The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 11, 2000

Abuse alleged--Mom may sue church-run Texas youth home, By Leon Stafford - Staff

The mother of a Conyers youth who alleges he was abused at a Texas youth home says she will file a civil lawsuit against the operators of the program.

Teresa Calalay said she sent her son, Justin Simons, 18, to the People's Baptist Church-run facility in Corpus Christi, Texas, to be "given structure in a Christian environment with Christian values." The home is for troubled young boys, she said.

Instead, she said she brought her son back earlier this month bruised, beaten and barely able to walk because of an alleged forced jump over a 15-foot-deep open pit.

Deputes in Nueces County, Texas, on Friday arrested two men connected with the facility. Allen Smith was charged with unlawful restraint, a third-degree felony, and was released on a $10,000 bond. Wiley Cameron Sr., pastor of the church, was arrested after he refused to turn over records that had been sought by investigators.

An attorney representing Cameron later agreed to hand over the records and Cameron was released Friday.

Authorities said more arrests may come.

Calls to the facility were not returned.

"A lot of the parents thought they were trusting their children with people with special credentials and all they offered was violence," said Marcus Davis, Calalay's attorney. Calalay said she plans to go to Corpus Christi later this week to meet with police about the case.

Since making the allegations public last week, Calalay said about seven other youths from across the country have come forward with similar stories, including Ricky Mason, 17, of Locust Grove.

Justin Simons alleges that the abuse started the second day he was at the home, where he stayed March 12 through March 31. He said he heard and saw people beaten with sticks and later was a victim of the attacks. At one point, he claimed, he was bound to another boy and forced to run as fast as he could with the threat of being beaten hanging over his head. He said he and another teen were thrown in the pit --- which captured refuse and waste from the facility --- after he failed to inform the home's authorities that the other boy was planning to run away.

"I want to see the place shut down," the youth said. "I want to see all the guys out of there who are getting brainwashed. It's a bad situation."

Mason, 17, said Monday that he went to the home on March 7 and was pleased at first. But the second week into his almost monthlong stay, he said, he was pushed for "slacking off" and told that his fingers would be broken if he did not sign a form releasing the group from liability should he be injured while in their care.

Both youths said Monday they are having nightmares, don't like being alone and have had trouble eating.

"There is not one doubt in my mind that this is the truth," Theresa Calalay said.

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