A boy who was sexually assaulted in a state-contracted group home in June was forced to sit in a plastic folding chair, isolated from other youth for several hours each day, according to his mother.
Speck Homes for Boys’ contract with the state of Oklahoma requires “24-hour awake intensive supervision” of the minors in its care. But the assault was captured on surveillance video in the home’s dining room just before noon on June 29 as staff and other youth bustled through the house.
The 14-year-old boy’s mom, Susan, told The Frontier that staff at Speck Homes for Boys regularly isolated her son, who has autism, to the dining room. The Frontier is using Susan’s first name only and a pseudonym — Eric — for her son to protect his identity.
Since June, two sexual assaults, including Eric’s, have been reported in the homes — one at each of the organization’s two Oklahoma City locations.
Less than a month after Eric reported his assault, a 15-year-old boy at Speck Home’s other Oklahoma City location reported he was raped on July 24 by his roommate, who was also 15, according to a police affidavit. The teen has been charged with first-degree rape as a youthful offender.
Since Jan. 1, 2016, the DHS Office of Client Advocacy has confirmed three cases of abuse involving three victims and one case of neglect involving two victims at the Speck Home’s location where Eric was placed, DHS spokeswoman Debra Martin said. One staff member was involved in each case.
Under Oklahoma law, investigative reports by the Office of Client Advocacy are not considered public record.
Susan said employees would only allow her son to sit on a hard plastic chair with a piece of paper taped to it that read, “(Eric) only.” The chair sat in the house’s dining room, where Eric’s rape was caught on surveillance video, according to police reports in the case.
“It’s like putting a bullseye on his back, that he wasn’t even worth being with the other people,” Susan said.
Justin Mefford, 18, has been charged in Oklahoma County District Court with second-degree rape and forcible oral sodomy. He is being held on bond of $100,000. In January, Mefford pleaded guilty to first-degree rape as a youthful offender in Tulsa County.
Susan said her son was made to sit alone in the home’s dining room for hours a day. Eric struggles with bowel incontinence and sometimes forgets to shower. He was not allowed in the TV room or on outings with the other boys, she said.
Susan said because of Eric’s problems with incontinence, staff didn’t want him “ruining furniture.”
“(Eric) has been in and out of hospitals all his life for his mental health so he’s especially vulnerable and he was victimized and dehumanized in that place, which makes him a target,” Susan said. “Sitting in a room secluded and staring at a wall all day is dehumanizing.”
The nonprofit Speck Homes for Boys runs two group homes in Oklahoma City — one an old mansion-style house just down the street from the state Capitol, where Eric reported he was raped, and another in a remodeled house that was once a “haunted restaurant” that served steaks in a dimly-lit room.
The organization houses boys who were referred by either the state’s Department of Human Services or the Office of Juvenile Affairs. The facility Eric stayed in takes in boys with sexual behavior problems who were referred by OJA. Speck Homes provides 12 beds for OJA, according to a contract between the nonprofit and the state.
The nonprofit received more than $2.1 million in state funds for tax year 2016, Speck Homes tax records show. One of the main conditions of Speck Homes’ contracts with DHS and OJA is to provide “24-hour awake intensive supervision.”
On June 29, Mefford approached Eric in the home’s dining room, began touching himself and asked Eric to have sex, according to a police affidavit. When Eric said no, Mefford told the boy “if he didn’t do it he would tell (Eric’s) mother he was gay.”
Mefford reportedly led Eric to a corner of the dining room and stopped the assault multiple times when other residents or employees would enter the room, according to a police affidavit.
Susan said she and her husband visited Eric — as they did every weekend — on June 29. He wasn’t acting like his usual self, Susan said in an interview. He seemed down.
“‘I am going to hell,’” Susan recalled Eric saying. “I am going to hell for the things I’ve done.”
Susan was bewildered. “What are you talking about? You’re not going to hell.”
As Susan and her husband left the group home, Eric followed them out to their car. She could tell her son wanted to tell them something, and later that day he called her and did. He said he had been raped earlier that day.
Susan told him to report the assault to staff, and later that day, she got another call from Eric, who told her police were at the home. Susan wanted to talk to them.
“I heard (Eric) ask, and staff person said no,” Susan said.
When Susan went to get Eric from Speck Homes to transfer him to a different facility, she said staff made him take his chair with him and throw it into a trash bin.
“He was belittled even leaving the campus,” Susan said.
OJA spokesman Michael McNutt said the investigation involving Eric has been turned over to DHS and local law enforcement.
DHS spokeswoman Martin said the agency is investigating the recently-reported assaults. But, citing privacy laws, she said the agency cannot comment on the allegations in Eric’s case.
“When youth must be placed in DHS-contracted residential care programs to meet their needs and address their past trauma, those programs are held to very strict standards and DHS staff work closely with them to ensure safety and quality care,” Martin said in an email.
“If a concerning situation occurs, we immediately report it for investigation and work with the program to continue to provide quality services and safely protect our youth.”
Cameron Spradling, an attorney for the family, has questioned why there was not more surveillance and supervision inside of the homes.
“Why is it possible that boys can be unmonitored in a location where there’s rapists in there and there is sufficient alone time when a boy can be raped?” Spradling said.
He added: “(Eric) has not been convicted of a crime. He is entitled to be protected while he’s in there, and he didn’t get that protection.”
Speck Homes Executive Director Michael McPherson did not return phone messages by The Frontier seeking comment.
In June 2016, a 17-year old was arrested at the home after his 13-year-old roommate reported he had raped him, according to KFOR. The alleged victim had the mental capacity of a boy much younger, the news station reported.
The boy told officials the 17-year old had assaulted him several times before.
DHS found a lack of supervision in that case.
The teen had also been arrested earlier that year for allegedly raping another resident in the home’s laundry room.