GOOD NEWS - Two Years In The Making


Many of you following the ongoing work here at PinehavenAbuse.Org have expressed your concern for the many children affected by the (now defunct) Pinehaven Pipeline which funneled at-risk youth from Southern Illinois 1,800 miles away from home to Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch in St. Ignatius, MT. One particular victim of this unethical and far-reaching local government operation ran by (now terminated) Truancy Officer Charlie Duke, is now 17-year old Cassie Casteel.

We first found out about Cassie a few months after she was whisked away from a facility in Indiana, where she was receiving the professional medical help she needed and deserved, to Pinehaven - a facility with no mental health credentials, and not even a single qualified counselor on staff. We responded to the pleas of her mother, who in the midst of a custody battle – had lost her daughter to a system designed solely to fill coffers and boost the egos of a small community church and the family who ran it. Offered no input and allowed no objection by local courts, attorneys or judges, Cassie’s mother felt hopeless – but hope, as we soon found out – was on the horizon.

Cassie’s first break came when her story was included in Anderson Cooper’s March 2012 coverage of Pinehaven, where the Pinehaven Pipeline was clearly exposed. This media attention sparked a flurry of debate both in Montana, but also in Southern Illinois, where a permanency hearing was quickly scheduled for June of 2012, and Cassie was flown back to appear before a judge, and Pinehaven’s Director Bob Larsson, was offered a chance to answer for the systemic culture of abuse at his facility.

Following CNN’s report and just prior to Cassie’s arrival, Bob Larsson decided to make an out of the way stop in Flora, IL to “accidently” visit Cassie’s mother at her place of employment (a local hotel). There, Bob tried desperately to both manipulate and intimidate Cassie’s mother into “towing the line”. You can read about this encounter here.

In June of 2012, Cassie was flown to Illinois for her court date, refused any non-supervised contact with her family, and was submitted to a grueling set of inquiries from both the judge and other court officials. Confiding with her mother after the inquiries, Cassie expressed her stress over the situation, citing the methods used to manipulate her into saying what they wanted her to say. Following this closed-door interrogation, the court heard from Bob Larsson for 42 minutes as he relayed the sales-driven story of Pinehaven as he has for over three decades. Enamored by his presentation, and no further objective inquiries, Bob was allowed by the court to dictate Cassie’s future from the stand, and with complete cooperation by all court officials, and without any input allowed from her family or other advocates – Cassie was ordered back to Pinehaven the next day, allowed only a few hours of visitation with her family under armed supervision at the courthouse. Cassie, a young female teenager, was then escorted and supervised (alone) by Charlie Duke, overnight before she flew back to Pinehaven in Montana. You can read more about these developments here.

A visit was scheduled for July 2012, wherein Cassie’s mother was to be allowed to visit Cassie at Pinehaven as a guest along with one of the short-term mission trips being organized by none other than Charlie Duke and his home church in Illinois. During the court proceedings, the official justification given for this visit was not for the development of Cassie’s relationship with her mother, nor for any other Cassie-centric purpose, rather with the intent that Cassie’s mother might “become more comfortable with Pinehaven and what they do up there.”

In July of 2012, Cassie’s mother was able to accompany Charlie Duke’s church group to Montana where, as thousands before her, she was awestruck by the beautiful scenery visible from ever square foot within Pinehaven’s 1,800 acres of barbed-wire fence. Throughout her week-long visit, Cassie’s mom was able to spend considerable amount of time with Cassie, involving both work and leisure periods, yet oddly, over the entire week, was never allowed to enter the home in which Cassie was living, allowed to speak to any other Pinehaven child (one was met due to accidental slip by Pinehaven staff), and was routinely shunned by certain members of Pinehaven staff for her involvement with Anderson Cooper’s CNN story.

A few months after the short-term mission trip led by Charlie Duke arrived back in Illinois, Charlie’s long-standing employment as a Truancy Officer was terminated. You can read more about this development here.

Over the next 11 months, communications with Cassie were heavily monitored and restricted without reasons provided. Christmas passed without even an offer for visitation, and Cassie’s school year came to a close. Immediately following Pinehaven’s annual graduation, Cassie’s mom was notified that another court date had been set, and that Cassie would be appearing.

