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Crime News Dateline

Alleged Victims of All Girls Reform School In Missouri Share Harrowing Tales of Abuse: "It Was Hell"

Circle of Hope Girls Ranch operated for years under the direction of Stephanie and Boyd Householder until their own daughter helped to take the facility down.

By Jill Sederstrom
Boyd Stephanie Householder Ap

It was meant to be a safe place for healing and a last resort for troubled young girls looking for a fresh start. 

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But attendees of the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch in Humansville, Missouri have alleged that the Bible-based reform school, run by Boyd and Stephanie Householder, was no safe haven.

“It was hell,” former student Ashley Tucker told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered.  “It was scary. You were alone. It was basically, while you were in there, it was survival.”

The school’s leaders have been accused of shocking physical, mental, and sexual abuse, against the very girls they were supposed to protect — allegations the couple has denied. 

Yet, for years, the school continued to welcome new students until the Householder’s own daughter, Amanda, helped to take the school down for good. 

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What allegedly happened at the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch?

Teresa Tucker was a single mom running out of options when she turned to Circle of Hope in 2014 to help her struggling 16-year-old daughter, Ashley.

The rebellious teen had just been kicked out of rehab for a drug problem and Teresa didn’t know where to turn next. “I just needed her to have help,” Teresa Tucker said.

When her pastor and his wife suggested Circle of Hope, a religious all-girls reform school in Missouri, it seemed like the perfect fit. Yet, Ashley would allege she was starved, physically abused, and raped by the Householder’s 15-year-old son during her time at the school. 

“He grabbed me, he pushed me up against one of the walls and he actually ended up raping me right there,” an emotional Ashley recalled.  “I felt disgusting, I felt like I was nothing. I felt like I was never gonna be able to get out of that place.”

Boyd and Stephanie Householder — who are now facing more than 100 criminal charges in connection to the abuse allegations — have denied her claims.

Maggie Drew, who attended the school from 2007 to 2013, also told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered that girls living at the ranch were forced to scrub floors with toothbrushes, wash down walls, and pick weeds for hours in extreme heat. 

While the school wrote in the parent handbook that they used “biblical discipline,” Drew recalled Boyd, a former Marine, physically abusing the girls in his charge. 

“He would go up behind a girl and grab them by the base of the neck behind their head…and he would put a foot out and trip you and shove you, follow down and shove you with force face first,” she alleged.

She said the girls themselves were also encouraged to participate in the abuse, helping to restrain other students. 

“It was one of those things where it’s like dog eat dog, where if you, if you don't fight your way to the top and do what you’re told to do, then it’s gonna come back at you,” Drew recalled. 

Another student described girls being punished by being forced to stare at a wall all day long or being shoved over when doing push ups — both claims Boyd denied. 

Amanda Householder Speaks Out

Growing up, the couple’s daughter Amanda was “daddy’s little girl” and remembers going for drives in her dad’s Jeep and listening to music together. 

As she grew up, she remembered seeing her dad punish girls at the ranch house school as “normal” and can still recall their screams.

“When you think of souls burning in a lake of fire for eternity that’s what these girls sound like,” she said. “As a 15-year-old I was forced to restrain the girls the same way my dad would.”

Although she wasn’t a student at the school, she wasn’t spared from the abuse and alleged that her father regularly beat her with a belt and forced her to stand staring at a wall outside his office every day for months after she tried to run away at the age of 15. 

By the time she was 17, she moved in with her grandma before moving to California after becoming a legal adult. For the most part, Amanda tried to put her life in Missouri behind her, but she said she couldn’t escape from past students who sought her out on social media and made claims about her parents. 

It wasn’t until someone reached out to her alleging her father had raped them, that Amanda decided to take a closer look at the allegations against the school. Infuriated by what she learned, she and Drew — who had joined forces with her to expose the abuse — took to social media to speak out about the allegations and offer a safe space for former students to share their own experiences.

“I want you to know that I see you, survivor,” Amanda said in one.

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Where are Boyd and Stephanie Householder now?

Over the years, multiple reports of abuse were made to child protective services and the local sheriff’s office, but nothing ever came of them.

State Rep. Keri Ingle explained to Dateline: Secrets Uncovered that part of the problem was that at the time the state had “no regulations on any religious facilities in the State of Missouri.”

The school finally came under investigation after Amanda shared a TikTok video taken by a family friend that showed Boyd instructing the girls to physically punish another student.

“Knock her out,” he appeared to say. “I mean it.” 

The Cedar County Sheriff’s Office soon opened a formal investigation. In August of 2020, authorities removed two dozen girls from the school and the next month, Boyd and Stephanie shuttered their school for good.

In March of 2021, Boyd and Stephanie were arrested and charged by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office with more than 100 criminal charges against them. Boyd faces nearly 80 felony counts including multiple counts of statutory rape and sodomy.

They have each pleaded not guilty and are in home confinement while they await trial.

In a statement to Dateline, the couple said “the great majority of the girls…did benefit from the Christian-based discipline program and school” and denied any claims of abuse.

Where is Amanda Householder Today?

Today, Amanda Householder, who has been estranged from her parents for years, is living in California and raising her own children.

“I may not be successful in the sense that I am a millionaire, but my kids are happy. My kids don’t have to fear me,” she told Dateline: Secrets Uncovered. “So to me I’m successful.”

Amanda also continues to speak out against abuse and be an advocate for those who suffered at the Circle of Hope Girls Ranch.