Youth Facility Director Charged With Sexual Abuse

Date: 2002-06-15

JOE BAIRD
The Salt Lake Tribune

The director of a behavior modification facility for troubled youths has been charged with sexually abusing a girl at the facility, located in Rich County near Randolph.

Wayne E. Winder, 35, faces felony charges of aggravated sexual abuse and dealing in material harmful to a minor, as well as three misdemeanor counts of child abuse.

Winder is the director and staff supervisor of Majestic Ranch, which is affiliated with a group of similar treatment centers located around the country and overseas.

The World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), run by a St. George-based group, has facilities in South Carolina, California, Montana, Jamaica and La Verkin. The centers charge up to $3,000 a month for care.

Utah Assistant Attorney General Craig Barlow said Friday that state officials were alerted to the alleged abuse of children at Majestic Ranch several weeks ago by a former employee. The ensuing investigation involved interviews with 41 children. Barlow indicated more charges may be forthcoming.

"There are five kids involved," he said. "We're looking at other charges against former staff, and possibly against the current staff."

In interviews, children at the ranch told investigators about sexual abuse and physical abuse, and said that Winder displayed pornographic pictures.

The children are ages 10 to 14.

According to the complaint, one child said that Winder grabbed her breast and twisted it. Another said the defendant threw him to the floor and pinned his arms back over his head while lying face down. A third child told investigators that Winder threatened to kill him, and another said the staff supervisor showed him a picture of a nude woman, the complaint alleges.

"The charges against Winder seemed to be the most serious, and required some speed in terms of doing something," said Barlow.

Winder was arrested Thursday, but was released after posting a $30,000 bond.

State officials also say that Majestic Ranch is out of compliance. The owners say their facility is a boarding school. However, the state classifies the ranch as a residential treatment center. The Office of Licensing has sent a letter notifying the owners they need a Human Services license to operate. As of Friday, the facility remained open.

This is not the first time a treatment center affiliated with WWASPS has been investigated.

In 1998, a treatment center in Samoa came under fire and was eventually closed. Another association facility in the Czech Republic was closed by Czech authorities. And in 1999, a suit was filed against La Verkin's Cross Creek Academy, alleging mistreatment.

jbaird@sltrib.com

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