A week before the court date, Bob Larsson escorted Cassie to Illinois along with his wife Nancy Larsson as they had plans to visit supporting churches in the region. Instead of dropping Cassie off with her family, Bob Larsson delivered Cassie to Oblong Christian Children’s Home in Southern Illinois – without notifying Cassie’s location to either the court in charge of her care, or her parents. For seven days, nobody but Bob & Nancy Larsson, select Pinehaven staff and the faculty at Oblong Christian Children’s Home knew where Cassie was. In case of emergency from either side, it would have been impossible to account for Cassie.

After seven days at Oblong Christian Children’s Home, Cassie was delivered to the courthouse where she was reunited with multiple members of her family. Visiting in the courthouse lobby and supervised by Bob Larsson (until a court official forced him to leave them alone), Cassie and her family enjoyed their first moments together in a year.

Court proceedings progressed rapidly with attorneys representing Cassie, her mother and the county reviewing information, taking testimony from Cassie and her mother, and making their recommendations. Surprisingly, Bob Larsson was not asked to testify during the hearing, and before long – a two week visitation was ordered while the court deliberated Cassie’s case. With smiles on their faces and optimism in their hearts, Cassie left the courtroom with her family, stopped only briefly by a disheveled Bob Larsson who informed them, “We expected this to happen. I’ll go back and make sure you get all your stuff. Good Luck.”

Over two weeks, Cassie was able to settle into her home, her family and a semblance of “normal life” on the “outside”. The days passed quickly as Cassie was able to enjoy monumental family moments, time with her mother, introduction to a part-time opportunity, and simply, the ability to stop and breathe without the institutional pressures she had grown accustomed to.

The day of court arrived and all were gathered in the courtroom, this time with Cassie and her mother behind the bar, and without the ominous presence of Bob Larsson, who had chosen to remain in Montana. In short order, the judge in charge of Cassie’s fate declared that while there is much work to be done on the part of Cassie, her mother, and her whole family – he found that it be in the best interest of Cassie, the community, and her family that Cassie be returned home to grow, learn and succeed. With his strongest well wishes and expressions of confidence, the judge closed out the case – and Cassie and her mother walked out of the courtroom, hand in hand, towards a future together.


After many debilitating losses and few small victories, PinehavenAbuse.org is joyfully relieved to mark this struggle for a child’s freedom as – CASE CLOSED.

By Stroke Of Luck - The Fight Rages On

Due to the diligent efforts of Montana State Representatives Ellie Hill and Jenny Eck, and the superb journalistic efforts of Anderson Cooper and Gary Tuchman, House Bill 236 is alive again, if only for a day. 

Upon review of this bill, it was determined the bill is in actuality a revenue bill and as such the deadline has been changed to reflex the deadline category of a revenue bill. Translation - the devastating effects of the Judiciary Committee's decision to leave institutionalized children in Montana unprotected from abuse and maltreatment has been wiped clean, and we have one more chance this session to give these children a voice!

This requires ACTION! Representative Ellie Hill and Jenny Eck have requested the assistance of anybody who cares about the safety of children to send a message to every MT House Legislator, pleading that they vote "YES" on what is called a Blast Motion so that HB 236 can have a full hearing on the MT House floor. 


There are two ways to do this:


2) You can call 406-444-4800 and leave a message for up to five (5) legislators.

Thanks to the efforts of Tim Sabens (former houseparent at Pinehaven), here is a list of all the Republican MT House Legislators (last name, first name):

ANKNEY DUANE
BALLANCE NANCY
BANGERTER LIZ
BENNETT JERRY
BERRY TOM
BLASDEL MARK
BLYTON JOANNE
BRODEHL RANDY
CLARK CHRISTY
CONNELL PAT
COOK ROB
CUFFE MIKE
DOANE ALAN
EDMUNDS CHAMP
EHLI RON
FISCUS CLAYTON
FITZPATRICK STEVE
FLYNN KELLY
GALT WYLIE
GIBSON STEVE
GLIMM CARL
GREEF EDWARD
HAGAN ROGER
HAGSTROM DAVE
HALVORSON DAVID
HANSEN KRISTIN
HARRIS BILL
HERTZ GREG
HOLLANDSWORTH ROY
HOVEN BRIAN
HOWARD DAVID
INGRAHAM PAT
JONES DONALD
KARY DOUG
KERNS KRAYTON
KNUDSEN AUSTIN
LANG MIKE
LASZLOFFY SARAH
LAVIN STEVE
LENZ DENNIS
MCNIVEN JONATHAN
MILLER MIKE
MOORE DAVID ( DOC )
O’HARA JESSE
O’NEIL JERRY
OSMUNDSON RYAN
RANDALL LEE
REDFIELD ALAN
REGIER KEITH
REICHNER SCOTT
SALOMON DANIEL
SCHWADERER NICHOLAS
SHAW RAY
SMITH CARY
VANCE GORDON
WAGONER KIRK
WARBURTON WENDY
WASHBURN TED
WELBORN JEFFREY
WHITE KERRY
ZOLNIKOV DANIEL


