Morning Star Boys Ranch (1956-present) Spokane, WA
Residential Treatment Center
History and Background Information
Morning Star Boys Ranch is a behavior modification program that opened in 1956. It is marketed as a Residential Treatment Center for boys (6-13.5) who are in the foster system and require therapeutic treatment for a variety of emotional/behavioral challenges. The maximum enrollment is reported to be around 25 boys, and the average length of stay is presently unknown.
Morning Star Boys Ranch is located at 4511 S Glenrose Rd, Spokane, WA 99223.
Murphy House is the name of the RTC operated by Morning Star Boys Ranch. Beginning in 2015, Morning Star Boys Ranch added different non-residential programs depending on the needs of the child. These programs, including the residential Murphy House, are:
- Murphy House: This program is a Behavioral Residential Treatment Program for boys (6-13.5) who are dealing with a variety of emotional/behavioral challenges. Once a boy graduates from Morning Star Boys’ Ranch, he is either reunified with parents/kinship or receives a foster care placement. He also receives a continuum of care through additional services which include: In Home Wrap Around Program, Morning Star Foster Care Services respite, and case aide and Morning Star Community Services.
- Morning Star Case Aide Program: This program is for boys (0-18). Established in 2016, Morning Star Case Aide Program provides supports to children and families who have identified needs for additional stabilization. Services include parent training, an in-home case aide, family therapy, and like skills mentoring.
- Morning Star Foster Care & Adoption Home Services: This program, established in 2015, recruits and licenses new foster care families not only for boys from the Ranch but also for all children in our community.
- Morning Star In-Home Wrap Around Care: This program was also established in 2015, and it provides support to children that have been in care at the Murphy House Residential and have transitioned to a foster care home or been reunified with parents or kinship.
Founders and Notable Staff
Tim Horlacher is the President of the Board of Directors of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Scott Cramer is the Vice President of the Board of Directors of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Linda Devlin is the Secretary on the Board of Directors of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Audrea Marhsall is the current Executive Director of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Micaela Cathey is the current COO of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Kate McCloskey is the current Equine Program Director of Morning Star Boys Ranch.
Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner was the Director of Morning Star Boys Ranch from 1966 until 2006. Weitensteiner was hired as Morning Star’s first counselor in 1957 and was soon asked to run the ranch. He left in 1959 to study for the priesthood before returning in 1966 to run Morning Star for another 40 years.
John Hindman worked as the Executive Director of Morning Star Boys Ranch from 2011 until 2018.
No information is currently known regarding the specifics of the program used by Morning Star Boys Ranch. If you attended this program and would like to contribute information to help complete this page, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Abuse Allegations and Lawsuits
The Morning Stars Boys’ Ranch has been subject to multiple lawsuits alleging sexual and physical abuse of the children placed in its care. The priest overseeing the victim boys during the time of the alleged physical and sexual abuse was reinstated in the church in 2015. Beginning in 2005, persons who experienced alleged sexual and physical abuse as children began bringing lawsuits against the facility. Several alleged they were sexually abused by the priest, who was reinstated, when they were children in the care of Morning Star Boys’ Ranch. By 2007, thirteen people who were in the care of the facility had brought lawsuits for physical and sexual abuse. According to documents produced through public records requests, reports of molestation and rape exist beginning in 1978.
One of the first cases of abuse at Morning Star to gain public attention was the case of Timothy Donald Everts. He was sent to Morning Star around 1977 when he was around 15 years old. When he ran away from the ranch in late 1977, bruises and welts covered his backside, his sister and two close friends told The Spokesman-Review. After his escape, he stayed with a close friend. Eventually, he disclosed to her what had happened to him while at Morning Star; a Catholic priest named Patrick O’Donnell forced Everts to perform oral sex on him. He also disclosed that officials at the ranch knew about the beatings that left bruises on his body but had done nothing to stop it. He also told her that he would rather die than ever return to the ranch. On Jan. 25, 1978, when police arrived at his family’s home in north central Spokane to return him to the ranch, Everts made good on his threat. He put a rifle to his head and shot himself in his sister’s bedroom. Patrick O’Donnell has since admitted to molesting over a dozen boys and is a convicted pedophile and sex offender.
Other allegations of abuse plagued the program, many naming the ranch’s revered director since 1966, Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner, as one of the main abusers. According to a 1978 Child Protective Services report, Weitensteiner admitted to striking a boy in the face and pulling a 4-inch clump of hair from the back of his head. Dan Kuhlmann, the ranch’s assistant director, defended Weitensteiner. Kuhlmann said he saw bruises on some boys in the 1970s as a result of “hacks” – a corporal punishment administered with a 2- to 3-foot board. He did not remember specific dates or incidents. He did not believe the paddling constituted physical abuse. In the 1978 state investigation, Weitensteiner and another staffer, Ron Mulvey, now a deputy with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, each admitted to striking a boy in the face at the ranch, according to the state report. In the aftermath of the 1978 investigation, Morning Star agreed to make changes to its discipline policy, and it has since banned corporal punishment. Weitensteiner was allowed to remain as director, and was not disciplined by the state agency, according to the records.
In 2005, Morning Star Boys Ranch was sued by two former residents who claimed they were sexually abused by counselors. The suit contended that in one incident, two counselors forced several boys to pose for photographs with flowers protruding from their rectums. The lawsuit also stated those photographs were circulated among the staff and residents at Morning Star, and were kept in the desk of the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner.
