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Ranch For Kids Faces Additional Abuse Charges

Ranch For Kids' main facility in Rexford, MT.
Aaron Bolton
Montana Public Radio
Ranch For Kids' main facility in the small, remote town of Rexford, MT.

A lawsuit filed Monday alleges a child at a private therapeutic home that was closed this summer amid abuse allegations was also forced to work on employees’ personal property. 

According to the complaint, Rachel Limewood of Washington state sent her child, referred to by the initials D.O., to the Ranch for Kids to get treatment for reactive attachment disorder. The Ranch’s website says it specializes in treating Russian adoptees with that and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Court documents allege that D.O. was forced to perform maintenance and repair work at the defendants’ properties for eight hours at a time. The suit argues that meets the definition of an employee under Montana state law.

The suit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, names Ranch for Kids, Executive Director Bill Sutley, his mother and Vice President Joyce Sterkel, brother and Presiding Officer Daniel Sutley as well as 10 unnamed individuals.

Allegations laid out in court documents also say D.O. was subjected to physical and mental abuse as well as periods of isolation that could last “weeks on end.” State health officials made similar allegations when they removed kids from the Ranch and suspended its license this summer.

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services says it’s still working through Ranch for Kids’ appeal and will announce the outcome of the process on its website.

The family is also alleging that the Ranch was deceptive in its advertising practices, amounting to fraud. The complaint calls for the defendants to pay $75,000 in damages, attorney fees and back wages for D.O.’s work. Documents also call for a trial by jury.

Calls to Ranch for Kids were not returned by deadline and the law firm representing the family, Reep, Bell, Laird & Jasper, was not available for comment.

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