Please take the time to speak up and be heard. Please stand up for the rights, health and safety of Montana's most vulnerable children.


SAMPLE:

Here is the message that was submitted by James P. Mason. Feel free to use it as a guide if you are not entirely familiar with the issue at hand.



Please ensure that all children in Montana, especially those most vulnerable to physical, sexual, mental and emotional abuse – have equal protection under the law, no matter who they are living with. Please ensure that these children have a way to report abuse, have full access to medical care, and are treated with the same loving care you seek for your children.

I was one of these children. If there had been oversight of my care while residing in Montana at a faith-based program – I may have not been raped, my roommate might still be alive, and I may have left Montana unbroken. Yet protections were not in place and I was raped, I was abused, and my roommate is dead.

HB 236 is not about religion, or a church’s right to include religious foundations in their program. The constitutional rights of these owners are not in jeopardy. What is in jeopardy however, is the rights of the children in their care who have no way of reporting, no guarantee of medical treatment, and no guarantee of familial communications.

We give these rights to felons in State Prison and terrorists in Guantanamo Bay, but not our children.

Please stand up for the children of Montana and give HB 236 the chance to be heard.

Vote “Yes” tomorrow on HB 236.

[VIDEO] Anderson Cooper 360 Coverage of HB 236's Fatality.


As you may know - a second attempt to ensure that all children in Montana enjoy the same rights to health, safety, and security, regardless of who is taking care of them - was killed in a religiously accelerated partisan vote following a dramatic hearing on February 24th, 2013 in the Montana House Judiciary Committee.

On March 8th, 2013, Anderson Cooper 360 ran the following segment about the disappointing demise of HB 236 in the Montana House Judiciary Committee.


Here is the full 1hr 40min Montana House Judiciary Committee Hearing on House Bill 236 held at the Montana State Capitol on February 14th, 2013 



Remember, your silence guarantees that the abuse at Pinehaven will continue, but your voice is every child's hope.

Address to MT House Judiciary Committee


Address to MT House Judiciary Committee 2/14/2013

James P. Mason





^^CLICK TO LISTEN^^


Transcript


My name is James Mason, and I was once a child, a child out of sight.
When I was raped at the age of 13, nobody saw me.
When I was choked repeatedly year after year, nobody heard me.
When I was finally brave enough, years later to speak, nobody listened.
My name is James Mason, and I am a man, a man who needs to be heard.

This morning you will hear from Montana Family Foundation, who will seek to declare that HB 236 is nothing more than a witch-hunt against a single institution, namely, Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch in St. Ignatius, MT.

They will tell of Pinehaven’s beautiful scenery and reputable virtues while discrediting any claims of abuse, stating that Pinehaven has been cleared of all wrongdoing by Lake County Sheriff’s Office. In the same breath, however, they will softly refer to very recent instances of violent and statutory rape as nothing more than “assault”, and falsely refer to a documented case of juvenile suicide in the same manner they told his parents, saying that this child, my roommate, was “a runaway who froze to death”.  They will extol the virtues of child labor violations as “teaching responsibility and work ethic”.

They will refer to institutionalized children as “troubled teens with challenges” when the truth is that the majority of Pinehaven’s residents are simply by-products of broken homes and failed adoptions; many far too young to have ever committed any crimes or exhibited “troubled” behavior.

This rhetoric is not only misleading and false, but is the actual catalyst of lies, told nationwide, that continues to facilitate the abuse of institutionalized children in Montana.

