Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Isabelle Zehnder (CAICA): Kerry Layne Brown, pepper sprayed daily for eight months at Tranquity Bay in Jamaica

Kerry Layne Brown’s mother, Terry Cameron, speaks out about her son’s abuse at the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) facility Tranquility Bay in Jamaica:

“They lied … they flat out lied to me. They abused my son and lied. They gave me the impression it would be like a vacation. They showed me pictures of the ocean. They had us send scuba diving equipment with him so he could go swimming in the ocean. I thought it would be great. He would come back a perfect kid, no more drugs. He could get his high school education and it would be wonderful.”

“But that didn’t happen. When I picked him up at the airport I thought this would be like a holiday and he’d hug me and say he loves me. When we walked to the car he shook my hand and said ‘hi’ and asked if he could take a shower when he got home. When we got home he wouldn’t stand up without asking ‘may I stand up’ or go to the bathroom without asking ‘may I go to the bathroom’. He stayed in his room for months and sunk into depression. He was sexually abused - his private parts were scrubbed with toilet brushes. He wasn’t treated well at all. He had no schooling. He was forced to lie on the floor for the entire nine months he was there. We cross our fingers that he can some day work and hold down a job. He will always have to be on medication I’m sure. He’s tried to go off of it so many times. But the abuse keeps coming back to him. It’s mentally disabled him.”

The man who tortured Layne was Randall Hinton. The following is an account of what Hinton said in an interview with reporters:

“Violence … as in violent kids? Violent staff? Violent programs? Ah, ya. Never once did I hit Kerry Layne. He certainly tested me every day. And - he was pepper-sprayed by myself and by Jay Kay. I think we were the only ones who could actually pepper-spray students. I think I can remember Kerry Layne being pepper-sprayed more than once in a day. I know he was pepper-sprayed more than two times in a day. I don’t think it would have been more than three times.”

“He was to the point of saying ‘this doesn’t affect me what else do you have?’ But I’m sure - I know he didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. And from somebody on the outside looking in I would say it was abusive. For somebody that stayed with him 24/7 I would say I received as much abuse as he did as a staff. But that’s what we’re getting paid to do.”

“Restraints could be used - mechanical devices could be used - pepper-spray could be used to gain control of your child. It’s just a job that, that helps people. Instead of the pizza coming to you we’ll come and pick the pizza up and take it and let it get cook for a while, in a sense. Until it’s ready to come home and then you get a brand new hot pizza.”

- Randall Hinton

Randall Hinton pepper-sprayed 16-year old Kerry Layne Brown “Layne” multiple times a day every day for eight to nine months during his stay at Tranquility, a World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS) facility associated with Robert Lichfield and directed by Ken Kay, president of WWASPS. Jay Kay, Ken Kay’s son, also worked at Tranquility Bay and, according to Randall, participated in pepper-spraying children there, including Layne.

All of these men are still working in the Teen Help industry. You won’t find their facilities on the WWASPS website because WWASPS, as we knew it, is no more. They have a bad name now so facilities do not want to be associated with them. Their marketing team has worked diligently in setting up new websites under the guise of wonderful and helpful programs for children. These programs are the same programs that were previously listed on the WWASPS website, and the staff, for the most part, are the same.

In April 1999 WWASPS websited boasted their five facilities: Tranquility Bay Spring Creek Lodge Paradise Cove Casa by the Sea Cross Creek Manor.

By May of 2000 they added Carolina Springs Academy.

By February 2001 Paradise Cove was eliminated from their website.

By June 2002 they added another facility, Academy at Dundee Ranch.

By September 2002 they added more facilities, Academy at Ivy Ridge, Majestic Ranch Academy, Spring Creek Lodge , and Pacific View Retreat.

By December 2004 they were down to six programs on their website and remained that way until May 2006 when they were down to five facilities, eliminating Ivy Ridge.

And today, they have no programs listed on their website.

Some of WWASPS' new marketing websites do not give the names of the facilities, they simply give descriptions. Some facilities are changing their names, as Hinton did when he changed Royal Peak Academy to Royal Gorge Academy in hopes that new parents coming in would not find the bad publicity associated to Royal Peak Academy and the fact that Randall Hinton worked there. It's the same thing Rev. Herman Fountain did when his facility, Bethel Boys Academy, was sued by eight families on allegations of child torture. The name was changed to Eagle Point Academy, and recently changed again to Pine View Academy.

Randall Hinton once worked at the White River Academy in Puerto Rico. Brian Lemons and Justin Nielson too worked at White River Academy. Lemons is currently working at Royal Gorge Academy while Nielson is relocating the White River Academy from Puerto Rico to Delta, Utah. The transport company listed on their website is Strawn Transport Company, the same transport company used by WWASPS. When you click on the link to Strawn you come to a website that is now called S.O.S.

Parents have come forward describing their experiences with Mr. Strawn and his transport company. A February 2, 1997, news article reported Strawn, then an Atlanta police sergeant, faced an internal affairs investigation into allegations he molested his stepdaughter. He was charged with battering the 14-year-old girl. Rick Strawn kicked the teen while struggling with her over a camera, according to a Gwinnett County police report. Strawn was arrested in Lawrenceville. He was allowed to quit the police department the day before he would have been fired.

In a July 2004 article written by Nadya Labi, she said, “One night in January 1997, Strawn went home drunk. After arguing with Susan (his wife), he said he was going to shoot himself and he got his .38 revolver out of the garage. "I've had all I can take," he told Susan, his stepdaughter, and the couple's 8-year-old son, Jared. But his threat was, to use his word, manipulation. He fired into the air and left. When he returned home later that evening, he passed out.”

