3 men jailed in beating at youth camp

Investigators are looking into other claims of abuse at unlicensed facility

Associated Press/June 15, 2006

San Angelo - Three of four adults associated with a Christian-themed youth camp were jailed in the alleged beating of a 13-year-old boy at the unlicensed facility, authorities said on Tuesday.

Jason Brian Baker, 30, Robert James Kelly, 18, and James Edward Esther, 33, face one charge each of injury to a child, according to the Tom Green County Sheriff's Department.

They were arrested Saturday and remained in the county jail on Tuesday. None had attorneys.

The charge relates to the beating of a 13-year-old boy at U-Turn for Christ, an unlicensed boot camp for children with discipline and substance abuse problems, Chief Deputy Truman Richey said in Wednesday's San Angelo Standard-Times.

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services plans to investigate the facility, said spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

She said operating such a camp without a license is illegal.

Eleven boys were at the camp, most of whom lived out of state.

Child Protective Services spent the weekend returning them to their parents, Meisner said.

Richey said investigators are looking into allegations that some of the boys, who ranged from 12 to 17 years old, were made to stand in a field with little or no water for several hours.

Richey said he did not know when the camp, once used by adults, had been converted into a children's facility.

Jail records list its address as the home of Baker, Kelly and Esther.

The camp, about three miles north of San Angelo, came to the attention of sheriff's deputies when a county resident reported passing the facility and seeing a boy sitting in a field, Richey said.

The resident drove past several hours later and saw the same boy sitting in the same field.

The felony charge the three men are facing is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Kelly and Esther are being held on $150,000 bail, and Baker is being held without bail.

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