Home / News / Physical abuse charges are made about a Montana Christian boarding school, but owner says that Satan is behind the accusations
Physical abuse charges are made about a Montana Christian boarding school, but owner says that Satan is behind the accusations

Physical abuse charges are made about a Montana Christian boarding school, but owner says that Satan is behind the accusations

Bob Larsson, owner of the Pinehaven Christian Children's RanchAccusations of abuse at the Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch in western Montana have surfaced, and CNN's Gary Tuchman investigated the story.

For over four decades, the Christian boarding school operated in the town of St. Ignatius, run by Bob Larsson, a preacher who is now 82 years old.  His school takes in troubled youth.  Larsson told CNN that he tries to teach the kids that God loves them, and that God is the answer to everything because He rules everything.  "He made man. He made the world. He made the rules," Larsson says.

Despite these holy proclamations, some former students and houseparents are painting a picture that is not so rosy.

Denise Bingham, a former Pinehaven houseparent, told CNN that if youngsters did not obey, they would receive physical pain in the form pressing   pressure points, being dragged down a hill, or even choked.  "I think God weeps when He thinks about the wrong that's been done," she told Tuchman.  Larsson says that the allegations are not true, but are simply wrong perceptions and false memories.

James Mason was enrolled into Pinehaven when he was 13 years old and stayed there for six years.  He alleges that he was choked when he was 14 by being lifted by the throat.  Melissa Stasiuk was also enrolled there and has a similar claim of being choked by being lifted by the neck.  She says that she was picked up by her throat and slammed upon the kitchen table by a houseparent named Ned Kent, who still works at Pinehaven.  Kent says that the allegations about being choked are "totally false."  He claims that he only used pressure points on the ears to restrain the teenagers.  Larsson told Kent not to do that anymore since the practice could be misconstrued, and both say that the practice has ceased.

Lauren McClary, another former student, says that she experienced a different kind of abuse by a different houseparent, who grabbed her by her ponytail and dragged her up the stairs.  Larsson disputed the claim and introduced CNN's Tuchman to former students who confirmed his side of the story.  Troy Baker told CNN that "there was tough love but there was nothing cruel or unusual."  By "tough love," Baker was referring to separating people from "drugs and alcohol and bad influences that brought them to Pinehaven in the first place."

Curtis Swanson praised the school, saying that had he not gone there, he would probably have a criminal record.  "It kept me on track and gave me a better place to be," he said, adding that he learned ethics there and that the school saved his life.

CNN says that there are numerous and detailed complaints of abuse, despite the glowing remarks from some of the students.  The reason for these accusations, Larsson told CNN's Tuchman, is because of the devil.  "Ultimately, we only have one enemy who wants to defeat the goodness in the world," he explained, "and that's Satan.  And I really believe that he is a real personality and he works to try to stop the works of God and cause the evil that keeps going on that will happen.  I think that he influences people.  The Bible says he is the father of lies, and people sometimes believe his lies."  He alleges that "underneath it all," the reason that people are making accusations are because they are being influenced by Satan.

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  • Sheldon

    Now there's a convenient excuse… they must be mistaken, or possibly lying due to the influence of the devil. Perhaps, denying any of the incidents of choking is a Satanic influence… because, if it's a lie, it will be discovered and then, Satan wins because it's a lie and lies do not come from God.

    You see… you can make this God/Satan stuff go any way you want.

    •  I agree and that was what I was trying to say too.

  • This is hardly unprecedented, in fact I would go so far as to say this is typical at facilities like this. I know hundreds upon hundreds that were abused at Residential Treatment and Wilderness programs. 

    The Government Accountability Office had these things to say about the Troubled Teen Residential Facilities, reiterated in at least three investigations, probably more:                     "GAO found thousands of allegations of abuse…GAO
    could not identify a more concrete number of allegations because it could not
    locate a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects
    comprehensive nationwide data." 

                "During 2005 alone, 33 states reported 1,619
    staff members involved in incidents of abuse in residential programs. GAO could
    not identify a more concrete number of allegations because it could not locate
    a single Web site, federal agency, or other entity that collects comprehensive
    nationwide data."

    My Paraphrase: In [all] the eight closed cases they examined,
    ineffective management and operating practices, in addition to untrained staff,
    contributed to the death and abuse of youth enrolled in selected programs. In
    the most egregious cases of death and abuse, the cases exposed problems with
    the entire operation of the program. The practice of physical restraint also
    figured prominently in three of the cases.

    GAO Investigation Documents/Video (Sources):




  • Mattinglyjodi

    The truth always prevails… I believe that the staff and members of Pine Haven are completely innocent, they have helped countless kids turn their lives around and come to know the Lord. When you put your neck out like this and step up to the plate to lend a helping hand and really show that you care, you are taking a risk…You open yourself up for all kinds of allegations.. Bob Larsson is an upstanding man and man of God and yes, his statement that Satan is the underlying reason for all this is right on! We are behind Bob Larsson and the staff of Pine Haven 100%! Thank you for doing such a good work in the lives of so many children that otherwise would have been without hope. Thoughts and prayers are with you all… Jodi Mattingly and families

    • Jodi,
      You might be a loyal Bob follower but that doesn't make you right. I survived 5 years of physical, mental, psychological, and religious abuse.

      I was often punished for believing in beliefs that they didn't. Catholics were punished. People of other religions were treated differently.

      Kids were made to stand in the corner, and eat rotten foods. Kids were made to go without sleeping. We here in America call that torture. And prisoners had better rights than what I lived under.

      I still suffer from frostbite after being made to stand outside in negative zero weather and serve out my punishment.

      So Jodi please before you speak take it to God in prayer. I think you could be being led by Satan 🙂

  • Seems to me, he is using the Satan excuse to keep from accepting responsibility for the abuse.  If he can call others liars and say the Satan is making them do it, then he doesn't have to admit to or accept responsibility.

  • AnchortrazEric

    i wonder if that excuse would work in a court room for the everyday person? WELL YOUR HONOR, IT WAS SATAM THAT MADE ME STAB THAT PERSON 57 TIMES!

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