COLUMBUS, Ohio — Over the past two years, Richland County sheriff’s deputies have responded more than 50 times to Abraxas – a behavioral treatment center in Shelby where deputies have made arrests or taken reports for repeated incidents of violence, sexual abuse allegations or kids running away.
One of those children who went AWOL from the facility repeatedly – most recently in late February – was found dead in an alleyway weeks later in the Hilltop area of Columbus.
Brylan Butcher was found shot. He was 14.
As part of an ongoing investigative series “Caught in the Cycle” 10 Investigates has been looking into incidents affecting children in foster care and the impact it’s had on communities.
As part of our reporting, 10 Investigates has uncovered children who have wound up dead while in foster care, looked at a deadly crash involving a child in foster care, and have examined other gaps in the system that have cost people their lives and the cost the state millions of dollars.
New research shows children in foster care in Ohio face worse outcomes when compared to the national average. They are also routinely placed in group homes or institutions at a greater rate than the rest of the country, according to an April from the child-advocacy group Child Defense Fund Ohio.
That same research found children in foster in Ohio also experience more mistreatment.
When children enter the foster care system with mental or behavioral needs, county agencies routinely contract with private facilities to help house and treat the children.
But 10 Investigates has found incidents of violence, runaways and abuse also happen inside these facilities.
Sequel Pomegranate in Columbus closed last year amid a history of abuse allegations and a failed attempt to re-brand itself and re-open under a new name, Torii Behavioral Health.
Mohican Young Star Academy in Ashland County has had to defend its license against threats by the state to revoke it amid similar allegations of runaways, painful restraints and assaults.
10 Investigates found a similar pattern at Abraxas, where police records show a pattern of violence and kids running away.
Since 2015, all three of these facilities have billed the state Medicaid for $75 million.
Incidents at these facilities have raised concerns among law enforcement and family members of the residents. Audio from body camera footage from Richland County Sheriff’s Office shows officers expressing frustration for having to routinely address runaways from Abraxas.
“He was never there because he wasn’t wanted,” said Rachel Hill, who identified herself as Brylan Butcher’s aunt in an interview with 10 Investigates. “He was never there because he wasn’t wanted. He was never there because he wasn’t loved.
Hill said her family is not trying to paint a completely rosy picture. Brylan had problems, she said, which his family wanted him to get treatment. They did not anticipate, however, that a private facility – contracted with several county-run children service agencies across the state would allow incidents like this to persist.
“We would never imagine that they would leave in the care of someone who wasn’t equipped or to understand that hey this kid does run. He’s got one goal in mind and that is to run – to go home,” Hill said.
10 Investigates has made repeated attempts to reach Abraxas officials. Over the past two weeks, we’ve left two voice messages, an email and visited Abraxas in person where a front office worker told us there were no administrators available to speak to us.
“This place is still open. There is still kids in there. And we are not going to hear about it until it’s too late and they are found in an alley,” Hill said.
“We are facing a lot with the loss of Brylan because there are so many unanswered questions. So many unanswered questions and such a senseless act. Abraxas being the last in charge. They failed. They failed terribly.”
We’ve also reached out to South Central Job and Family Services and OHMAS with questions.
Brylan’s murder remains unsolved. Our questions for Abraxas remain unanswered.
If you have something you’d like us to know, please feel free to email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caught in the Cycle series