Family of boy who died sues Tierra Blanca Ranch

KOB Eyewitness News 4, New Mexico/February 10, 2014

By Chris Ramirez

The family of a boy who died at Tierra Blanca Ranch is suing the wilderness program and alleging new claims of abuse and torture.

A lawsuit filed in Santa Fe County District Court Monday claims Bruce Staeger was forced to eat horse dung and had jalepeno juice poured into his eyes. The suit also claims Bruce was handcuffed and shackled and carried from a pole by his bound hands and feet as one would carry a large dead animal.

Staeger died on September 23, 2013 on the ranch. New Mexico State Police told KOB-TV that he was riding in the bed of a pickup truck when it overturned and he was thrown out. Staeger died hours later at a hospital.

The lawsuit names the ranch’s owner Scott Chandler as the man responsible for the abuse and torture. During previous interviews, Chandler has denied any claims of abuse.

The Tierra Blanca Ranch is in a remote area of Sierra County. Chandler claims he can rehabilitate troubled youth, but the lawsuit states Chandler seduces parents to send their kids to the ranch, but instead boys are subjected to abuse and humiliation. Chandler’s staff is not trained to work with at-risk youth and there are no therapists or counselors on hand. Some teens have come to Chandler’s defense, others have said living on the ranch was like living in hell.

This lawsuit also holds the ranch’s auto insurance accountable as well. The suit claims the Progressive Insurance policy that the ranch had was supposed to pay Bruce Staeger’s estate $3 million, but the insurance company is only willing to pay $250,000.

There are no criminal charges filed on anybody working at the Tierra Blanca Ranch.

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