Couple charged with dozens of felonies for abuse at religious girls' reform school

A Missouri couple who owned and operated a religious boarding school has been arrested on dozens of charges after their daughter and former students made abuse allegations in TikTok videos.

Boyd Householder was charged with 80 felony counts, including child molestation, sodomy, sexual contact with a student and neglect of a child, and his wife Stephanie faces 22 felony charges for abuse or neglect of a child and endangering the welfare of a child for alleged crimes committed between 2017 and 2020, reported NBC News.

"This is a moment that does deserve to be celebrated," said their daughter Amanda Householder in a TikTok video reacting to the couple's arrest. "I am sad because they are my parents, but something my parents would always tell me is, 'You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.' Well, my parents made their bed and now they're going to have to lie in it. As hard as that is for me, it's about time."

The 71-year-old Boyd Householder and his 55-year-old wife opened Circle of Hope Girls' Ranch in 2006 to help reform rebellious teenage girls, but two dozen former residents had previously told NBC News the couple used cruel punishments against residents, such as withholding food, restraints and forced manual labor.

Concerned parents and staffers had reported the reform school at least 19 times to various law enforcement, child welfare and education agencies but no charges were filed against the couple until this week.

An assistant U.S. attorney declined to prosecute in 2018, according to an email from a highway patrol officer who investigated, and state child welfare and education officials had no authority to close the ranch due to a loophole Missouri lawmakers hope to close.

Amanda Householder and other women who had attended Circle of Hope as teenagers started posting social media videos last spring detailing abuse allegations, which led to an investigation by the Cedar County Sheriff's Office, and the Householders closed the ranch in August and placed the property on the market.