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Investigations Ministry News

Pastor Apologizes for Saying That Allegations of Abuse at Circle of Hope Ranch were False

The pastor of a church formerly attended by the owners of a Missouri Christian boarding school shut down after multiple assault charges were filed against the couple said he regrets saying the accusations were false, calling his statement “completely improper.”

Boyd and Stephanie Householder, owners of the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch, were charged with 102 crimes in March by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, including statutory rape, sodomy, and physical abuse. 

In a statement to the Kansas City Star, Bible Baptist Church of Vernon County Pastor Jerry Pyle said he was wrong to say at the time that the charges were untrue. 

“In the process of seeking help for the Householders, I made the statement that the charges were false,” he said. “To make that statement at this time was completely improper.”

Pyle said that he “cannot personally vouch for conduct that may or may not have taken place” at the school and that although he had never seen any evidence that abuse was happening or had happened, “the fact that we did not observe such evidence does not prove abuse never took place.”

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He said the Householders had only been members of his church since June 2020. 

Circle of Hope Girls Ranch closed in September 2020 after accusations of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse were brought forward by several girls who had lived at the ranch, including the Householders’ daughter. 

On March 10, 2021, the Attorney General’s Office filed more than 100 felony charges against the couple following an investigation into lax oversight of Circle of Hope and other unlicensed and unregulated boarding schools.

Boyd Householder was charged with 79 felonies, including statutory rape, while Stephanie Householder was charged with 22 felonies, including abuse or neglect of a child.

According to the Attorney General’s Office, in addition to the sexual assault charges, incidents recounted by 16 victims included circumstances of the Householders restraining them, slamming their heads or bodies against walls, slapping or hitting them, shoving a victim’s face into horse manure, and pouring hot sauce down a victim’s throat.
One account details an incident in which Boyd Householder instructed several victims on the best way to cut their wrists to kill themselves.

The couple has denied the allegations, and previously accused their estranged daughter of turning people against them.

The state’s investigation into Circle of Hope and other schools led to legislation requiring schools to register with the state, provide student medical records, and complete background checks on their staff and volunteers. The bill has passed the Missouri House and has been sent to the state Senate. 

Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.