In the 1980s there were three, and only three, suicide pacts completed by teenagers in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Greg Hughes, one of the Robinson students who hung himself, had been in Straight-Springfield--the Fairfax County treatment camp of the notorious Straight, Inc. juvenile rehabilitation chain. Now we have interviewed a woman who is a former female client at Straight-Springfield who had also been a student at Robinson when the twin hangings occurred. She claims that she was sent to the guidance office and counseled because the counselor told her that both boys, Greg Hughes and Jon Guyton, had been in Straight and so the school was very concerned about her since she had also been in Straight. And the two Marshall seniors who asphyxiated themselves, one of them, Duane Rholfs, had been a student in Straight-Springfield too.
At Straight-Springfield client 90025 said she was spat upon, locked in a closet, had her shoulder dislocated and was raped with a curling iron by old comer girls for not writing her Moral Inventory. Later she slit her wrists.(8) Client # 89016 made a suicide attempt in August 1988 but there is no record that a psychiatrist was informed. On March 9, 1989 Straight notes state "her needs could be better met in another facility." On March 16 she attempted suicide again by cutting her wrists and an old comer was assigned to watch her. Again no psychiatrist was informed. She was finally released on April 14, 1989.(9) In January 1989, Straight-Springfield client # 89028, who claims he had been restrained and spat upon, tried to hang himself. A psychiatrist prescribed Desipramine, but there was no follow-up. In February # 89028 told a fellow client he didn't feel like living anymore and cut his wrists requiring 7 stitches. (Read Abuses at Straight-Springfield.)
Straight, Inc.--the Republican Party endorsed preppy cult. Now you might think that the Straight drug rehabilitation program must have specialized in treating the worst of the worst, but the truth is that Straight specialized in treating the kids of affluent parents, parents who could pay Straight's huge fees for its unskilled, quack services provided, in large part, by unpaid kid counselors. Massachusetts' authorities faulted Straight-Boston for treating a 12 year-old girl for addiction when her records showed that the only drugs she had used was she had once sniffed a magic marker. Maryland authorities cited Straight-Maryland for not having even one certified drug addiction counselor on staff. Straight-Cincinnati once ran a newspaper ad for an intake counselor stating that a degree in marketing was qualifying. In 1984 a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia awarded former Straight client Fred Collins $220,000 for being falsely imprisoned at Straight-St. Petersburg and at Straight-Springfield. Mr. Collins had been an honors roll engineering student at Virginia Tech on spring break when he paid his brother a visit at Straight and was shanghaied into Straight himself. He now has a Ph.D. in mathematics.
The $100 million Straight charity was not the biggest juvenile drug rehab chain in the world from 1976 to 1993 because it was so effective. It was so successful because it was endorsed by prominent Republicans. Jimmy Carter refused to endorse Straight telling Straight founder Mel Sembler that the treatment should not be worse than the problem being treated, so Sembler became a Republican and gave so much money to Republican causes that he became chairman of the finance committee for the national GOP. Ronald Reagan endorsed Straight literature. A member of Reagan's White House staff had a teenager in Straight. Nancy Reagan visited most of the Straight treatment camps and even took Princess Di to Straight-Springfield to show her how we deal with America's juvenile drug problem. Virginia Republican Congressman Frank Wolf introduced Straight to Congress. Bush I made a TV commercial for Straight out of the Oval Office and appointed Sembler ambassador to Australia. Bush II made Sembler our current Ambassador to Italy. (See Straight's endorsement by the Republican Party.)
Steve Matthews probably knew Greg Hughes and Jon Guyton. Steve was in Straight-Springfield from 1982 to 1985. In three years of the treatment he made 3rd Phase once--for 2 days! Steve was on 1st Phase 33 out of 36 months. According to his sister Kelley, Group (the 100 Straight students in constant group therapy 12 hours a day, six days a week) made an example out of her handsome brother, often. Straight was scared to hold Steve against his will when he turned 18 in 1985 because of the Fred Collins' trial, so Steve just walked out the door the day he turned 18. Nine months later he jumped to his death from a motel window.
Steve Matthews was not the only former student of Straight-Springfield to commit suicide in 1986. Chris Weiss had been in Straight-St Pete with Fred Collins before being transferred up to Straight-Springfield. Chris' pediatrician has stated that Chris did not have a drug problem. His father feels that Chris did not have a drug problem. Chris' father removed Chris from the program after a year of treatment. In March 1986 Chris Weiss took a gun and shot himself dead.