In June of 2007, four more men filed abuse lawsuits against Morning Star Boys Ranch, bringing the total to 13 plaintiffs in three cases against the camp for troubled youngsters. Two of the four, Raymond Nelson, 50, and Robert Gariepy, 38, claim they were sexually abused in the 1970s and ’80s by the Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner. The other two new plaintiffs, Curtis Stump, 42, and Glenn Anderson, 41, accused former Morning Star counselor James Clarke of sexually abusing them. Clarke was previously accused of molesting another resident who sued the ranch in 2005.
In the fall of 2008, Morning Star paid a former resident an undisclosed amount of money to settle a civil lawsuit that alleged a counselor had repeatedly sexually assaulted him. The former resident, identified in court documents as “John G. Doe,” also alleged another boy made him perform oral sex at the ranch and on a Morning Star outing, according to his 2004 deposition. Doe said the counselor, Dale A. Stearns, began molesting him at Morning Star in the 1990s and continued when they moved in together in 1994, in a foster placement agreed to by Morning Star and DSHS.
In 2009, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office opened a criminal investigation into a former Morning Star counselor who allegedly molested a boy at the ranch in the 1990s. According to reports, there may have been as many as five incidents of sexual abuse from 1993 to 1994, including an assault during a supervised Morning Star camping trip.
The first of 19 sex abuse lawsuits against the ranch went to trial early in 2010, and on Feb. 12, a jury handed Morning Star a victory, ruling against plaintiff Kenneth Putnam, who claims he was molested while a resident in 1988 and ’89. Seattle attorney Tim Kosnoff’s law firm represents 14 other plaintiffs in suits against the boys’ ranch. Kosnoff said he intended to bring his strongest cases to trial first.
Rev. Joseph Weitensteiner was removed from the ministry in 2006 amid a growing number of reports from people who said they were abused sexually or physically by him or his ranch staff. In 2015, he was reinstated after the last four claims of sexual abuse against him were rejected by retired federal judge Michael Hogan.
2020: (UNCLEAR) “Abysmal standards and very unprofessional staff. The facility was extremely dirty. They certainly sell you a bill of goods, just without all the goods to match. Be very, very weary.” – Mr. Detail (Google Reviews)
2018: (FAMILY MEMBER) “I have a family member involved in services through this ranch & it’s has been a HORRIBLE experience dealing with these “social workers”. They change workers & juggle the boys around constantly. There’s a worker there named Devan and she is by far one of the rudest people I have’ ever dealt with. Myself nor my husband nor children have ever been involved with the state or any company of this kind in anyway (it’s my younger sibling who receives Morning Starts services) but this woman is belittling, rude, and hateful towards us every time we attempt to have any contact with my sibling. They monitor every phone call & always rush us off the phone. It’s really just an awful company to deal with in any way. I’m wondering if the high star reviews come from their own employees, because my entire family has had nothing but negative encounters with these people & this company from day one! It’s absolutely discusting how they treat the families of these boys, it breaks my heart to think of how they might treat the children when no one from “the outside” is around. Every time that myself or any of our family members asks my sibling about the kind of treatment they receive. The people from this company jump in and quickly change the topic of conversation. It’s a scary situation & there seems nothing to be done about it. Again, this ranch & the people who work here are absolutely HORRIBLE.” – Michelle (Google Reviews)
2018: (EX-STAFF) “I worked here for 3 months. After extensive bodily injury and damages to my car on two separate occasions, I left. The boys need help, but aren’t getting it here. The place is run by chaos and they think that using positive reinforcement (which can be very effective in other settings) is helping the boys. They are troubled and require a more structured environment then the way the ranch is run. I wouldn’t recommend this as a positive place for growth for any child. I wouldn’t recommend this as a place to work, they lack ability to keep their employees and their property safe. It’s a beautiful setting, but you can not read this book by its cover.” – itsbeppy (Google Reviews)
2018: (SURVIVOR) “Hate this place. The staff treated me and everyone like complete garbage. Front yard always a mess. Rooms are disgusting and dirty. Constant fights between staff and peers. If your kid has problems, DO NOT send them here.” – Fat-Man (Google Reviews)
Morning Star Boys Ranch Website Homepage
HEAL Program Information
Morning Star Boys Ranch – Wikipedia
Collection of Articles about MSBR by The Spokesman-Review
Boys Ranch Sued over Abuse (Associated Press, 8/25/2005)
Newly released documents reveal pattern of sexual abuse at Washington state boys home for troubled youth (The Associated Press, 10/17/2005)
Morning Star faced abuse lawsuit in 2005 (YouTube, 4 News Now)
Four more file abuse lawsuits against Morning Star Boys’ Ranch (Seattle Times, 6/5/2007)
Ranch accused of abuse (The Spokesman-Review, 5/26/2009)
Key witness delivers bombshell in Morning Star Boys Ranch sex abuse trial (KREM2, 1/25/2010)
MINEHART II v. MORNING STAR BOYS RANCH INC (6/8/2010)
“Parishes giving $1.5 million toward settling sex cases” & “Morning Star Boys’ Ranch” (The Spokesman-Review, 5/30/2012)
Spokane dioceses reinstates former Morning Star ranch priest as sex abuse charges rejected (The Oregonian, 4/19/2015)