July, 20 2018

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Missoouri Boot Camp Death Investigated by FBI

FBI officials said late Thursday the agency is launching a preliminary investigation into the death of a student at a Missouri boot camp for troubled teens.

The Government Accountability Office had asked the FBI to look into potential criminal wrongdoing in the 2004 death of 15-year-old Roberto Reyes.

Jeff Lanza, a spokesman for the FBI's Kansas City, Mo., office, said the agency will gather evidence for the next 30 to 90 days to determine whether a full investigation is needed.

Has the Boot Camp Committed a Crime?

“We're seeking to determine if there is evidence that a crime has been committed and, if so, if that crime is a violation of federal law,” Lanza said.

During the preliminary investigation, Lanza said, the FBI will conduct interviews and review pertinent records in the case.

The Case Under Investigation at the Boot Camp

Reyes died after spending less than two weeks at the Thayer Learning Center in Kidder, Mo., about 50 miles north of Kansas City. His parents had sent him to Thayer after the California teenager's grades dropped and he repeatedly ran away from home.

His death was blamed on a probable spider bite, but GAO officials said records and interviews showed he had been ill for days and abused for insubordination.

Rhonda Smiley, a Kansas City attorney for Thayer and its owner, Willa Bundy, said she had not been informed of any action by the FBI.

“I'm confident that their preliminary investigation will end up with the same conclusion that all of the prior investigations have reached, that there is no abuse,” Smiley said.

Smiley called the GAO report an inaccurate summary of the facts and stressed that there has never been any official finding of abuse or neglect in the case.

After Reyes' death, his parents sued the camp and several staff members, eventually settling the case for slightly more than $1 million. No criminal charges were filed against the camp.

The case received renewed attention after a congressional hearing last month on residential treatment programs for children. GAO officials testified that they believe there was evidence showing that Reyes was abused before he died.

Should Regulation be Increased at Residential Treatment Centers

Some lawmakers, concerned about cases of abuse and neglect at some facilities, want Congress to regulate such camps more strictly.

No criminal charges have ever been filed against Thayer.

A state investigative team reported that it appeared those responsible for Reyes' safety did not recognize his medical distress or provide adequate treatment.

Thayer officials are challenging in court the Department of Social Services' findings that employees at Thayer medically neglected Reyes.

Related Articles:
Texas Guard Shortage Forces TYC to Move Boot Camp inmates 11/9/07
Nevada Teachers Learn to Spot Troubled Teens 11/8/07
New York Adults 'Stoked' About Mentoring At-Risk Youth 11/7/07
Illinois Man Uses Custom Car Shop to Help Troubled Teens 11/9/07
Two Illinois Residential Treatment Programs to Close 11/2/07
Changing Behavior in Teens 11/02/07
North Dakota Heartview Again Offers Residential Treatment 10/31/07
New Florida Troubled Youth Mission 10/30/07
Illinois Juvenile Court Needs Help 10/28/07
'Price of Privilege' Too High for Teens 10/26/07

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