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Suit by ranch for troubled teens to be heard in January

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TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES – A hearing on a temporary restraining order against a Children, Youth and Families Department child abuse investigation will be continued in January.

District Judge Edmund Kase III set a tentative hearing date of Jan. 15 for the lawsuit brought by Tierra Blanca Ranch High Country Youth Program and owner Scott Chandler.

Chandler was not at Tuesday’s hearing, and his attorney, Pete Domenici Jr., said Chandler will not be talking to State Police or CYFD, according to KOAT-TV .

Domenici has criticized CYFD and State Police for the “unnecessary escalation of the situation.”

Chandler was identified as a “person of interest” by State Police when they couldn’t find nine boys at the ranch Friday as they served a sealed search warrant.

Last week, the youth program and Chandler filed a lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order against CYFD seeking to bring the agency’s child abuse investigation to a halt. The lawsuit alleged the CYFD investigation was biased and that CYFD staff failed to follow its regulations in conducting the investigation.

The restraining order was not granted last week, and Tuesday’s hearing was scheduled.

Last week, CYFD informed the judge the department had “significant evidence” of medical and educational neglect; systematic emotional and psychological abuse; potential criminal child abuse; and shackling, handcuffing and hooding of children.

In the meantime, CYFD sought and obtained legal custody of nine boys still at the ranch program. State Police issued an Amber Alert when officers could not locate the boys Friday morning, although the ranch’s attorney said the boys were being returned to their parents.

The Amber Alert ended when State Police determined all nine boys were in the custody of their parents.

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