Youth Ranch Owners Speak Out About Recent Crimes

Youth Ranch Owners Speak Out About Recent Crimes
By: Holly Brantley
BLACK, Mo. - George and JoAnn Becker of the Valley Springs Youth Ranch tell their story after a 16-year-old runaway's crime spree and crimes on their own property.
Earlier this week a 16-year-old boy ran away from the facility, breaking into homes, a business, and cars in the area.
Along the way, police say he stole a gun, and a car, then lead officers on a high speed chase. That was Monday night.
Now, owners of the Valley Springs facility are trying to figure out who shot three of their horses.
Wednesday, the Beckers discovered two of their horses shot, and a third injured.  While investigators, and the Beckers aren't sure if the shootings are related to the juvenile's crime spree, the Beckers call it the last straw.
They want to let people know they're sorry about what happened, but at Valley Springs, they are trying to make a positive difference.
They say the Valley Springs Youth Ranch offers a second chance for more than 70 boys from all over Missouri.
"So many are abused and neglected," said JoAnn Becker. "They're at rock bottom when they get here.  We get some tough kids they might not take anywhere else. But, we care for them and we get some good kids here."
Becker said one young man's behavior doesn't represent all the boys at the ranch.
"I do want to apologize," said Becker. "But this doesn't happen very often.  I know it's hard to take, but don't let this represent all the kids here."
"We sympathize with the local people when things happen, but we're trying to make progress here.  If we make an impact to the community, we want it to be a positive one," said Texas Balderas, the campus school principal.
Now, the Becker's want to know who shot three of their horses, two died.  One was very special to JoAnn.  According to the Reynolds County Sheriff's Department, the shootings were intentional.
"The one was my personal riding horse.  She meant a lot to me.  She was special," said JoAnn.
The Becker's say runaways are rare.  They also want to clear up misconceptions about level four kids at the facility.  They say those kids aren't there because of their criminal record; they just need more emotional support.
The Becker's and the sheriff's department have also had discussions regarding a system to alert the public in case one of the youths does runaway.  There more than 70 boys at the facility. It can hold up to 86.  They range in age from 10 to 21.