Author Topic: Former Turnaround Ranch employee to stand trial  (Read 1259 times)

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Offline Oscar

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Former Turnaround Ranch employee to stand trial
« on: August 04, 2015, 07:55:03 AM »
Quote from: The Joplin Globe
Former Turnaround Ranch employee to stand trial
By Jeff Lehr, The Joplin Globe, February 17, 2015

NEOSHO, Mo. A Newton County judge ordered a former staff member at the Turnaround Ranch bound over for trial Tuesday on a charge that he sexually abused a 15-year-old girl in the ranch's program for troubled teens.

Associate Circuit Judge Gregory Stremel found probable cause at a preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court for Richard L. Meeks, 34, to stand trial on a charge of second-degree statutory sodomy.

A 16-year-old girl testified at the hearing that Meeks molested her on multiple occasions over a two-month period last year when she was 15 and receiving counseling at the ranch for drug abuse, running away from home and being generally defiant in her attitude. She said the abuse started a few weeks after Meeks began working there in February 2014. She said he would tease the girls in the program by hitting them with their lanyards, or nametags.

"Then he started coming into girls' rooms," she said.

Meeks would come into her room, sit on top of her and touch her inappropriately, threatening to slit her throat if she told anyone, she testified. She said the abuse continued almost every night for a couple of months.

Under cross-examination by the defendant's attorney, the girl acknowledged that she never physically resisted, called for help or told anyone until May of last year when she informed other ranch staff and was interviewed at the Children's Center in Joplin as a possible victim of sexual abuse.

By then, a couple of the other girls had become aware of what was going on, according to her testimony. One of them had walked in to her room while Meeks was sitting on top of her. She said he quickly jumped up and pretended that he had been looking at pictures in the room. But the girl later spoke with her and threatened to tell the program's supervisors if she did not tell them herself.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in the case indicates that investigators also spoke with a second girl who told them she saw Meeks kissing the alleged victim when she walked by her room one night.