Arizona Republic April 23, 1998

Youths withdrawn from boot camp after reported beatings and one death, By Dennis Wagner

Authorities in a California county are withdrawing all of their juveniles from Arizona Boys Ranch over concerns for their safety after some were identified in investigative reports into the death of a 16-year-old boy.

Nick Cademartori, chief probation officer for San Joaquin County, said Wednesday that 24 boys will return to California this week. He said 11 of them will be placed with their families and the others will be admitted to juvenile facilities.

Cademartori said the decision was based on dissemination by the media of a Pinal County Sheriff's report into the March 2 death of Nicholaus Contreraz of Sacramento. The boy died of a lung condition after being placed in a control hold and then forced to do punitive exercises.

A sheriff's summary of witness statements includes allegations by other youths who said they were slammed against walls or punched by ranch employees. Because some boys' names were released by Arizona media, Cademartori said, San Joaquin County authorities became concerned about the potential for retribution.

Boys Ranch administrators could not be reached for comment.

The non-profit rehabilitation center uses military-style discipline and work methods to build character, teamwork and responsibility among about 500 residents at eight Arizona campuses. An estimated 350 of those youths are from California, which pays about $3,600 a month for each child.

Arizona Child Protective Services officials are investigating the ranch, along with the Pinal County Sheriff's Department, California authorities and Sacramento County's probation department.

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