According to Duane Rholf's brother, Duane had been in Straight 18 months, when, on fifth phase, somebody reported him for having a relationship with a girl or for wanting to have a relationship with a girl. Straight boys and girls are forbidden relationships with the opposite sex even for months after they graduate. Instead Straight extorts written sexual confessions from its clients--of special interest is masturbation, homosexuality, incest and sodomy with animals. Straight kids often confessed to sexual acts and drug usage that was simply not true.
Former Straight client Chris Poole will never forget the day Duane Rholfs was blown away at Straight-Springfield for having a relationship with a girl. Chris entered Straight-Springfield on Thursday February 7,1985. The next day an event happened that he will never forget. He writes:
After 18 months in the toughest drug rehabilitation program in the world Duane Rholfs had made it to 5th and final phase. He was an unpaid drug counselor to all phases below him and possibly could graduate in a few months. But now he had been demoted back down to Phase 1--a newcomer. Someone he used to oversee would now likely hold him by the seat of his pants to take him to the bathroom if he was allowed to go to the bathroom at all (there are reports of Straight kids being forced to urinate or defecate on themselves, and of young girls made to menstruate on themselves without pads). He would be watched when he defecated on the toilet and wiped himself to make sure he did not try to kill himself. Next day, Feb. 8, 1985 Duane's parents told him they felt he no longer needed Straight and let him withdraw from the program. Two years later he and his friend Chris Kelly took their lives in a suicide pact.
Chris Poole can commiserate with Duane Rholfs. He feels he himself was suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome when he finally got out of Straight. He was so depressed from Straight-induced depression that in 1988 he tried to commit suicide by taking some of his grandfather's "green" pills. Later he found out that they were just diet pills. In 1990 he tried to kill himself by holding his breath! He laughs about that today.
Mathew W. Hunter from Pennsville, New Jersey was in Straight-Springfield in the 1984 - 1985 timeframe. He committed suicide, in Pennsville, on January 21, 1988.
On June 10, 1987 14 year-old Sarah (not her real name) traveled up from Virginia Beach, Virginia to attend a sibling interview at Straight-Springfield because her brother John (not his real name) was in treatment there. Sarah remembers two guys on staff, Glen Steeplelton and his friend Jimmy (not his real name). Sarah feels that Jimmy looked out for her and her brother because his sister was also in Straight and he knew what it was like. Glen was a staffer, she remembers, who had always wanted to be an Emergency Service Technician (EMT). At some point when he was on first phase John tried to commit suicide by biting a hole into his wrist. Sarah never attempted suicide, but she did carve on herself. By September 1988 Sarah's brother had made fifth phase and was about to graduate. He had earned a fifth phase vacation but he had been accused of looking at girls while on vacation and had been set back to day 1. Now age 18 John withdrew from the program instead of allowing them to set him back. Sarah went on to graduate the program.
By 1990 funds had been raised to open a Straight camp in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Glen was on senior staff by then and took a job on staff at the new program in Virginia Beach. Glen became a boarder at Sarah's parent's house. One night Glen came home around midnight after an Open Meeting and Sarah and Glen stepped into the back yard to smoke a cigarette. They heard a snapping sound out in the yard and upon investigation, Glen found John with a rope around his neck and a broken tree limb beside him. John had turned blue trying to hang himself when the branch snapped. Glen's EMT instincts took over. He knew exactly what to do. He brought John inside and took care of him. He kept John "in his sight for weeks, always reminding how cool he was, how important he was". Sarah feels that Glen made her brother see "that the only thing that mattered was what happened from here on out." Jimmy, Glen's fellow counselor back at Straight-Springfield, wound up getting into trouble with the law and went to jail. Eventually, Glen got the job he always wanted. He took a job with the Washington, DC Fire Department as an EMT. His father felt that he had been pretty happy since getting his job. But through his job he learned how to administer drugs and IVs. He had been working for the fire department for six months when he checked into a motel, hooked himself up to an IV and took a lethal injection. He left no note. Glen Steepleton committed suicide on Sept. 18, 2000.
There's a good chance Kevin Yriondo was in Straight-Springfield with Duane Rholfs, Greg Hughes, Christine Sottlemeyer, Chris Weiss and Steve Matthews. He was only in for a week in 1984 but that was enough to make him a lifelong fighter to free people from abusive 12 Step programs. Kevin moved to Florida in 1992 and became a copy editor for a newspaper. He used to post to our discussion forum under the name Kevin (you might have seen him on the net as SURIYBIRD). Here's some excerpts from his posts:
Kevin Yriondo committed suicide on July 9, 2000.
Straight successfully sued Kathleen Riffle of Burtonsville, MD for $16,120.22 in unpaid treatment fees even though her son Paul Riffle had escaped from Straight in 1993 and shot himself dead.