Montana Family Foundation will tell you that current regulations are built upon the premise that the State can manage these faith-based facilities better and more safely than a private entity such as a church, and that this premise is flawed. To reinforce this point, they will refer to the records of Pine Hills, a state-operated facility, and compare equivalent occurrences of abuse in both institutions. They will then justify these events by declaring that these problems are inherent in the nature of the business when you are dealing with “troubled teens”, while falsely reminding you that Pinehaven, throughout their history, has been cleared of any wrong-doing.

Montana Family Foundation will tell you that HB 236 is the State stepping in and telling faith-based programs being run in accordance with church doctrine “No, you have to use our counseling program” and that this runs afoul of the First Amendment. This, again, is false and misleading. It should be noted that none of the Private Alternative Adolescent Residential Program (PAARP) Administrative Rules will dictate which counseling programs are deemed acceptable and which are not.
What the Montana Family Foundation wishes you not to know, specifically in regards to Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch, is that these facilities, void of any professionally trained staff, haven’t any actual counseling programs to offer.

Let me provide some perspective - drivers on Montana’s highways may listen to religious programming on the radio, discuss religious teachings while driving, and even express their evangelical messages on the outside of their vehicles.

It is common sense that speed limits on Montana highways are set up to protect not only the driver of each vehicle, but the passengers in each vehicle as well. By establishing these speed regulations, the State is not managing a driver’s actions, assuming ownership of their vehicle, or dictating what type of car each driver should operate. They do, however, dictate the manner in which the driver operates the vehicle, preserves the safety and security of their passengers, and provides penalties for exceeding those safeguards and limitations.

Additionally, each driver is regulated to specific types of vehicles they are allowed to operate based upon their education and proven ability to safely operate these vehicles, via the issuance of a classified driver’s license. None of these regulations are infringing upon the rights of the driver, have proven to provide the greatest levels of public and passenger safety, and ultimately are independent of what each driver’s religious preferences are. Vehicles with religious bumper stickers, or with occupants discussing religious topics are not exempt from speed and traffic regulations, simply because these liberties are not in any way connected to each other.

It is the responsibility of this body to ensure the rights of all Montana citizens, including the assurance that each individual’s right to a free practice of religion is not infringed. It should be noted, however, that none of the Private Alternative Adolescent Residential Program (PAARP) Administrative Rules will, upon the passing of HB 236, restrict the teaching or practical application any religious principles, but rather enhance these teachings by providing an assuredly safer and more secure environment for them to be taught.

The Montana Family Foundation will most likely tell you what they have told their radio audience in recent days that “this bill, if passed would immediately be challenged in court”. I hope that you are able to view this threat for what it is. Do not be swayed toward inaction by threats stemming from organizations and people whose livelihoods, careers and reputations are dependent upon their continued ability to operate above and outside the laws regulating the rest of society.

In regards to HB 236, I plead that you vote “Do Pass”, allowing the bill to be voted on in the House. This bill not only ensures that every child in Montana is provided with basic health and safety, but eliminates the current conditions that allows the most vulnerable and at-risk youth to become sub-standard citizens with diminished rights.

Make no mistake of the severity of this implication. Currently, under the adjunct ministry exemption law, children placed both voluntarily and by court order in faith-based private alternative adolescent residential programs have less access to communication with family, less protection from abuse, and less protection from unsafe and harmful environments than Federal Detainees at Guantanamo Bay, serial and mass murderers, pedophiles, and rapists in state and federal prisons. Many of these children are simply unwanted. All of these children are emotionally and physically vulnerable.

Currently, under the adjunct ministry exemption law, children placed in faith-based facilities have absolutely no way for law enforcement agencies to be notified of abuse beyond reports submitted by mandated reporters, many who have testified in recent years that they have been uneducated about or directly restricted from fulfilling this legal obligation. Simply put, law enforcement and child protective agencies cannot protect children they cannot see, and children cannot get help from resources they cannot contact.

HB 236 in no way violates either the establishment or free exercise clause of the US Constitution, in no establishes state religious precedent and in no way restricts any religious teaching, expression or application

Although the Montana Family Foundation would seek to distract you with dramatic displays of religious persecution and threats of legal recourse – HB 236 – an attempt to correct a mistake made 8 years ago – truly has nothing to do with restricting religious freedom, but everything to do with ensuring the safety and care of institutionalized children in Montana.

