Cedar County District Attorney Ty Gaither announced Tuesday that five Agape Residential School staff will be charged with 13 counts of third degree assault – a fraction of what Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, recommended.
In March, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson asked the attorney general’s office to assist Gaither in an investigation into allegations of abuse at Agape Residential School in Stockton, southwest Missouri. Former students said they were tied up and beaten, sexually abused and used as manual labor while at school.
Agape came under scrutiny following a Kansas City Star investigation last year in which dozens of alumni described continued abuse and close ties between the school and the forces of the local order.
Following its investigation, the attorney general’s office recommended 65 charges against 22 co-defendants. These charges involved 36 victims and ranged from Class B and D crimes for child abuse, Class D crimes for tampering with a victim, and crimes for endangering the well-being of a child and failing to reporting of child abuse.
Gaither chose instead to charge only five staff members – Scott Dumar, Seth Duncon, Everett L. Graves, Trent E. Hartman, and Christopher R. McElroy.
The prosecutor’s decision inspired Schmitt to demand last week that Parson remove his office from the case, arguing that Gaither’s actions indicate “that he has no intention of seeking justice for all thirty-six children. who were allegedly victims of twenty-two Agape boarding school staff.
Several Agape alumni told The Independent they were outraged by Gaither’s decision, with some reaching out to the FBI in hopes that a federal investigation could be launched into the residential school.