Dean of Christian school charged with Kidnapping teen

18th century painting of Hades abduction of Persephone who became his wife, and was only permitted to leave the Underworld once a year

Today’s posting concerns a rather strange case of kidnapping. In this specific case it concerns a conspiracy between the mother of the kidnapped boy and the Dean of a Christian School.

We will get into the specifics of what happened shortly. First, let’s step back and mull over the general concept.

Ted Patrick, The Father of Deprogramming

In the 1970s Ted Patrick famously got into the cult deprogramming business when his own son was sucked into a religious cult called the Children Of God. He pretended to join the cult himself so that he could work out what made them tick. It was this that led him to develop his deprogramming strategy, one that rapidly evolved into a full-time career for him.

Basically kidnap the victim, isolate them from the cult, then proceed as follows …

  • Discredit the figure of authority: the cult leader
  • Present contradictions (ideology versus reality): “How can he preach love when he exploits people?” is an example.
  • The breaking point: When a subject begins to listen to the deprogrammer; when reality begins to take precedence over ideology.
  • Self-expression: When the subject begins to open up and voice gripes against the cult.
  • Identification and transference: when the subject begins to identify with the deprogrammers, starts to think as an opponent of the cult rather than as a member.

This was a time when more traditional therapies had very little success in getting people untangled from the mind-control techniques deployed by religious cults. For many who had lost a son or a daughter to such an organisation, all appeared lost, then along came Ted Patrick with a solution that appeared to actually work.

Part of Ted’s own background had laid a foundation. He had grown up within a poor impoverished home. His parents were members of a church where the wealthy leader demanded excessive financial offerings. He deeply resented what he saw. It felt that it was utterly absurd that a wealthy guy should manipulate his parents into donating excessively when they were struggling to put food on the table.

Having grown up observing such emotional manipulation he knew how the emotional leavers were being pulled within their heads and so he could see a way to step in and break this dependancy for vulnerable kids who had been sucked into a cult.

Literally kidnapping the cult victim, getting them away from the whispering voices within the cult, and then spending time talking them off the ledge. When you are in a cult, often you are sleep deprived and constantly manipulated, hence breaking that cycle via an intervention often works.


Well yes, it did at times lead Mr Patrick into legal proceedings that resulted in him being convicted of kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment.

What he did do was establish the process and so others followed his example.

Let’s turn to a recent example.

Kidnapped by a Christian School

What happens when it is the religious cult that decides that the kid has been brainwashed because he refuses to join?

This is what has essentially happened.

A recently unsealed federal indictment grants us a window into this rather sorry saga.

Shana Gaviola had a son who walked away from her. He had demanded freedom from constant abuse and had started living with another family who were caring for him. Because of the abuse, with help, the son had obtained an order of protection that banned his biological mother from having any interaction with him.

His mother then turned to a chap named Julio Sandoval. He runs what is called Safe, Sound Secure Youth Ministries. That is basically a group that will kidnap kids and take them to treatment centres for troubled teens when requested and supported by parents. Picture in your mind a teen who has been hooked by an addiction and so frantic distraught parents engage these folks to run an intervention.

But wait … this is not about the concerned parents of an addicted kid organising an intervention, instead this concerns abusive parents who have a legal order preventing them from any contact, organising a Kidnapping to take their son to a Christian School in another state so that he can then be indoctrinated back into accepting his abusive parents.

Via the press release put out on Aug 31, 2022 by the CA Attorney’s office we learn the following details …

Gaviola and Sandoval made plans for Gaviola’s son to be forcibly transported from California to Missouri. On Aug. 21, 2021, individuals acting on behalf of Gaviola and Sandoval found the minor at a business in Fresno, handcuffed him, and forced him into a car. He remained in handcuffs for over 24 hours while they drove to Stockton, Missouri. He was then held at the boarding school until his father was able to free him…

…If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

He was apparently held there for eight days before his father was able to free him.

Meanwhile, Sandoval was fired from being head of the school when it was revealed that five of his staff had been charged with abusing children.

It turns out that this supposedly safe school for troubled teens was a truly horrendous place …

… the school’s in-house doctor, David Earl Smock, was charged in December with—wait for it—”second-degree statutory sodomy, third-degree child molestation of a child less than 14 years of age and enticement or attempted enticement of a child less than 15 years of age.” The school’s doctor was accused of a slew of sex crimes! Smock has since pleaded not guilty. (A different child sued Smock for sexual abuse this week.) 

All of this was so horrible that Republicans in Missouri’s legislature eventually considered and passed a bill requiring some oversight of these schools. Until recently, faith-based schools in Missouri had been exempt from any statewide regulations.

Did Anything Like that ever Happen to Ted Patrick?

Indeed yes, he also often crossed the line as well, and not just by a little bit.

In 1980 he was paid 27,000 by the parents of Susan Wirth for the deprogramming of her.

Susan Wirth was not a kid, she was a 35 year old teacher living and working in San Francisco. Her parents objected to her political activities and so they hired Mr Patrick to kidnap her and talk her out of all her “leftest” ideas.

Mr Patrick grabbed her, kept her handcuffed to a bed for two weeks and denied her any food.

Here is a link to a newspaper clipping about it.

So what happened?

She was a grown adult who had reasonable political beliefs that the parents did not agree with, and was not into a cult. Inevitably this deprogramming attempt fell flat and so they let her go. She then return to San Francisco. While she did not press any charges, she did become a very vocal critic of deprogramming.

This was not the only instance of Mr Patrick going way too far.

Other examples …

  • The 1980 deprogramming of Roberta McElfish, a 26-year-old Tucson waitress, resulted in Mr Patrick being sentenced to one year in prison
  • The 1990 attempt to deprogram Elma Miller came close to the same. Charges were filed, but she asked the prosecuting lawyer to drop the charges. Elma was an Amish lady who left the amish community and her husband and joined a liberal church. Her Amish husband had hired Mr Patrick to force her back.

Others who followed in Mt Patrick’s footsteps have also fallen into this same murky pattern.

Bottom Line

Sometimes people really do need an intervention. Examples are obvious …

  • At the request of parents of teens who have been sucked into a cycle of drug abuse
  • Individuals suffering from acute psychosis and become a danger to either themselves or others due to the delusions that have gripped them.

In this latest story, it appears to be an example of an abusive parent attempting to manipulate and control a kid who simply wanted to be free from the abuse.

The former dean of this Christian school and the abusive mother now face up to five years in prison.

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