By allowing HB 236 to be voted on in the House, you are declaring that every child in Montana deserves equal protection under the law, regardless of where they come from or who happens to be taking care of them.

I thank you for your consideration.


CLICK BELOW TO HEAR MONTANA
FAMILY FOUNDATION MESSAGE


MT ACLU to US DOJ: Pinehaven requires investigation

On October 10th, 2012, the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana Foundation communicated a clear message to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C. stating:

"The situation at Pinehaven requires an investigation from the Department of Justice."

The two page letter delivered to the US DOJ outlines many of the primary civil rights issues surrounding both voluntary and involuntary residents at Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch.

Click Here to download a copy of the letter.

A transcript of the letter can be found below.

While this letter is neither a guarantee of investigation nor a continued promise of support from the ACLU, it has the ability to shine a much broader light onto the abuse, neglect and judicial cover ups that have tainted the lives of hundreds of vulnerable children over the past three decades.

I would encourage all to take up the cause of justice with the MT ACLU by printing and mailing this letter to the US Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division at:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
9500 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Office of the Assistant Attorney General, Main
Washington, D.C. 20530

Silence guarantees abuse, neglect and suffering will continue. Standing up and making your voice heard and offers hope and justice a chance to work.



Sorry Charlie


It has been verified by a phone call with Mr. Monty Newlan of Illinois Regional Office of Education #12 that Charlie Duke, the truancy officer that is responsible for trafficking over 30 children to Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch over the past two decades through the Illinois court system, is no longer employed by ROE 12.

Much information has poured in over the past two days regarding the conditions and reasons for Charlie Duke's departure or possible termination from his position as Chief Truancy Officer for ROE 12, including his refusal to disassociate himself with Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch. PinehavenAbuse.org, however, has been unable to verify this information.

Additional information has been received that Bob Larsson has offered Charlie Duke a full-time position at Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch, but this information also has also yet to be verified.

One thing is clear. Charlie Duke's ability to feed the Pipeline To Pinehaven with children caught up in the Illinois court systems has come to an end. While victims of this trafficking operation still remain incarcerated at Pinehaven, it can be hoped, and possible assumed, that future action will be taken to ensure the safety and proper treatment of these children - if not by the State of Montana, then by the State of Illinois.

While the fight for the safety, security and well-being for institutionalized children in Montana, and Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch specifically, is far from over - we can take comfort and joy in this briefest of moments knowing that progress and change are not only possible, but inevitable.

Keep strong, carry on, and spread this great news!

Where Bob Larsson's Letters Come From

The following is a public letter from Carly Lofland (a former resident of Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch) to Bob Larsson:


In early June, I had had enough. My life seemed to be slipping away from me. Every relationship I had was going downhill, and my life just seemed to be going nowhere. I felt very lost. I felt very alone. I needed to find someplace where I could just relax and feel at peace. I could only think of one place and that was Kootenai Christian Camp. My memories of Kootenai Camp were the only happy moments I could recall in a very long time so I thought if I went there I might feel better.
Carly Lofland


I didn’t have very much money and wasn’t sure how I would get to Montana to work at camp, or even if they needed help so I called Bob Larsson to see if I would be able to go an help. I didn’t get Bob, but his wife Nancy took a message and Bob called me back a couple days later when he was actually here in Indiana picking up another kid for Pinehaven.

I told Bob that I wanted to work at camp for the Senior and Intermediate weeks and what he told me made me feel very manipulated and taken advantage of. Bob told me that if I wanted to work at camp that I had to email him a letter telling about the good things I was doing since leaving Pinehaven. He told me to write about all the good and my goals and what I wanted to do in my life. He told me that Jon Larsson an Kelvin Jones needed this to determine if I would be a good fit. He said after I sent it they would let me know if I could come. He said that they would have to check to see if a group was coming out to work at Pinehaven from my area so that I could come with them. I don’t want to be at Pinehaven, only at camp, but I didn’t talk about that with him.

After I got off the phone I wasn’t sure what to do. I don’t support the way that Pinehaven is ran and I knew that if I wrote the letter he asked for that he would use it to say that Pinehaven was a good place and that I thought it had changed my life and helped me. I don’t think this is true and I don’t agree with the way Pinehaven is ran. I was never abused physically, but I was abused emotionally and mentally all the time. I was manipulated there just like I am being manipulated now, even though I am long gone.

