‘A smack-your-head moment.’ Charged Agape staffers list another school as their home

·6 min read

Two of the five Agape Boarding School staff members charged with assaulting students list as their address a Cedar County mansion that houses another boarding school for troubled boys.

Seth Duncan and Trent Hartman, each charged last month with multiple counts of third-degree assault, said in court records that they lived at 6360 E. 1570 Road in Jerico Springs, Missouri. That location is the home of Legacy Academy Adventures, which serves boys ages 9 to 15. It is run by a former top Agape staff member, and the property is owned by Agape’s long-time doctor.

Allowing defendants who are charged with assaulting students to live at a boarding school raises serious concerns among those who work with victims of abuse.

“It’s a smack-your-head moment,” said Rebecca Randles, a Kansas City attorney who has represented hundreds of victims of physical and sexual abuse. “Who could possibly think this was OK? How dare they allow people who are charged with hurting children to be living in a mansion with children.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to stay there... Parents need to know that their children are in danger of predators. And it doesn’t have to be sexual to be a predator. It’s anyone who wants to hurt kids.”

Cedar County Prosecutor Ty Gaither, who filed the low-level felony charges against Duncan, Hartman and three other Agape staff members on Sept. 28, did not answer a list of questions from The Star regarding the situation.

“We do not comment about ongoing cases,” Gaither said.

Legacy Academy Adventures is run by Brent Jackson, a former long-time Agape staff member who once was its dean of students. And recent court records show that the property, in a rural area between Stockton and Jerico Springs in southwest Missouri, is owned by David Smock, a local doctor who for years has provided medical care to Agape students.

Duncan, who attended Agape and later became a staff member, is charged with five counts of third-degree assault involving students. According to court records, Duncan — who is Smock’s son-in-law — lives at the mansion. Trent Hartman, an Agape staff member who faces two counts of third-degree assault, also listed the mansion as his address in court documents.

Neither reportedly works at Agape now. Duncan’s attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment on Monday. Hartman does not have an attorney listed in online court records.

Agape Boarding School has been under investigation by state and local authorities for allegations of abuse since earlier this year.

Smock has close ties to Jackson, who worked at Agape for 18 years. After Jackson left Agape, he opened Legacy Boys Academy in rural Cedar County in May 2020. Jackson changed the name to Legacy Academy Adventures on Aug. 2.

Neither Smock nor Jackson responded to requests for comment.

Smock’s Agape connections are far-reaching. In addition to being Agape’s doctor, he has a son who is married to the granddaughter of the late Agape founder James Clemensen. Two other children are married to former Agape students. Another son pleaded guilty along with a staff member’s son to leading a conspiracy to deface The Islamic Center of Springfield with graffiti and burn two copies of the Qur’an in 2011.

Smock, who runs the Stockton Walk-in Clinic and Family Care practice, works with Agape to wean boys off medications for behavioral issues, according to the school’s website.

The “homeopathy/naturopathic approach” that Agape uses, Smock says on the site, includes “good nutrition, exercise, one-on-one Christian counseling and prayerful meditation.”

“The result has been a nearly 100% success rate of freeing young minds and bodies from these powerful psychopharmaceutical medications and their side effects. I and other community doctors have been affiliated for many years with the school and verified their success rate.”

Smock provides a glowing testimonial for Agape on the school’s website.

“Agapé has had a long history of helping boys,” he says. “With improved behavior and impulse control, these young fellows learn to succeed and develop a healthy respect for authority figures, parents and loved ones. As a physician, I strongly support the model practiced at this boarding school.”

Property records show that Smock owns the 11-bedroom mansion that houses Legacy Academy Adventures, about 11 miles southwest of Stockton. Jackson, who worked at Agape from 2000 to 2018, opened Legacy for the purpose of “training up Godly young boys...”

Its mission, according to its website: “To influence, instruct and inspire young men who are struggling with emotional, behavioral and educational issues.”

Jackson also serves as senior pastor at Liberty Baptist Church of Lamar, Missouri — which, like Agape Baptist, is an independent fundamental Baptist church. IFB churches teach followers to separate themselves from worldly influence.

The Star has interviewed more than 60 former Agape students as part of an investigation into the state’s unlicensed boarding schools. Those students attended the school over a period spanning nearly three decades. The men shared emotional descriptions of beatings, long days of manual labor, food and water withheld as punishment, excruciating physical restraints and constant berating and mind games.

The five Agape staff members charged were just a fraction of the number the Missouri Attorney General and Missouri Highway Patrol recommended as a result of their investigations. The AG’s office recommended 22 staff members be charged with a total of 65 counts involving 36 students.

Smock has several businesses listed for the property where the mansion housing Legacy Academy Adventures sits. In 2011, he incorporated Space Adventures, described in the documents he filed as a nonprofit organization whose purpose was “to provide skilled building construction training to homeless men, prior drug users, alcoholics, ex convicts” and “to provide low income housing to elderly and elderly handicapped as well as short term medical rehabilitation.”

According to its website, which since has been taken down, Space Adventures was a tax-exempt organization with corporate headquarters at 6360 E. 1570 Road in Jerico Springs. The founder, it said, was David Smock.

It is unclear whether that organization ever got off the ground. It continues to file an annual corporation report with the Missouri Secretary of State — the most recent filing in July — with Smock listed as president and secretary and two of his children listed as board members.

Smock’s medical business, Level 4 Medical Professional Corp., lists its corporate office at the mansion address as well. Smock has incorporated that business in both Arizona and Missouri, and he’s listed as the company president, secretary and director. The company last filed an annual registration in Missouri in May.

Smock has a “good working relationship” with Cedar County Memorial Hospital, according to hospital CEO Jana Witt in a January 2019 interview with the El Dorado Springs Sun. Widely known throughout the community, he was Facebook friends earlier this year of Cedar County Sheriff James McCrary and Gaither, the prosecutor.

Recently, both either made their friends’ lists private or removed him.

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