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South AL man crusades to end child abuse

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video
HOOVER, AL (WBRC) -

A man from South Alabama who uncovered years of child abuse in a Christian school for troubled youth is sharing his story in hopes of ending what he sees at a nationwide problem.

Former Prichard Police Captain Charles Kennedy spoke at the Marine Corp League meeting in Hoover Saturday morning. He is on a crusade to end brutal child abuse here in Alabama.

"Alabama doesn't care. Alabama cares no more for children in places like this. It cares more about chickens in a slaughter house and earthworms than it does for children. I may sound harsh but that's the way it is here," he said.

Kennedy is referring to the former Restoration Youth Association in Prichard and former Saving Youth Foundation in Mobile.

In 2011, Kennedy first heard about the RYA through a Prichard City Council meeting. He stopped by to learn more about the facility, and what he found shocked him to his core.

"I looked over there and here's a boy in this room, naked, curled up in a fetal position and I thought, 'what in the world is he doing in this room curled up,'" Kennedy recalled.

After interviewing some of the boys at the facility, Kennedy learned more about these isolation rooms.

"They let these boys out once a day for a two-minute shower. Other than that, they stayed in this room 24 hours a day with a light burning.  Now in the Geneva convention of war crimes, that's listed as a war crime," Kennedy explained.

The leaders of this program were John Young, Jr., William Knott and Aleshia Moffett. Kennedy says Knott told him they would leave the boys in the isolation rooms until their attitudes changed.

"What they were doing was installing the Stockholm Syndrome. Stockhold Syndrome, as you know, is a matter of mind control. The thing to do was immediately break this boy down and make him understand you're under total control here," Kennedy said.

Kennedy documented everything, all of his visits to RYA.

Boys would also sneak him handwritten notes describing their abuse.

Kennedy says he turned in all this to the Mobile District Attorneys office, but nothing happened.

Kennedy says he wrote letters to the local and state DHR, the attorney general, the governor - anyone he could think of - still no action.

The only thing Kennedy could do was write negative reviews online so parents would know what they were getting their children into.

Kennedy says RYA's enrollment went from 76 to 26. That's when RYA closed and the three opened Saving Youth Foundation at Solid Rock Ministries in Mobile.

Kennedy says he would drive by there frequently - until one day in March 2015 - he drove by and his heart sank.

"As I passed by, I saw crime scene tape all around the building and Mobile police cars.  I'm telling you right now I knew a child had been murdered. I said they have finally killed a child here," Kennedy said.

Thankfully, no one had died, but police were appalled at the boys' living conditions.

Police and DHR immediately shut down the operation and Young, Knott and Moffett were charged with felony child abuse.

A jury convicted them and a judge sentenced them to 20 years in prison.

Kennedy is happy these two facilities no longer exist, but he says this type of abuse is still happening around the country and Kennedy won't end his crusade until they're all shut down.

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