The things is, I REALLY wanted to go to Kootenai Camp to help out. I still have brothers and sisters at Pinehaven, and seeing them at camp would let me talk to them and maybe help them out. They would be able to see me as a normal person and maybe feel good that one day they will get to be normal too. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Bob is trying to use what I feeling and what is basically my needs to serve his purpose. He wants to make me say what he wants me to say. He wants to keep control of me and my life. I think this is crazy. I am now an adult and I need to make my own decisions. I need to speak for myself and I need to not let people make me do things I don’t want to do or say things I don’t want to say.


The truth about my life after Pinehaven is not what Bob Larsson wants to tell all his supporters. The truth is that since leaving, I have struggled to make decision on my own. I have always looked to other people to tell me what to do. I have struggled to stand up for myself and have let people walk all over me. I have a hard time feeling that I deserve all these hard times because I’m not a very good person.

Bob Larsson

Instead of writing a letter for Bob about my life because of Pinehaven, I am writing this to say that that I am going to live my life the best I can and stand up for myself even though Pinehaven tried to keep control of me and treat me like I was not worth having a good life. Even though they told me that I did not deserve good things because I was a bad kid, I am going to go and live a good life and achieve great things.


If Bob tries to force you to write one of his letters before giving you anything or helping you, don’t do it. You don’t need Bob Larsson to have a good life or good things. You don’t need Bob’s approval.


If Bob is showing you letters from kids who say how good Pinehaven is, please think about how he got those letters. I know that kids write those letters before leaving in fear of not being able to leave if they do not. They are also written right after leaving before kids are able to understand how they had been abused like me. Please do not believe everything Bob Larsson tells you.


- Carly Lofland

Local Awareness Campaign To Launch Soon


When light is shed upon darkness, the truth of what lies within is revealed.

The days of Bob Larsson and Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch operating under the radar of local awareness are over. In the coming weeks, local Lake County Residents will finally be introduced to the sickening truth of what has been happening for 35 years in their own backyard.

Cassie Ordered Back To Pinehaven

Cassie Casteel (currently incarcerated at Pinehaven)
There are days when good triumphs, lies and deceit are overcome with truth, and children are protected from evil. Today was not one of those days. Today, in a courthouse in southern Illinois, for no fault of her own, a child was further incarcerated 1,800 miles away from her home to the historically abusive, unlicensed facility in Northwest Montana known as Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch. 


Since being ordered back to Illinois by a judge on March 28th, 2012, Cassie Casteel has been completely isolated from the outside world, including correspondence by both phone and mail from her mother. Built upon a precedent of “negative influence”, Cassie’s mother Paula Bowen was not allowed by either Pinehaven, Charlie Duke (Richland County Truancy Officer) or Lynn Wells (Richland County Probation Officer and Cassie’s Guardian Ad Litem) to speak to her daughter on the phone, nor have any written correspondence delivered – a condition not revealed to Cassie, who had to sit in Montana thinking her mother didn’t even care enough to write. Even beyond this fact, the secret change to the initial agreement for Cassie to return on June 5th was kept from her mother, who spent that entire day sitting at home waiting for Cassie’s arrival – only to call Lynn Wells in the late afternoon and be informed that “Cassie was never coming back on the 5th” and “if you want to see her, you can see her in court on the 15th”. This all occurred, of course, after the harassing incident involving Bob Larsson showing up at Paula’s place of employment that we reported a month ago


The court proceedings today provided a perfect opportunity for Bob Larsson and his team of court-appointed associates in Richland County, IL to take full advantage of their exclusive contact with, and complete mental, psychological and spiritual control of Cassie. From the start, Bob Larsson was once again able to paint a mental picture of Pinehaven as beautiful and spotless as the scenic views it provides. Without any requirement of proof, or any objection to its truth, Pinehaven was presented by Bob Larsson, Charlie Duke and Lynn Wells as a perfect oasis of love, solace and, of course, spiritual growth. 