In her October 3, 2005 Legal Affairs Magazine article, Nadya Labi reported, "Instead of operating by rules, the escort industry runs on trust -- the trust that parents will make the best decisions for their children. But there is no trust between parents and kids in the households that Strawn enters. It has broken down so completely that parents think it's okay, and even courageous, to send a stranger into their child's bedroom."

"Strawn makes his living from that judgment and he is willing to mislead a child for what he sees as the greater goal of reform."

"As I neared the end of my reporting, I confronted Strawn about his record. Had he molested his stepdaughter and niece, as he had told police? When I pressed, he said, 'Bottom line, I don't know. It's against everything that I believe in. I have a problem with believing that anything would have happened in that area.' "

"He had too much pride to ask me not to print what happened, but his wife called me on the phone in tears, begging me not to publish what had happened in the past. She said that if I did, I might put them out of business. I felt awful, but I told her that I felt that information had to be included, especially because her husband markets himself to parents by telling a story of personal redemption. I reminded her that I had told them at the outset that I couldn't promise them a positive story. Why, knowing about his past, had they agreed to let me into their lives? She said, 'We didn't think you'd find out.'"

"The Mexican government shut down Casa by the Sea and three other reform schools like it in Baja, Calif., shortly after my story was published. The Strawns remain in business."

Parents entrust their children to this man. They give him Power of Attorney and relinquish their parental rights to him. They allow him to enter their child’s room in the middle of the night, force them to get dressed and to go with him and his partner. Later the child is told his parents hired this man to take the child to a facility hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles from home. Sometimes they are taken to facilities outside the US where our laws cannot protect them. When a child has no idea something like this is about to happen, the emotional scars can last a lifetime. Today, in 2007, Strawn is still in business.

His new website, impressive as it is, states, "SOS is a family owned and operated business. Rick Strawn, president of SOS." He goes on to boast about what organizations he belongs to and how he helps families.

Because behavior modification programs have become notorious for being abusive to children some of these facilities are changing to “Positive Peer Culture” (PPC). Though parents are paying over $3,000 a month for these programs they often hire unqualified, untrained staff and some do not hire credentialed teachers. Children are not taught in a traditional classroom setting. Rather they are taught by reading a book and doing the chapter test. Once they pass with an A or B they are allowed to move on to the next chapter. No student is guaranteed even one credit during their stay, according to some of their contracts.

Hinton tried to purchase a facility in 2005 that would have potentially housed hundreds of children – Kemper Military Academy in Booneville, MO. The vehicle he was driving was registered to Robert Lichfield, founder of WWASPS. Lichfield was slated to provide the funding for the purchase of this facility from the City of Boonville. Hinton moved his family to Boonville, renting an apartment close to the facility. He was charismatic and people found themselves gravitating to him. He can be charming and friendly, leading people to believe he is a nice man. And maybe there is a part of him that is nice and that is friendly. But sadly there is another part of him that cannot seem to stop abusing innocent children.

There was a turn of events in Boonville when City officials were provided evidence of allegations Hinton had previously abused children and that he was associated with WWASPS. In a town meeting a woman stood up and read Terry Cameron, Layne’s mom’s, updated affidavit where, years after the abuse, she ends with, “To this day I can still hear him crying in his sleep, ‘Randall, why are you doing this to me?’” After hearing the affidavit and reviewing documentation provided to City officials, it was unanimously decided Randall would not be allowed to purchase this property.

Hinton went on to open the Royal Peak Academy, recently renamed Royal Gorge Academy located in Cañon City, CO, where he was recently arrested on felony charges of child abuse. There is plenty of reason to believe he is still associated with WWASPS’ founder, Robert Lichfield, and that this could be another one of Lichfield’s facilities.

In January 2007 Hinton restrained a girl at Royal Gorge Academy on the floor for three hours, twisting her wrists, causing her intense pain, and causing damage to her wrist. The police were contacted and an investigation ensued. All of the children were interviewed. Two staff members, Patty Pacheco and Ryan Robles, came forward and testified to abuse they witnessed inflicted on children by Hinton. These staff members, and others, have come forward to speak out about what happened there. Some quit jobs they so desperately need because it has become a moral issue for them. Some parents have removed their children, while others remain. Hinton has also been accused of throwing a boy to the ground, causing his mouth to bleed.

Hinton is scheduled to be back in court on March 7, 2007, to determine what his final charges will be.

If you are a staff or former staff member, a former student, or a parent with information about child abuse by Randall Hinton, or other staff, at Royal Peak / Royal Gorge Academy, I would urge you to come forward before it's too late – for the sake of not only the children at Royal Gorge Academy, but for the sake of all children who have been warehoused for profit. What you report today could save the life of a child tomorrow.

There are ways you can help. You can write letters to the District Attorney, Deputy District Attorney Thom LeDoux, or to the investigating officer, Jeff Worley, letting them know your experience. Their contact information is:

Deputy District Attorney Thom LeDoux
11th Judicial District
Office of the District Attorney
136 Justice Center Road, Room 203
Canon City, CO 81212
Ph: (719) 269-0170 Fax: (719) 269-0180
E-Mail: tledoux@da11thjd.org


Jeff Worley
Investigations Unit Supervisor
Cañon City Police Department
161 Justice Center Road
Canon City, Colorado 81212
Main Tel: (719)276-5600
Direct Tel: (719) 276-5612
E-mail at jworley@canoncity.org.

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