4OYS Investigator Chris Ramirez reflects on Tierra Blanca Investigation

Posted at: 10/13/2013 10:32 PM
Updated at: 11/03/2014 8:47 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Reporter’s Notebook:  By the time this story aired on Sunday night, the situation at the Tierra Blanca Ranch had been ever changing. The KOB 4 On Your Side team worked closely with NBC News as the situation quickly escalated into a national story. 

Thursday night 4 On Your Side was the first to tell you about claims of abuse, child slavery, and disturbing torture by boys who once lived on the ranch. The next morning, New Mexico State Police and Children Youth & Families Dept. investigators went to the ranch to execute a search warrant and remove all the boys from the property. But to their surprise, everyone on the ranch was gone. Hours later, State Police issued an Amber Alert to locate nine missing teens who police believed were held by the ranch’s owner Scott Chandler.  

While other Albuquerque media outlets wrongly reported the boys had been found Friday evening, KOB remained in close contact with law enforcement and pushed out Amber Alert messages online, on mobile devices, and on air. When a competing station had to retract their statement on air that the boys were found, KOB had every reporter working that evening on different angles of the story to make sure New Mexicans had the full and complete story of Tierra Blanca Ranch. KOB placed the safety and well-being of the missing teens at its highest priority.    

Throughout the weekend, the Amber Alert remained active, but eventually police confirmed the boys were reunited with their parents. By Sunday evening, all the boys were removed from the Amber Alert system. Pete Dominici Jr., Chandler’s attorney, insisted the boys were never harmed and the boys were away with Chandler on a pre-planned camping trip. However, information from Dominici became difficult for KOB to acquire because he didn’t return phone calls and as we came to learn didn’t invite KOB to press conferences that he held. Dominici didn’t want to meet with the news station with the most background information, the most comprehensive coverage, or with the reporter who was interviewed by NBC News for his expertise on the matter.  

All this could have been avoided.  Here’s why….

Our records show that CYFD tried unsuccessfully to put Tierra Blanca Ranch under licensing and in a regulatory environment that would allow CYFD to closely monitor the facility. When Chandler resisted, CYFD threatened to issue a cease and desist order. But the threats were empty. Correspondence between Chandler and CYFD suddenly stopped. Six years would pass before Tierra Blanca Ranch would come back on CYFD’s radar. 

In phase-2 of this 4 On Your Side Investigation, we hold our state leaders accountable. Time passed, reports were filed, and more kids alleged abuse at the hands of Chandler and his staff. Where were the people who were in put in charge to protect the safety of children? We got answers.  

Continuing Coverage:

Amber Alert over; State police still searching for ranch owner
Search continues for missing kids and ranch owner
Investigators worked Tierra Blanca Ranch case for months
KOB investigates reports of abuse at Tierra Blanca Ranch