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Troubled youth ranch owner's lawsuit changes focus
By: Joshua Zuber
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M.
Scott Chandler, the owner of the Tierra Blanca Ranch for troubled youth, was a no-show at the Seventh Judicial District Court in Truth or Consequences, N.M.
Instead, his lawyer, Pete Domenici, Jr., represented him in the lawsuit Chandler is bringing against the New Mexico Children's, Youth and Families Department.
Tuesday's motion hearing changed from trying to stop CYFD from investigating the Hillsboro, N.M., ranch to reshaping the whole lawsuit into a question.
"We will hopefully have a jury trial. And they will decide some of these very fundamental rights of these very fundamental issues of parental rights," Domenici said.
Basically, it's a question of how much custody does someone like Chandler have over children on his ranch?
The lawsuit, filed last week, stems from a criminal investigation by CYFD.
They're looking to see if any of the children have been abused or neglected.
However, KFOX 14 obtained documents in which a few teens claim abuse.
Chandler's attorney denies any wrongdoing.
"He is absolutely not hiding anything," Domenici said.
Chandler hasn't talked to state police since an Amber Alert was issued last Friday.
He is still considered a person of interest.
His attorney said he's asked Chandler to stay out of the spotlight until he speaks in court.
In the meantime, teens and even some adults still attend the ranch's rehabilitation program.
"Two 18-year-olds are enrolled and back at the ranch, (and) two more are going to turn 18 within a matter of weeks," Domenici said.
CYFD attorneys left the courtroom before KFOX 14 could ask any questions.
Chandler must show up to that same district court in T or C on Jan. 15 for a pretrial hearing.
The judge in this case says a trial could happen March or April.