Former Tierra Blanca Ranch teen speaks out about his experience

Posted at: 10/15/2013 10:15 PM
Updated at: 11/11/2015 3:25 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Former Tierra Blanca Ranch teen Connor Griffoul
Former Tierra Blanca Ranch teen Connor Griffoul

As you've seen over the past week, many of the kids who were at the Tierra Blanca Ranch have come forward to offer their version of what they saw.

Not everyone has the same story.

One young man, who is now 21, contacted 4 On Your Side Investigator Chris Ramirez. His story is one that is very familiar to Chris.

Chris Ramirez: I read Connor Griffoul's story weeks ago.

It stood out to me in this stack of police documents because it showed Connor's story is similar to so many others that I read about what goes on at Tierra Blanca Ranch.

And it shows how the state didn't take the claims of what was happening at the Ranch serious until only just recently.

Connor now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. I interviewed him through an internet connection.

Connor Griffoul: We were placed in handcuffs and shackles and orange suits for three months straight.  The entire time, we were camping, we weren't in a house.  We were literally in handcuffs wearing orange jumpsuits and had to camp in a tent.  We were there for nine months and I took seven showers.  I wasn't allowed to talk to my friends, I was allowed to talk to my family. I got one phone call my entire stay there.  I wasn't allowed to get letters from my mother.  It was awful.

Connor Griffoul ran away from Tierra Blanca in 2008.

When a State Police officer found him, he noted in his report that Connor was in handcuffs and in possession of a stolen phone that Connor had used to call for help.

Instead of taking Connor to safety, that State Police officer returned Connor to the Tierra Blanca Ranch.

Connor Griffoul: A couple days after, we were sitting in camp and a helicopter started flying overhead and shortly after that Scott came and he told me you're going to jail for stealing the satellite phone. Pack all your stuff I'm taking you in. I said fine, get me out of here, I honestly would rather go to jail than be there.

Even in New Mexico's super max prison, inmates are allowed daily showers and given access to a toilet.

To Connor, jail seemed like a vacation compared to being at Tierra Blanca.

Chris Ramirez:  How did it make you feel when he took you back to the ranch and not somewhere safe?

Connor Griffoul: I felt pretty betrayed. 

Since we broke this story, some have accused the boys who have come forward of lying to police and reporters about their experiences at Tierra Blanca Ranch. Connor says he's moved on and has no reason to lie.

Connor Griffoul: If there is anything that comes out of this, I hope nobody else has to go through this.  Scott is not a licensed guy, he is not a psychologist, he's not familiar how to deal with troubled youth.

What I'm saying has been the truth and I honestly believe the place needs to be shut down.  I don't think anybody should go there and if you do have a troubled youth, Tierra Blanca is not the place to go.  They are not the people to turn to.