Ranch staff member repeatedly mentioned in documents

Posted at: 10/16/2013 10:43 PM
Updated at: 11/11/2015 3:24 PM
By: Chris Ramirez, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Our 4 On Your Side team continues to build a picture of what exactly went on at the Tierra Blanca Ranch for troubled teens in southern New Mexico.

The investigation has primarily focused on the ranch's owner Scott Chandler, but tonight we're taking a closer look at one of his staff members whose name is all over the police reports.

Harold Gifford's name is mentioned in a lot in the documents on Tierra Blanca Ranch.  Several boys reported to police that they knew Harold very intimately. Some say they were severely punished by him to the point where it crossed into child abuse.

Last week, 4 On Your Side shared a story of a 16-year-old boy. He told police that Harold Gifford beat him with a kubotan for hours.

When 4OYS questioned Gifford's boss, ranch owner Scott Chandler, about it, he denied it.

Chris Ramirez: What would you say to Ryan Morgan today?

Scott Chandler: We didn't do any of that to him.

Chris Ramirez: Who did it?  It wasn't Harold?

Scott Chandler: No.

Chris Ramirez: Who was it then?  Who beat up Ryan Morgan at your ranch?

Scott Chandler: I am not talking about specific kids.

But now, another former ranch teen has come forward, telling 4OYS that he saw that attack, and others.

"Scott made just one mistake and his mistake was hiring the wrong guy."

Speaking to 4OYS from Texas, Zac Legett says that wrong hire was Harold Gifford.

"He grabbed me by the nape of the neck and he threw me up and down against the beds and stuff about 6 o'clock in the morning because I was sleeping on the bed when I wasn't supposed to be.  He would holler and cuss and threaten," Legett said.

4OYS looked into Gifford's background and discovered he was a New Mexico State Police officer until July 2003.

A State Police spokesman confirms he was with the department from about six months, then abruptly left. Details of his departure were not disclosed. It was termed a "personnel matter".

Information obtained by 4OYS suggests State Police investigators are working with the District Attorney's office to file charges against Gifford.

Sources tell 4OYS that Harold Gifford had been living near Timberon. Scott Chandler has a ranch near there.

Sources say Gifford had been living on that ranch for the past two months, but left the ranch right before last Thursday's 4OYS investigation aired.

No one has reported seeing Gifford since then.