3 Being Held in Boarding School Death

St. Louis Post/March 28, 1996
By Tim O'Neil with Patricia Rice, Susan C. Thomson,
Victor Holland and Reshma Memon Yaqun

The Mountain Park Baptist Academy is known for its good choir, polite students and resort-like campus in the hills.

It is not known for murder.

Late Monday afternoon, deputies and paramedics arrived at the school and found the body of William Andrew Futrelle II lying in a wooded area outside the boys' dormitory. His throat had been slashed.

The 16-yr-old student from Boca Raton, FL, also had been beaten in the face- possibly with both a club and brick, said Wayne County Prosecutor Jon A. Kiser, who declined to discuss a motive.

On Tuesday, an 18-yr-old student from Bentonville, AR, Anthony Gene Rutherford, was charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action. Two 15-yr-old boys from California were held for a hearing to decide whether to charge them as adults.

Kiser said Deputies arrested the three suspects, who surrendered shortly after the body was discovered. Police say they found a pocketknife, a piece of firewood and a brick near the body.

Rutherford was being held without bail in the Wayne County Jail in Greenville, said Wayne County Sheriff Nathan Hale. The young man is the son of Benton County Judge Bruce Rutherford of Siloam Springs, Ark. In Arkansas, a county judge is the county's chief administrator.

Authorities would not identify the juvenile center where the two 15-yr-olds were held; a court hearing will be held April 4.

Kiser said Rutherford and one of the two juveniles gave statements to investigators but wouldn't discuss their nature.

A man who answered the phone Wednesday at the academy said only, "For the protection of our children, we are not giving out any information." The school is about 110 miles south of St. Louis.

The Rev. Bobby R. Wills a Baptist minister, and his wife, Betty, founded the Mountain Park Academy nine years ago as a private school for troubled youths.

Bobby Wills, 60, and Betty Wills, 58, received three-year diplomas in theology in 1976 from Tennessee Temple University, a Bible college in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The school has about 200 students, most of them girls. It is in rural Wayne County just west of the St. Francis River. The 165-acre campus is 12 miles east of Piedmont, south of Sam A. Baker State Park.

The Rev. Elmo Parker is pastor of Victory Baptist Temple in Piedmont. He said only about 30 of the school's students are boys. The Willses opened as a school for about 30 girls and gradually expanded the student body, Parker said. The school began accepting boys four or five years ago.

The students, Parker said, come from across the country, sometimes on the recommendation of juvenile court officers.

Parker described its curriculum as standard for junior high and high school levels, with heavy emphasis on the Bile. The school keeps students for at least a year, and most range in age from about 12 to 18.

Inquiring Calls

A woman at the Independent Schools Association of the Central States in Downers Grove, Ill., said Mountain Park was not a member of the association.

But she recognized the name because, she said the association had received "many, many calls" form parents seeking information about the school over the last two years.

She said the association had never been able to get any information about Mountain Park either from the school itself or from nearby schools

The school has no connection with the Missouri Baptist Convention of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The convention's Jefferson City headquarters gets about one call a month from parents across the country, especially from California, inquiring about the boarding school's reputation, said Nina Patterson, a spokeswoman for the convention.

Several people wanted to know how much access parents had to their children at the school, she said.

Because it is private, Mountain Park Baptist Academy operates without any state supervision. Neither Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education nor the Department of Social Services monitors the school in any way. The Department of Social Services has never placed any children there.

"And we do not have any prior reports of problems," said Deb Hendricks, a department spokeswoman.

The school never has advertised itself around Piedmont and even declined a request by the local newspaper to write a feature story after it opened. But when away from campus, Mountain Park students do seem to have left good impressions.

"I wish the young people of out church would behave that good all the time," said the Rev. Elmo Parker, whose church works closely with the school.

Testimonials About God

Parker said he was with Wills when Wills decided to buy the old cattle farm of the late Walter T. Hawkins.

"You would never dream anything like that would happen out there," Parker said. "But let's face it, they are dealing with young people with problems."

The students refer to the Willses as "mama and papa," Parker said.

Harold Moss owns a produce stand and delivers food to the school each week; he described the campus as spotless and the students well mannered. "It is always 'Yes, Sir. No, Sir,'" Moss said.

Pam Henson, a bank teller whose grandparents owned the farm, remembered seeing the school's hand bell choir perform at Patterson Baptist Church about two years ago.

"The choir was well-practiced, and nobody spoke out of turn. Some of the kids gave testimonials about how God had turned their lives around and how the academy had given them a good place to live."

Henson noted, "They may show up there with blue or purple hair, but it doesn't stay that way long."

The campus is south of Missouri Highway 34 and is not visible from any road. On Wednesday, an unmarked blue and silver bus from the school blocked the private gravel lane.

Piedmont area residents describe the campus as resort like with a main building of cedar, an in-ground swimming pool and basketball courts. It has separate dormitories for boys and girls and separate buildings for classrooms, shop and other activities.

Larry Bruce, a Wayne County sheriff's deputy, said the department rarely receives any calls or complaints about Mountain Park Academy. Bruce said it had received perhaps five calls in five years for runaways and had linked car thefts to two of those cases.

On Wednesday, relatives made funeral arrangements for Futrelle in Wilmington, N.C.

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