing their names of these false, demonic accusations,” Pyle wrote in the May 7 letter.

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Pyle did not respond to the Star’s requests for comment.

Sixteen former residents of the reform school in Cedar County say Boyd and Stephanie Householder frequently restrained them with handcuffs, whipped them with belts, taped their mouths shut and struck or punched them for minor offenses such as drinking from a spring or singing. Boyd Householder also has been accused of sexually abusing girls in his care.