Sad news (but unsurprising)

I have written before about the mysterious disappearances of three boys from the same boarding school for troubled youths in California, the CEDU School. I don’t know much about the disappearance of John Christopher Inman, just that he was seventeen, had seizures, and listed as a runaway. He disappeared in 1993. Blake Pursley, a fourteen-year-old with physical handicaps that would make it difficult or impossible for him to survive on his own, disappeared from the school in 1994. Daniel Yuen, sixteen, ran away from the school in 2004. Since it’s verified that he did in fact run away and there have been sightings of him after his disappearance, I would think his case to be above suspicion. But as to the others…I just don’t know. Blake’s disappearance in particular looks suspicious to me. The boy had so many medical problems, I don’t think he was physically capable of running away.

What are the chances that so many children would vanish off the face of the earth from the same school?

CEDU filed for bankruptcy and closed down in 2005. This was in part because of lawsuits filed by parents of children who were physically, psychologically and sexually abused there. It appears that the school systematically abused its students and violated their rights, while conning parents into thinking they’d done the right thing to send their children there. The tuition ran to thousands per month.

Anyway, a Charley Project blog reader showed me this article about a convicted child molester and murderer who visited CEDU on a regular basis in the nineties as a psychiatrist’s “helper.” Both the psychiatrist and his helper, James Lee Crummel, were eventually convicted of sexually abusing one of the doctor’s teen patients. Crummel is now on death row for the murder of a teenager who was killed over twenty-five years ago. He was convicted of the murder in 2004. The article provides a long, sad forty-year litany of his crimes: molesting kids, killing or attempting to kill them, over and over and over again. I don’t understand why he wasn’t locked up long before this.

So now the cops are looking at him for Blake and John. And curiously, Crummel lived on the same street as nine-year-old Jack Daniel Phillips who disappeared in 1995.

I do hope something comes of this. Something happened to those boys, and their families deserve to know what became of them. I doubt either of them are alive today.

10 thoughts on “Sad news (but unsurprising)

  1. Justin November 14, 2009 / 2:40 pm

    You’re right. I’m not surprised.

  2. Kevin November 16, 2009 / 2:51 am

    When I saw this posted, I wasn’t shocked. A&E had a cold case episode on Jamey Trotter and James Crummel and this guy is one sick bastard. Here is the link to that case: . It is amazing to me how the system keeps letting these types of people off easy. I would guess Crummel’s deceased victims are in the dozens, if not more.

  3. Herbert Johansen November 16, 2009 / 1:38 pm

    I have been around the troubled teen industry for years. There is a problem. Just to prevent the teenagers from escaping without turning the entire school into a prison with locks etc. you have to locate the school itself in a very remote area.

    I just have to ask. How many high profile specialists to you find in a remote village? Of course not that many, you have to hire local staff regardless of their credentials. Criminal records were sometime hidden. We had high schools students just out of high school guarding high school students. A one-day long CPR course was what they got. Once per week the licensed therapist came by.

    I know that some of the programs had deaths among the student. Starving and dehydration was not that uncommon. I also know that the program was run for-profit, so getting extra gear was a battle against the management.

    The sad news in this case is that while CEDU itself closed down, a lot of other programs structured exactly the same were founded. Some have since been shut down. Presently a clone of CEDU was closed in Oregon after have been in Time Magazine.

    I hope that the families will be able to learn about what happened to their children.

  4. Justin November 16, 2009 / 4:23 pm

    When you are the parent of an out of control teen, you are just relieved to have someplace to put them. To have someone monitor them full time. But they don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. If you think some of these places in the U.S. are bad, you should see some facilities that are deliberately located in foreign countries, like Mexico where they really can beat you into submission.

    • Meaghan November 17, 2009 / 6:15 pm

      The really sad thing is that many of the teens at those places are not really “out of control.” There’s a book about this I read, and it said some of those places claim if your kid refuses to clean their room, say, or has experimented with drugs and alcohol even just a little bit, they need residential treatment or they’ll die or end up in prison or something. Parents think, Well, if these troubled teen experts say this is a big problem, maybe they’re right and I should do something about it.

      Another issue is that, even if the teen is a big mess, usually they’re not the only problem. I was a “troubled teen” myself. I basically flunked out of junior high school. I tried to kill myself. I could easily have been shipped off to one of those places if my parents had been inclined. But at least half the problem came from a bad home life with an extremely abusive older brother and a crazy mother. If I had improved in a residential treatment facility, it would have just fallen apart when I returned home to the same problems.

      • Eire November 27, 2009 / 4:22 am

        Hi Meaghan,

        Do you happen to know the name of that book? I’d love to read it. I work in a group home setting at the moment, though it for developmentally disabled people and not “trouble youth,” but I’ve seen the term developmentally disabled applied pretty liberally when it suits the program’s financial needs.

      • Meaghan November 27, 2009 / 5:18 pm

        It is called Help At Any Cost by Maia Szalavitz.

      • Eire November 29, 2009 / 3:22 am


  5. Danny Ray Pursley December 29, 2009 / 12:14 am

    Blake Pursley is my brother. Anyone who remembers him from the school or has information of any kind please e-mail me. Please make “Blake” your subject line. Also my heart goes out to the family of John.

  6. Christina August 5, 2015 / 1:56 am

    My cousin Blake wasn’t a “problem” or “troubled” child, he was a BULLIED child. The kids horribly bullied him because of his health problems (due to falling into a cattle dipping vat at very young age and nearly dying) and when he started fighting back he became a “problem” and my Aunt felt she had to send him to CEDU; Where in his final days he was screamed at, berated, made to feel useless, and made to feel unwanted/loved. Then some twisted sicko used and killed him. He never deserved any of it. He had nothing but misery and pain during his short life. The worst part is, no closure. He was my closest cousin, there were three of us all born that year and we were so close. I don’t know if my Aunt got any closure, maybe she sued CEDU, I don’t know, she shut down after all that. I think she feels guilty or ashamed because she doesn’t talk about any of it. We have no body. We can’t even punish the S.O.B’s that did it, they’re dead. If I could get my hands on any of those disgusting cowards from CEDU, or his school here in CO I’d beat em to a bloody pulp. I hurt so bad inside and there’s nothing I can do about it.

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