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Cedar County prosecutor charges 5 in Agape case

Although Attorney General Eric Schmitt said his team identified 22 people who should be charged in the Agape Boarding School abuse case, the Cedar County prosecuting attorney ultimately charged five individuals. 

All five were charged with third-degree assault, Cedar County prosecuting attorney Ty Gaither said Tuesday. All are a class E felony. 

Ty Gaither

Seth Duncan was charged with five counts of third-degree assault, Scott Dumar with four counts of third-degree assault, Trent Hartman with two counts of third-degree assault, Christopher McElroy with one count of third-degree assault, and Everett Graves of one count of third-degree assault. 

Former students have described horrific allegations of abuse at the Christian reform school, including grueling manual labor, physical assault, and other punishments.  

In a letter to the governor last week, Schmitt said his team of investigators, prosecutors, and victim advocates identified 65 criminal counts against 22 people, including felony child abuse, misdemeanor assault, and misdemeanor child endangerment charges. He requested to be removed from the case, saying Gaither “does not intend to seek justice for all” of the victims. 

“Mr. Gaither’s decision to pursue a relatively small number of minor felony offenses reveals that he has no real need of the expertise and resources of the Attorney General’s Office,” Schmitt said in the letter. “More importantly, however, in deciding not to charge a number of other offenses, Mr. Gaither has expressly rejected the assistance and expertise of the Attorney General’s Office, and he has indicated that he does not intend to seek justice for all of the thirty-six children who were allegedly victimized by twenty-two members of the Agape Boarding School staff.” 

“Please understand that the Attorney General’s Office stands ready to provide services to assist local prosecutors in the prosecution of crimes. However, inasmuch as Mr. Gaither has made plain that he does not desire the Attorney General’s expertise in this matter, and inasmuch as he has made plain that he will not prosecute a number of serious offenses uncovered during this investigation, the Attorney General must seek to be removed as a Special Prosecutor in this impending criminal case.” 

Schmitt’s recommended charges included class B and D felonies.