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Youth director charged with abuse

Ranch in Rich County serves troubled kids

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Wayne E. Winder, who directs a ranch for troubled children, has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing youngsters, according to the Utah Attorney General's Office.

The Majestic Ranch, located near Randolph in Rich County, serves troubled youngsters whose parents pay about $3,000 per month for each child.

Investigators interviewed 41 youngsters at the ranch, ranging in age from 10-14 years old.

The children told investigators about sexual and physical abuse and that Winder, 35, had displayed a pornographic picture.

Winder has been charged with aggravated sexual abuse, a first-degree felony; child abuse, a second-degree felony; dealing in material harmful to a minor, a third-degree felony; and two counts of child abuse that are class A misdemeanors.

Craig Barlow, division chief of the Children's Justice Division in the Attorney General's Office, said the office was tipped off by an attorney who had been approached by a former ranch employee who had worked as a "housemother" to youngsters.

The woman apparently had tried to call police to report what she believed was child abuse but was promptly fired so she sought legal help, Barlow said.

The Attorney General's Office got a warrant June 6 to interview the 41 children that day, and after the eight investigators compared notes, the criminal charges against Winder were prepared.

"The allegations were sufficient to justify the charges," Barlow said. He also said that the children's situation was particularly troublesome because they were so isolated, saying it was not only harmful but "terrifying."

"They're living in the middle of nowhere, all are from out of state, they have limited contact with their parents, phone calls to the parents are monitored by the staff, they don't have access to a telephone, the only adults they have contact with are the staff," Barlow said.

Winder was booked and released from the Rich County Jail. His bail has been set at $30,000.

Also, Utah's Office of Licensing has informed the school's owner, Dan Peart, that he needs a human services license to operate a residential treatment center. Peart had told investigators that he was running a boarding school, but Barlow said the facility is really more of a treatment center for troubled youngsters.

E-mail: lindat@desnews.com