A former resident of Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch in Riverhead is suing the facility for unspecified damages, saying that he was sexually assaulted and beaten by other, older residents there more than 20 years ago.
The lawsuit is filed under the state’s Child Victims Act, which was enacted in February and extends the statute of limitations for civil claims by child sexual abuse victims. The new law gives alleged victims one year from Aug. 14, 2019, to file a lawsuit and allows the people filing those suits to be up to age 55. Previously, a victim had only five years, starting from his or her 18th birthday, to bring a lawsuit.
Andres Alexander Ramos, who lived at Timothy Hill Ranch in 1995, when he was 12, states in court papers that employees at the ranch “carelessly and negligently failed to adequately supervise” him and the other residents there.
This created “an environment of limited to no supervision which allowed the older residents to sexually, physically and emotionally abuse” Mr. Ramos, according to his attorney, Regina Calcaterra.
Thaddaeus Hill, executive director of Timothy Hill Ranch and son of its founders, Jerry and Fern Hill, said, “We’re just digging into [the claim] to see what we can learn about it, since it was obviously 25 years old. I can’t speak to the specifics on it because it’s a legal matter anyway, but obviously, we’ll make sure we understand all the nature of the details, we’ll have attorneys involved and we’ll navigate it. But there’s nothing specific that I can share with you.”
Ms. Calcaterra said in an interview that the ranch “orchestrated efforts to distort the truth and cover up a brutal sexual attack.” The court papers state that the ranch is guilty of negligence, gross negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In addition to Timothy Hill Ranch, the lawsuit specifically names as defendants Apple Day Camp Inc.; Jerry and Fern Hill; then-employees Diana Corazzini and James Zuzierla; the estate of former employee Michael Gerrard; the Board of Trustees of the ranch; and several “John Does.”
Jerry Hill did not return a call seeking comment. Ms. Corazzini and Mr. Zuzierla could not be reached for comment.
The ranch was founded in 1976 and runs as a nonprofit group home to help “abused and neglected boys” using “Christ-centered values.”
Mr. Ramos was sent to the ranch in January 1995 and placed in a group residence with about 10 other boys, all of whom were several years older, the lawsuit says.
“During the six months that [Mr. Ramos] lived under the custody and supervision of the Ranch, [Mr. Ramos] was repeatedly and viciously victimized by teenage residents of the Ranch,” the lawsuit says. “The sexual abuse began as a result of the Ranch’s negligence in ordering the then-12-year-old plaintiff to share a room with a male of approximately 17 years old.”
The lawsuit says there was “virtually no supervision” after “lights out” and that Mr. Ramos, then the youngest child at the residence, “was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and threatened into obedience” by other teenage boys.
Even though multiple staff members were living under the same roof, “repeated sexual abuse at the hands of multiple teenage boys was a regular occurrence for” Mr. Ramos, court papers state.
In addition to the sexual abuse, Mr. Ramos was subjected to cigarette burns, being thrown into a frigid body of water, being burned with hot water from communal showers at the ranch and being forced to smear himself with cow feces, the lawsuit states. The lawsuit does not accuse ranch employees of sexual abuse.
The lawsuit also says that the ranch tried to cover up the sexual assault through “guilt shaming” regarding Mr. Ramos’ supposed sexual orientation.
It alleges that Fern Hill spoke to Mr. Ramos about sexuality and sin, explaining his “sexual assault as a punishment from God for being homosexual” and saying he “could be cured from homosexuality through prayer.”
Mr. Gerrard allegedly told Mr. Ramos, “What you did was wrong. You could get in big trouble, even jail,” according to the lawsuit.