Attorney: 9 missing teens from New Mexico youth ranch are with parents

(CNN) — All nine teenagers who were sought in an Amber Alert are with their parents, according to the lawyer for a New Mexico youth ranch.

On Saturday, police said they had confirmed that four of the nine were in their parents’ custody. The other five were accounted for Sunday, state police said.

The nine teens were attending a facility for troubled youths called the Tierra Blanca Ranch, and authorities began searching for them after receiving allegations of abuse, police say.

Pete Domenici, the attorney for the ranch, told CNN early Sunday morning that the teens were all with their parents and have been for “many, many hours.”

“The five remaining kids on the state police Amber Alert have all been with their parents for over 24 hours. One boy who is still listed as part of the active Amber Alert, has been with his parents since Wednesday.”

CNN has reached out to police for comment regarding Domenici’s claims. Earlier, authorities had said they would keep the alert active until they could confirm the teens’ whereabouts.

The incident started Friday, when state police investigators went to the ranch to execute a search warrant and investigate claims of abuse, authorities said.

The youths were not at the ranch and neither was Scott Chandler, the ranch director, the New Mexico State Police said.

Domenici said the teens had just gone on a trip and nothing was wrong.

“The boys from the Tierra Blanca Ranch have been on a previously scheduled activity away from the ranch for several days,” Domenici said.

“They do this regularly, have for years,” he said. “Three teachers were part of the trip.”

Despite the attorney’s statement, the Amber Alert was not rescinded. State police on Saturday urged Chandler and the parents of the missing boys to contact them.

“This is still an active investigation,” said state police Sgt. Emmanuel Gutierrez. “We have not visually seen these kids to confirm their whereabouts, which is why the Amber Alert remains active.”

The confusion seems to stem from allegations of abuse of the teens at the ranch, CNN affiliate KRQE reported.

“We have allegations of abuse,” New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said, according to KRQE. “We’re required by law to investigate, and when you suddenly show up to the place and everybody’s gone, it’s of huge concern to us.”

State officials were investigating claims that youths at the camp had been threatened, shackled and beaten, the affiliate said.

Chandler has denied these claims, his attorney said, and he has filed suit against the state for the handling of the case, KRQE reported.

The ranch director tried to resolve the situation in court, but a hearing had been delayed, the lawyer said.

The Tierra Blanca Ranch in unincorporated Hillsboro, New Mexico, is a 30,000-acre facility that bills itself as a “new beginning for troubled at-risk youth,” according to its website. “For almost 20 years, this beautiful and historic ranch has been the setting of Chandler family efforts to work with troubled and at-risk youths.”

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