The Sacramento Bee, June 3, 1998

Arizona Plans to Step up Probe into Teen's Death
By Mareva Brown, Bee Staff Writer

Prosecutors in Arizona have asked for further investigation into the death of a 16-year-old Sacramento boy who died at a remote mountain campus of the Arizona Boys Ranch.

Nicholaus Contreraz was suffering from a massive chest infection that forced the partial collapse of one lung when he died on March 2. Witnesses told authorities staff members accused him of faking illness and forced him to do strenuous exercises as punishment.

Charles Ratliff, a spokesman for the Pinal County Attorney's Office, said it would two to four weeks before prosecutors decide whether to file charges against any staff member or against the Boys Ranch itself.

"Every day gets worse," said Contreraz's grandmother, Connie Woodward. "When we go out to see him (at the graveyard), if we could tell him that something's being done, it would be better. But we can't tell him that."

At least two staff members were fired and four others suspended and the Boys Ranch this week is completing the shutdown of the Oracle campus where Contreraz died. Youths there were transferred to other Boys Ranch sites.

"Errors were made, serious errors in judgement," said Bob Thomas, the ranch's chief executive officer, in acknowledging that staffers violated the program's policies and then sought to cover it up. Thomas also put into place seven new measures designed to safeguard youths in the program's orientation.

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