Bob Larsson, Director of Pinehaven
As Bob Larsson took the stand, speaking softly into the microphone in the monotonic fashion that has served him so well over the years speaking in front of churches, the courtroom heard praises for Cassie’s progress including her allegedly wonderful advancements in school, her clearly visible smile, and her love of Montana life. The description of Cassie’s wonderful life at Pinehaven included her involvement in ranch activities, schoolwork, and with great repetition, her anticipation for this summer’s recreational activities at Kootenai Christian Camp. Bob spoke of his first interactions with Cassie when he took her to Pinehaven with the utmost regard for her integrity, citing a sales receipt that showed how he had handed her twenty dollars in the airport to get something to eat, and that she returned with the exact change, then oddly reporting that “now she lies before she tells the truth”. Bob continued extolling Cassie’s virtues at Pinehaven by describing how she had become so happy and only experienced sadness when her mother communicated “negativity” through phone calls or letters. A letter was produced by Bob Larsson, written by the Croans, Cassie’s houseparents. This letter predictably continued to praise Cassie’s wonderful nature and level of undefined progress, simply stating that every influence at Pinehaven was bringing joy and satisfaction to her life, from the mountain views to the work, but that everything back home and the influences stemming from her family were constantly bring her down and causing her to backslide in her progress. 


Only a few inquiries were produced by Paula’s court-appointed public defender regarding the nature of Pinehaven’s program, to which vague responses were given, and only one concise answer was provided, and promptly ignored by the court. When asked if Pinehaven has any licensed or professionally trained counselors on staff which Cassie could access, Bob Larsson began a long description of the way in which Pinehaven helps children, but never answered the question. When pressed again, he simply answered, “No”. When asked if Cassie was still being provided her medicine prescribed by a licensed psychiatrist, Bob responded that she had been removed from these prescriptions “by an M.D.” and that “she is much happier now that she is off them”. When asked if she was provided earplugs while swimming to prevent damage because of the tubes in her ears, Bob replied that he “didn’t know she had tubes in her ears”. 


Following Bob Larsson’s riveting presentation of Pinehaven and the wonderful things they were doing for Cassie including providing her with needed dental work, he was allowed to leave the stand, and was immediately followed in his praises for his program by Charlie Duke and Lynn Wells. 


Charlie Duke
Charlie Duke’s speech reporting his faith, trust, amazement and appreciation for Pinehaven was truly worthy of an orator’s award for passion and apparent authority. He left no question in the eyes of the court that Pinehaven was the finest behavioral treatment facility availability. He made it apparent that his individual interests in Cassie’s well-being and improvement was not only being closely monitored, but reported on a frequent basis. Quickly shifting from his praises of Pinehaven, Charlie began to paint a very dire picture of Cassie’s mother, describing her actions and communications as “negative” and “harmful to Cassie’s progress”. Without providing any sources for reference, Charlie let the court know in no uncertain terms that Paula’s strained relationship with the Croans was damaging Cassie’s progress, and needed to be closely monitored. He then informed the court that Paula’s communication was only cut off after she had allegedly made a reference to Cassie about CNN (which actually never occurred). Along with Lynn Wells, he assured the court that remaining at Pinehaven was in Cassie’s best interest. 


Charlie Duke then began to build his plan for Cassie’s future in a manner that would allow him and Lynn Wells to completely control every aspect of Cassie’s communication with not only her family, but any influences outside the Pinehaven cattle guard. He outlined a plan whereby all future letters would be routed through Lynn Wells to be monitored for anything “negative” (a word now synonymous with any comment that objects to or does not 100% agree with Pinehaven’s operations). Additionally, it was recommended that Cassie spending any time with her family now, while she was already in Illinois, would a) cause Bob Larsson to have to pay a fee on the return airfare scheduled for Saturday June, 16th, and b) would interfere with Bob Larsson’s upcoming schedule, that Cassie would return to Montana, and that Paula should only be allowed to visit Cassie on Pinehaven property in July, when Charlie Duke takes a church group to Pinehaven on a short-term missions trip. It was clear that Pinehaven, in association with their court-appointed advocates – had no intention of allowing Cassie to be exposed to anything outside of their control. 


What happened next was the most alarming. 


Without any prompting or recommendation from Paula, her public defender took to the podium and announced that, “Although Paula and her family want Cassie home, she understands that it is in Cassie’s best interest that she remain at Pinehaven, and she looks forward to rebuilding her relationship with the Croans and visiting Cassie at Pinehaven in July”. In absolute amazement, Paula sat in her chair, feeling completely helpless, demonized, and taken advantage of. 


