U.S. newspaper profiles
youth who was at Dundee
By Joe Medici
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff
November 10, 2004
The Milwaukee, Wisc., Journal
Sentinel this week published a
three-part series documenting the struggles of Joel Snider, a
troubled youth who was sent to the Dundee Ranch in Orotina, Costa
The series reports on Sniderís
early struggle with drugs and depression and how his parents
eventually sent him to the Dundee Ranch. The ranchís pamphlets and
brochures promised a disciplined environment for troubled teens.
Sniderís parents, who live in Wisconsin, hoped that the ranchís
focus on discipline could help their 280-pound teenage son.
During his time at the ranch,
Snider and other students were routinely treated sternly. The
complaints from many of these children eventually were evaluated by
Costa Rican authorities who started to monitor the ranch.
Finally, on May 20, 2003, Fernando
Vargas, a Costa Rican prosecutor, led 50 police officers into the
facility for a legal search. The warrant had been issued in response
to a situation regarding Nicole Flowers, one of the students at the
ranch. She was being held against her will and her mother, who did
not have custody of her daughter, wanted her to be released.
During the raid, the prosecutor
youths that they could not be held
against their will under Costa Rican law. The raid failed to produce
any solid evidence, however, and soon the prosecutor was forced to
leave without any of the students. After the raid chaos ensued in
the ranch and youngsters escaped.
Sniderís parents withdrew him from
the academy a few days after the raid. Since that time, the program
has shut down. This fall, however, a new program called Pillars of
Hope is attempting to open on the same property.
Harold Dabel is the new
administrator of Pillars of Hope. He was listed as part of the
managing team at the Dundee Ranch and his new team is leasing the
property from Narvin Lichfield, the original owner of the ranch who
briefly was detained by officials after the raid. Lichfield was
associated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and
A Pillars of Hope official said the
group plans to begin admitting students soon. The Costa Rican
government, however, has said that the group does not yet have
permission to open its doors.
The Milwaukee Journal series mainly
is a profile of Snider and his family under stress. The stories even
report on how Snider smuggled cocaine into the ranch. The newspaper
said the youth was scarred by his experiences. His parents spent in
excess of $25,000 to send him here.