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Monday, June 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Kidnapping Isn’t Therapy, Dad & Son Say

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) - A camp that claims to treat "adolescent problems" kidnapped a 16-year-old boy and forced him to live in the Utah wilderness for a month, the boy and his father claim in court.

Kenneth Decter and his son Andrew sued Second Nature Therapeutic Program LLC, Right Direction Crisis Intervention, Skezics Corp. dba Right Direction Crisis Intervention, and Brian T. Shepherd, the owner of the camp where Andrew allegedly was held, in Federal Court.

Andrew Decter was living with his mother in Manhasset, and was about to enter his senior year, where he played tuba in the high school band and was a technical director of the theater program at his high school, his father says in the complaint.

"Andrew has no criminal record and no history of disciplinary problems in school," the complaint states. "Andrew has never had a problem with drugs or alcohol."

But at 5 a.m. on June 20, 2012, Andrew was awakened by three large men - two of them standing over his bed and the other blocking the door to Andrew's bedroom, according to the complaint.

Andrew tried to escape, but "defendants told Andrew his attempts to leave would be fruitless," the complaint states. "The employees, servants and/or agents of the defendants told Andrew they were taking him into custody and taking him out of his home in New York and to the airport so they could transport him to Utah.

"The defendants told Andrew that they would stop any attempt by him to escape.

"Andrew was terrified and feared for his life.

"Andrew begged the defendants to let him talk to his father, Kenneth Decter. The

defendants refused.

"Andrew also begged to speak with his attorney and friend. The defendants refused.

"Andrew briefly attempted to flee, but to no avail."

Kenneth Decter says the men put his son in the back of what appeared to be an unmarked police car, flanked by two of the men so that he couldn't escape. The back door was fixed so it could not be opened from the inside. They took him to the airport.

"During various times of the kidnapping of Andrew, the defendants displayed their handcuffs to Andrew and repeatedly threatened Andrew that it would not be worth it for him to try to escape," according to the complaint.

Andrew was taken "like a prisoner" to the defendants' Second Nature Therapeutic Program camp in the Utah wilderness, his father says.

"When Andrew arrived in Utah, he was put in what can only be described as prisoner type clothing - an orange jumpsuit," according to the complaint.

"Each night Andrew's sneakers/boots were taken from him so as to prevent his escape.

"During his imprisonment in the wilderness, Andrew was forced to backpack numerous miles each day through grueling terrain. He was only fed freeze-dried food. In the month Andrew was held captive, he lost nearly 25 pounds."

He was forced to wear the same clothes for nearly a month, and "could not take off the prison uniform he was given because of the mosquitoes in the forest," the father says.

"When Andrew requested to take a shower he was given a bag of water to rinse himself," the complaint states.

He was held from June 20, 2012 to July 17, 2012, according to the complaint.

Second Nature claims on its website, checked Tuesday, that it "was founded on the idea that struggling adolescents and their families deserve quality clinical treatment, combined with sensitivity and compassion. Second Nature sets the standard for individualized treatment, family involvement, clinical sophistication and unparalleled customer service."

The camp's population allegedly includes people suffering with depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, academic failure, low self-esteem, ADHD, "learning differences," "identity issues," "social problems," "sexual promiscuity/acting out," Asperger's syndrome, domestic abuse and other problems.

Andrew's requests to speak to his father or his attorney "were completely ignored and/or denied by the defendants, until the morning of July 17, 2012, when the frightened 16-year-old was first allowed to speak with his father Kenneth on the phone," according to the complaint.

Kenneth Decter claims a Second Nature employee told him that the facility could neither "confirm nor deny" that it was holding Andrew there.

The Decters' attorney tried to speak with he boy and get updates on his health and well-being, but the defendants refused his requests, the father and son say.

"Kenneth was forced to file a petition in New York State Court for a write of habeas corpus in order to have contact" with his son, according to the complaint.

"After much pressure," defendants allowed Kenneth to speak with a "therapist" who told him his son was fine, the lawsuit states.

Kenneth had to file several motions with New York State Supreme Court in Nassau County. The court eventually granted his request and signed the writ of habeas corpus, requiring defendants to release Andrew and send him home.

The Decters claim that Andrew then was simply dropped off at the airport "with no instruction or direction on where to go."

"Andrew continues to suffer from severe emotional distress in that he is, amongst other things, anxious, nervous, scared, worried, apprehensive and/or restless because of the fear of being abducted again," the complaint states.

The Decters seek costs and punitive damages for false imprisonment, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abduction and conspiracy.

They are represented by Timothy Kilgannon, with Kilgannon & Kilgannon, of Mineola, N.Y.

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