Over the next hour, following a short break, Cassie’s fate was sealed. It was ordered by the court that she would return to Pinehaven on her scheduled flight, and would only be allowed to visit with her family that afternoon. The court agreed to fund her flight to Montana in July to spend a week with Cassie on Pinehaven property with Charlie Duke’s Mission Trip. 


An armed sheriff deputy stood in the room during their visit
Following the hearing, Cassie was taken to Charlie Duke’s office where she was allowed to visit with her family for about four hours under the supervision of an armed Sheriff’s Deputy. Lynn Wells supplied some pizza, and the family was able to sit and chat, hug and laugh for a few hours till Charlie Duke came to take Cassie away to Vincennes, Indiana, where she would spend the night before flying back to Montana. Various details about this visit clearly demonstrate the indoctrination and coercion inflicted upon Cassie by Pinehaven, Bob Larsson, Charlie Duke and Lynn Wells in order to get her to say the things they want her to say, but we are unable to disclose the specifics at this time in fear of retribution to Cassie by Pinehaven staff. 


BUT SHE’S DOING GREAT… 


Throughout this torturously deceiving court hearing, one message was clearly being pushed by Pinehaven and their Richland County advocates – Cassie is doing great! This message was presented and blindly accepted by Judge Dunn without a single shred of proof. Not a single document. 


The actual evidence, however, was not only sitting right in front of them the whole time, but tells a completely different story. 


“Cassie is doing great in school!” 


Cassie is being required to take “summer school” in order to complete the work (5 workbooks equivalent to half a school quarter’s work) that was not completed in order for her to advance to the ninth grade starting next year. This plan reveals severe problems with her academic achievements, completely contrary to the testimonies provided by Bob Larsson and Charlie Duke.


“Cassie is happier off her medicine” 


Self-inflicted "cutting" scars on Cassie's left and right wrists
Just last February, Cassie revealed to her mom in a letter earlier this year that she was cutting herself. The scars on both of her wrists (present in the courtroom, but never addressed) prove this to be true, and self-inflicted in February 2012, only five months after being removed from her psychiatric prescriptions in accordance with Pinehaven’s dangerously archaic policies on medical care – they tell a story that has been ignored by judicial and legislative authorities across the country for decades. Pinehaven’s history of self-inflicted wounding and attempted suicides by children has been diligently covered up, and is documented in affidavits by former staff. Combined with a complete lack of mental health resources and a faith-only approach to emotional stability, Cassie is truly in danger at Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch. 




FACTS ARE STILL THE FACTS 


1) Cassie (who has a history of suicide attempts, and is a victim of sexual abuse) was removed from a local, licensed, professional psychiatric medical facility where she was being supervised and treated by psychiatrists and licensed counselors and had the opportunity to visit with, and rebuild strong key relationships with her family. She was incarcerated 1,800 miles away from home in an unlicensed, religiously extreme behavioral modification program with no documented treatment program, no progress reporting, a history of sexual and physical abuse by staff, and a complete disregard for any medical or psychiatric science.


 2) This removal was based entirely upon the recommendation and facilitation of Richland County, IL Truancy Officer, Charlie Duke. Charlie Duke has no qualifications for this referral beyond his religious relationship with Bob Larsson as his “surrogate father”. 


3) In an email distributed by Bob Larsson to churches and supporters throughout the US in response to his appearance on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, Bob revealed the reasons why Richland County was entrusting their juvenile foster and correctional cases to Pinehaven when he stated “The truant officer has private sources available to pay travel costs, but pays some of the costs personally. Having no tuition charges also helps underfunded public agencies.” 


Ask yourself if the actions of Richland County, IL were performed in “the best interest of Cassie” or were actions performed in best interest of Bob Larsson and his financial empire known as Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch, or even to diminish their expenses for providing proper juvenile treatment for children under their custody? 


Ask yourself if the unprecedented restrictions on contact and visitation with her family, in line with the harassing intimidation tactics last month, were done as punishment for speaking out on CNN about Pinehaven? 


Ask yourself….is Cassie’s safety, health and future being used as collateral in a publicity battle for a financially suffering Pinehaven Christian Children’s Ranch? 


When you’ve answered these questions, share your answers with the world.