Christine Stottlemeyer had been in Straight-Springfield in the 1980s. Both she and her boyfriend had graduated from Straight-Springfield and she had become a counselor there. Her boyfriend took a job with Father Doctor Miller Newton (Straight's former national clinical director) at Kids of Bergen County but when he got to New Jersey Dr. Newton made her boyfriend start over at Phase I again before he could get the job. Missing her boyfriend Christine went up to Kids of Bergen County for treatment too. Around 1995 Kristen Sottlemeyer jumped out of her hospital window and killing herself.
Terrae L. was in
Straight-Springfield. She recalls two suicide attempts by girls in Straight.
One girl had sliced her wrist in a host home. Terrae says that she and
the other girls were made to wipe up her blood. The girl was sent to the
emergency room and her mother received a bill from the hospital but the
mother was never told what the bill was for. In a site visit by Virginia
authorities to Straight-Springfield client # 3 reported that after making
a suicidal gesture she was stood before Group which shouted to her that
she was "sick" and mockingly sang the "Tasty Cake"
song to her. Client # 2 reported being sung "The Tasty Cake"
song and put on "suicide watch" by her peers after her suicide
gesture.[h] No doctor was called. Client's 1, 3, 5, and 11 reported that
newcomers are often placed on suicide watch as a consequence to deprive
them of sleep.(15) In a Virginia Department of Mental Health letter on
June 13, 1989 to Mr. Dare, Straight's attorney, Mr. Dare was informed
that inspector Joni Baldwin had noticed scratches and scars on children
to support that incidents of children carving on themselves was occurring
and that from her observations staff was not situated where they could
spot this activity.
Janice [not her real name] had been a rebellious 8th grader who says she had once taken eight No Dose and on another occasion she had sipped a beer to be cool but had poured it out when no one was looking because she didn't like the taste. That was before Straight. At Straight Janice was made to eat peanut butter sandwiches and drink water on the floor with the dog. After 22 months she was declared saved and that's when she turned to drugs--because of Straight.
Like Janice, Nancy had emotional problems before Straight, but Straight treated her for drug addiction. When Straight could not get Nancy to confess to being the addict she wasn't they took her into a time-out room and spat on her, screamed at her, told her she was fat and ugly and not pretty like her sister. They bent her finger back so far they broke it. Unable to extort a confession from Nancy they finally released her. Nancy turned to alcohol after her treatment and one night ten years later she took off all her clothes for all the world to see her "fat, ugly" body and jumped 10 stories to her death. A tattoo on her wrist read DISCIPLINE.
Drawing Conclusions and seeking action
Did Straight create murderers? Many former Straight clients have had to be hospitalized for mental ilness subsequent to their stay at Straight; some have committed murder. According to psychiatrist Gary Rosenberg, former director of the adolescent inpatient program at Fair Oaks Hospital in New Jersey, "homicide might be suicidal depression turned outward."[The Bergen Record, Apr 1987, "Studying the tragic illusions of teens who think suicide" by E. Light.] All day long for over a year Straight brutalized its young clients both verbally and sometimes physically. Former Straight client Timothy Nixon got out of Straight-Dallas and beat his mother to death with a baseball bat. He put her body into the trunk of her car and tried to take his friends for a joy ride. He's serving 99 years in a Texas prison. Former Straight-Saint Petersburg client, 32 year-old Michael Gallagher, who had a long history of crime, had been on medication to control his sex drive when he followed a woman into the ladies room in a bar on July 10, 1995 and threatened to rape her at knife point, fled, tried to break into several nearby homes, charged a cop with a PVC pipe and was fatally shot by the policeman. A person has posted on our discussion forum that a former client at Straight-Cincinnati or Straight-Detroit left Straight and murdered his grandparents. Another report is that a graduate of Straight-Cincinnati was making love to his girl friend when her daughter started crying. He beat the child to death. Bradley Martin was in Straight-Springfield for two years never progressing beyond 4th Phase. Bradely had been sexually abused by a trusted uncle. After Straight an elderly man made a sexual advance to Bradley. Bradley murdered the man and was until recently on death row in Pennsylvania for his crime. A judge has recently granted a resentencing hearing for Bradley Martin declaring that Bradley Martin's experience at Straight is one of the mitigating circumstances warranting a re-sentencing hearing. (The judges comments to be inserted later.)
Chris Kelly committed suicide with Duane Rholfs. Chris had not been in Straight but Duane had. Since the two died together and since there is sound reason to believe Straight probably played a role in some if not all of these tragic deaths, there is good reason to blame Straight on that death too. The day after Chris kelly and Duane Rholfs committed suicide, a 19 year-old woman named Joon Byun, a recent graduate of George Marshall, was killed in an automobile accident in Vienna, Virginia. Did she know either Duane Rholfs or Chris Kelly?
