Evidence found at a New Mexico youth ranch for troubled kids corroborates allegations by current and former students of abuse, the governor says. The comments by Gov. Susana Martinez came as she defended the state's handling of an investigation into the Tierra Blanca High Country Youth Program near Hillsboro ranch. Authorities have declined to release many details about the allegations or what was found at the ranch. The Albuquerque Journal previously reported that the investigation included claims that students were beaten and shackled.
An Amber Alert and manhunt were launched on Friday by state police after officers found the ranch empty when they tried to take custody of the children. Ranch attorney Pete Domenici Jr. accused the state of escalating the situation with the alert, which was issued after he said the children were being returned to their parents. Countered Martinez: "We felt they were in imminent danger because of what we found in those buildings." The alert was canceled on Sunday after police were able to verify the safety of all nine children. Scott Chandler, the operator of the ranch, said last week that shackles were used in extreme circumstances, and that parents were aware and agreed to that before sending children to the ranch. Police were seeking him for questioning. (Read more New Mexico stories.)