OZARK, Mo. (AP) — Two men facing felony charges alleging they abused boys at a private Christian boarding school in southwest Missouri have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors, and the case against a third was dropped.
Scott Dumar, 46, the medical coordinator at the Agape Boarding School near Stockton, pleaded guilty Thursday to two misdemeanors and was placed on two years probation. Everett Graves, 40, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor.
The case against Chris McElroy was dropped after the alleged victim did not appear at a preliminary hearing Thursday, The Kansas City Star reported.
They were among five staff members charged in September 2021 with low-level felonies after an investigation into accusations by former and current students of widespread abuse at the school.
The Missouri Attorney General’s Office had recommended prosecuting 22 staff members with a total of 65 counts on behalf of 36 students. But Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither charged only the five employees.
Last year Agape’s longtime doctor, David Smock, was charged with several child sex crimes involving students. He has pleaded not guilty.
After hearing testimony from the former students Thursday, Cedar County Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Pyle determined Dumar’s actions did not warrant felony charges and suggested Dumar plead to the two misdemeanors. If he violates his probation, Dumar could be sent to jail for a year.
Pyle made the same determination in allowing Graves, who, like Dumar, has no prior convictions, to plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
A fourth defendant, Trent Hartman, has been bound over for trial on two felony counts of third-degree assault. The preliminary hearing for the fifth staffer, Seth Duncan, is scheduled for next week.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office filed a motion in early September to close Agape, calling it “an immediate health and safety concern” for children living there. Later that month, the Republican speaker of the Missouri House, Rob Vescovo, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Teresa Moore in Kansas City, urging the closure of Agape.
In October, Pyle canceled hearings that had been scheduled to consider Schmitt’s motion. No new hearings have been scheduled, and the school continues to operate.
Abuse allegations at Agape and a nearby Christian boarding school for girls, Circle of Hope, resulted in a new Missouri law last year that, among other things, established minimum health and safety requirements for boarding schools, required background checks for employees, and required adequate food, clothing and medical care for students.
Circle of Hope in Humansville closed during an investigation in 2020, and its husband-and-wife co-founders face 99 charges, including child abuse and neglect and sex crimes.