15-Year-Old Died at Facility for Troubled Teens
Thayer Home to Pay $1 Million in Death
Kansas City Star
March 10, 2006
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — More than 16 months after their son died at a
northwest Missouri boarding school, Victor and Gracia Reyes settled
their wrongful-death lawsuit on Thursday.
Thayer Learning Center, a home for troubled teens in Kidder, Mo.,
about 50 miles north of Kansas City, agreed to pay the Reyeses
slightly more than $1 million. In addition, Thayer will establish a
scholarship fund in memory of Roberto Reyes at Reyes’ California
The two sides agreed to the settlement during a 30-minute hearing
in Buchanan County Circuit Court.
Neither John nor Willa Bundy, who own Thayer, were at the
hearing. Neither were the Reyeses, who live in California.
A prepared statement handed out by the Reyeses’ attorney after
the hearing said: “Victor and Gracia Reyes have decided to resolve
their claims for the wrongful death of their son, Roberto Reyes, the
terms of which address concerns the Reyeses had about health and
safety, and provide for a scholarship fund to be set up in Roberto’s
It is not clear how those health and safety concerns have been
addressed, and attorneys for both parties refused to answer
Court files suggest $1 million of the $1,050,000 settlement will
be paid by a Thayer insurer.
During the hearing, the Reyeses’ attorney, James Thompson, told
the judge that his clients thought the settlement was “fair and
“At a jury trial,” he said, “they realize they may have received
more or may have received less.”
Roberto was 15 when he died in November 2004. He had been at
Thayer for less than two weeks.
Roberto’s death has been attributed to a probable spider bite. A
state child-welfare team conducted a lengthy investigation and
concluded that Thayer apparently “failed … to provide access to
appropriate medical evaluation and/or treatment” for Roberto. That
report also said “interviews and evidence also suggest significant
contradictions and possible deliberate falsification of written
In court records, Thayer officials denied culpability in
Roberto’s death and denied altering any records.
The Reyeses filed the wrongful-death suit in February 2005 and
alleged that Roberto was subjected to physical exertion and abuse
that caused or contributed to his death. The lawsuit alleged that
Roberto would have lived had he received competent medical care in a
timely manner and that he was dragged, hit, placed into solitary
confinement and “forced to lay in his own excrement for extended
periods of time.”
In court records, Thayer officials denied those and other
The lawsuit named seven defendants: Thayer, two affiliated
businesses and four persons who were Thayer employees at the time of
The case file swelled almost immediately and, as of Thursday,
contained hundreds of pages. It is clear from court filings that the
plaintiffs were trying to establish a pattern of medical neglect at
Thayer, saying in one filing that Thayer’s “historical denial of
appropriate medical care and treatment to students” would likely be
the case’s “central issue.”
Some allegations from a September 2005 filing:
- A student was put in isolation with a sandbag tied or taped
to each hand for approximately 11 hours. He never saw a doctor,
despite deep gouges in his flesh.
- After a boy drank a gallon of bleach in a suicide attempt,
he was not allowed medical care.
- A student had a fever of 102 degrees and then 104.7 degrees
but was never taken to a doctor.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys wrote: “There can, perhaps, be no more
tragic event than the failure to provide adequate care and medical
treatment to minor children. Thayer engaged in such conduct before
and after Roberto Reyes’ death. Other incidents … are both relative
and probative of the issues in plaintiffs’ petition.”
Thayer attorneys called such allegations “sensational” and
The case had been scheduled to go to trial in June.
To reach Steve Rock, call (816) 234-4338 or send e-mail to