, , . There were three and only three teen suicide pacts in Fairfax County in the 1980s. The Marshall High pact and the Robinson High pact involved someone who had been in Straight. Three kids from Annandale High killed themselves in 1987. None of these kids had been in Straight but where did they get the notion to do it. Certainly the publicity from the recent Marshall High and Robinson High incidences must have weighed heavily on their minds. So Straight probably can share in the blame for those deaths too.
Suicide or murder? It has been an arduous task to uncover the 13 post-Straight-Springfield deaths that we have disclosed. This is because newspapers usually don't list the cause of death of a young person as suicide or even as suspicious. We predict the true number to be between 15 and 25. Our hypothesis should be clear by now. Straight caused many youngsters to attempt suicide or have suicidal ideations while in the program, or to at least carve on their bodies; but true attempts were foiled because Straight kids are watched even while wiping themselves on the toilet. But once these shell-shocked kids left Straight either through graduation, escape, by walking out at age 18 or by parent withdrawal there was no mechanism in place to prevent them from killing themselves in droves.
If our hypothesis is correct then we would expect to find similar statistics on suicides of former clients at other Straights nationwide. So far we have uncovered the suicides of or murders by over 50 former Straight clients from all Straights and from second-generation Straights, including The Seed--the program upon which Straight is based. We have documented 40 of those deaths in the on-line book A Clockwork Straight in the chapter Suicide or Murder. Throughout its history there were 12 Straight treatment camps located in major metropolitan areas in America. Why does Straight-Springfield's 14 deaths account for 28% of the known deaths from 12 centers? Because the author lived in Fairfax County during the data collection phase of this report and did not have the financial resources to travel to and gather data in other locales where Straight operated. Some Straights were in operation longer than Straight-Springfield, most were not. Besides the 12 Straights there are or were 20 related programs for a total of 32 programs. Using a conservative estimate of 10 post suicides per program there could be as many as 300 program-related deaths.
There are additional indicators of high rates of juvenile suicides in locales where Straights have operated:
Most Straight-related deaths involve former male clients. Of the 14 known Straight-Springfield-related deaths only two have been female. Similar statistics exist from the national survey. Here is our theory of why this is so. Look at the photo on the left. It is of celebrities Meredith Vieira and Christy Lemire kissing on TV. They are doing this in response to the latest rave among celebrities like Madona kissing Britney Spears and Sharon Stone missing her kiss of Halle Berry in Batwoman. Straight is about Chinese-style brainwashing and Chinese-style brainwashing is all about confession. Straight kids are not made to admit they are reactionaries who harbor capitalist thoughts or that they are secret members of the OSS. Straight teenagers were often forced or cajoled into admitting to sexual experiences or thoughts that they may or may not have had. The mores of Western society are such that women like Meredith Vieira and Christy Lemire can kiss publicly as a stunt and not feel they are gay, but men can not do this. If you've ever seen an X-rated film for "straight" people invariably there will be a seen between two women, but there will never be a scene between two men. "Straight" American males will not tolerate that. The point is Straight boys and girls are made to confess to things they may or may not have done. If any of these coerced confessions deal with homosexuality, post-Straight society better allows women to cope with what they've admitted to at Straight than men. Author Stanton Peele once spoke about Straight questioning why would anyone want to take a person who already obviously feels bad about himself and make him feel worse. I would add that if you make a young man question his sexuality you can kill him.
What is needed. We sent our findings on these deaths to the Atlanta Center for Disease Control and to the American Society of Suicidology in Washington, DC. The CDC never responded but the American Society of Suicidology replied that they would be willing to conduct a study provided we funded it. We have protested the Commonwealth Attorney's Office in Fairfax County and we delivered to him a special report detailing all of these associated deaths. We have met with child abuse and homicide detectives in Fairfax County and with a homicide detective in Richmond, Virginia where one of the suicides occurred. We have also met with FBI agents and with a representative from the US attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey; but nothing has ever been done. For starters we want to know that Jon Guyton had in fact been in Straight and whether Joon Byun, who died the day after Duane Rholf and Chris Kelly died, knew either of those boys. We want to know whether any of the three Annandale High School suicides in 1987 had been in Straight (our limited investigation points to no) or had had a relationship with anyone from Straight. We want every suspicious death since 1983 of a young man or woman in the greater Washington DC area investigated to see if there was a connection to Straight. And once we know the full extent of the deaths we want the Commonwealth Attorney's Office in Fairfax County to prosecute for murder, or to show us cause why he can not.
Kids were transported across state lines at Straight. There is evidence that some of the kids were used for sex by their old comer counselors. If Virginia's Commonwealth Attorney refuses to act perhaps the US Attorney could.