The Associated Press , February 15, 1999

Starkly different portraits of ranch couple charged with abuse

CASPER, Wyoming (AP) -- Word of mouth had it that Francis and Robin Beaugureau's ranch on the rocky, barren rangeland east of town was a place where poor parents could seek help for troubled lives and problem children.

The Beaugureaus took in children and sometimes entire families. They shared their gray trailer, their food and their religious beliefs in exchange for tending animals and other chores.

Friends describe a kindhearted, Bible-studying couple who made and delivered meals to the poor.

Authorities, however, paint a nightmarish portrait of a sadistic, domineering couple who took advantage of the poor and abused children under the guise of religion. A couple who locked a 10-year-old boy in a small box for a month for sneaking food, who beat the boy's mother with a vacuum cleaner cord, who controlled their guests' lives.

It took authorities two years to bring charges against the Beaugureaus because many of the children and parents who had stayed with them refused to discuss their experiences. Finally, the Beaugureaus' own son and daughter came forward and told of years of beatings and abuse.

Police arrested Beaugureau, a 42-year-old electrician, and his 37-year-old wife on assault and child abuse charges on December 23.

On Thursday, Mrs. Beaugureau pleaded innocent and unfit for trial by reason of mental illness or deficiency. Her husband's arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

"These people are not the ogres and the monsters that they're being portrayed as," said Georgia Belving, who has known the Beaugureaus four years. The Beaugureaus' friends say the children made up the stories.

"It's like we need to do up some sacrifices, we need to do up some sacrificial lambs here," she said.

Members of Christ First Missionary Baptist Church, where Beaugureau is a deacon, took up a collection for his bond.

Mrs. Beaugureau's sister, Tracy Fraze of Phoenix, does not doubt the charges. She said the Beaugureaus abused their own children for years.

"I don't believe they belong in jail," Fraze said. "I believe they belong in the state hospital or something."

Youth ranch was unlicensed
The Beaugureaus called their place the Emmanuel Marantha Youth Ranch. On four desolate acres east of Casper, there are rusting dishwashers, washing machines, clothes dryers and other large appliances strewn about. Toys and parts of toys lie scattered on the ground. An old Chris Craft houseboat stands marooned in the front yard.

One visitor recalls dozens of dogs, cats and chickens wandering through the trailers at will.

The youth ranch was unlicensed; Wyoming requires licenses only for child care institutions that seek state funds.

Those who turned to the Beaugureaus felt they had few options.

"Without being demeaning toward these parents, they had very, very low self-esteem and little parenting skills," said Chuck Davis, the Natrona County Sheriff's Department investigator who handled the case. "They come from low socioeconomic levels. These are struggling people."

Police: Boy locked in metal box
Elizabeth Fisk was desperate.

Fisk, 47, is an animal lover with a college degree in animal husbandry. She went to Wyoming with her son to put an abusive marriage behind her.

She lived two years with the Beaugureaus and left with recurring nightmares of strangers stalking her in the dark, said Fisk's sister, Maggi Cooper.

Fisk and her son were the victims of most of the alleged abuse.

Police say the boy, then 10, was locked in a metal box in their closet every night for a month as punishment for sneaking food.

The Beaugureaus replaced the box with a wooden one when they thought he might die of ammonia poisoning from crouching in his own urine, according to court documents.

The boy was also allegedly coaxed into putting his hand under a blow torch and doused with urine as punishment for bedwetting. Mrs. Beaugureau at one time used a sewing needle and thread to stitch a stomach wound on the boy, according to the affidavit.

Mrs. Beaugureau is also accused of beating the boy with belts, boards and her fists to the point that he told investigators he would rather have killed himself than live under those conditions any longer.

The boy was placed in foster care in October 1996.

Late one night about a year later, Fisk fled to avoid another beating. A large bruise was spreading like an inkblot across her back and she said she had been threatened with another 50 lashes.

The prairie snow pierced the holes of her sneakers and the cold cut through her thin denim jacket. She walked seven miles to a motel. At the front desk, she made a tearful collect call to Cooper, her sister in Florida.

Fisk now has a job and has been living in her own apartment for over a year.

"She has pulled herself out of it beautifully," Cooper said.

Fisk has been told by attorneys not to talk about the case and does not want her whereabouts disclosed.

Authorities did not pursue charges until the Beaugureaus' daughter, 14, and son, Gary Durham, 18, came forward last year with their own stories of being beaten.

Belving and her husband, Chuck Hans, said they never saw signs of abuse. "We're talking about people that don't even spank their kids," Belving said.

Mrs. Beaugureau told a friend in a weekly Bible study class that Fisk fabricated the charges.

"I just keep praying to God that the truth will come out," said Jane Larsen, a friend of Mrs. Beaugureau from Bible-study class. "Because only God knows the truth."

Copyright 1999 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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