by Chet Hardin
Well, it's late in the game, but Karen Magistrelli, the first-time candidate for El Paso Board of County Commissioners, has released a two-page flier that her campaign put together to refute charges that she and her husband, Bob, ran an abusive foster-care home up until the mid-1990s.
You can download the flier by clinking on the PDF link.
We first reported on this story back in April. We had received numerous tips, anonymous and otherwise, that there was scandal to be had in Magistrelli's background. What we found was that twice the Magistrellis were investigated for allegations of abuse while running their foster home High Winds Youth Group Home.
In both instances, the allegations were investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. The first case was dismissed as unfounded by the investigators. The second, which included the now-notorious root cellar where kids spent time-outs, was forwarded on to the district attorney's office, which opted not to prosecute.
Again, no charges were ever filed against the Magistrellis.
As to why these unfounded allegations of abuse, nearly two decades old, resurfaced, former Sen. Dave Schultheis speculated that this was the handiwork of the campaign for Magistrelli's opponent, current county commissioner Sallie Clark: "Why else would this come up?" he asked.
Clark has denied being involved with dredging up, and alerting the press of, these cases.
Now, we have what Magistrelli is calling her side of the story.
"In all these years, it's going to be 17 years, we've never been able to put out our side of the story. I want people to know, it was such an overreach of government. What they did was so damaging to those kids. And if you read it, what you can see is that it was not in the best interest of those kids," she says.
Members of her campaign told her not to put the flier out, as they feared it would just fan the flames of a controversy that they'd rather die.
"They thought it would hurt my campaign," she says. Plus, it costs $4,000 to send out a flier. "It's very expensive."
Regardless, she says, "I don't know what it is going to create, but it certainly is the rest of the story."
The flier includes testimonials that appear to come from former residents of the youth home, such as this one from Matt:
I know from experience that High Winds Youth is one of the most loving homes in the state of Colorado... I have been in many different placements as many as thirteen. I feel the state is wrong in accusing these really nice people who care about these children. They are the only home that I have been in that will never let you down. ..The only place that helped me out...the only place that showed me what real love is...
Also included is an excerpt from the testimonial of Fred Jackson. We have tried to contact Jackson through a number of means, but he hasn't responded. He refers to himself as the “cistern kid” — the unnamed child whose punishment of sitting in the root cellar in part led to the 1990s investigation.
I’ve waited long enough to speak out about timeouts in the Magistrelli’s storm shelter.
To call time in the shelter abuse is ABSURD! I needed the shelter as I was out of control and a danger to myself and others. When angry, I needed a safe place to go calm down. That was my safe place.
In today’s political correct society too many believe that any type of discipline is abuse — hogwash! Timeout is the way the state allows group homes to handle young, violent, teens when they act out.
On that Friday, when the state senselessly took me and the other foster kids away, Bob & Karen’s own children fled across state lines leaving their parents and home for months in fear of what the illogical ‘system’ might do to them; I cried over losing my family.
After being forced from the Magistrelli’s, external controls were abandoned. I tried to get back to them, but was prevented and at age 14 I was allowed to indulge in whatever I wanted. At the institution the staff found it easiest to let me do what I wanted. I skipped school - no consequence. I ate until I weighed over 300 pounds.
Staff allowed me marijuana and pornography. Since I matured without discipline, I have had to work for years to overcome my uncontrolled self.
I’m now 29 and as I look back my years with Bob and Karen were the best years of my childhood!
The Magistrellis are my family.
I know I would have avoided so many problems if I would have been left with them. They love me as I love them.