By Myrna Trauntvein
The Whitmore Academy, located on Nephi's Main Street,
is facing court charges in Juab County.
Last week, Juab County Attorney Jared Eldridge filed
seven misdemeanor counts of child abuse and hazing against
co-owner Cheryl Sudweeks, 50.
"Cheryl Sudweeks was the primary actor. Mr. (Mark)
Sudweeks has been in the background, coming in afterward, on
the fringes and on the peripheral," Eldridge said.
Eldridge said, co-owner Mark Sudweeks has not been
"We are still looking at some other things," said
The charges stem from alleged incidents which occurred
during a period from April 2003 through November 2004 and
involve four victims.
The evidence, said Eldridge, suggests Cheryl Sudweeks
either directly caused harm to the victims or allowed others
to commit the abuse.
"We are conducting additional investigations that may
result in more charges," said Eldridge.
A June 23 arraignment in 4th District Court has been
set for Cheryl Sudweeks.
Eldridge said he plans to ask the judge to issue an
order prohibiting her from having any contact with minor
Child welfare investigators said they substantiated
eight instances of physical abuse, educational neglect,
medical neglect and environmental neglect last fall.
The usual census for the school has been approximately
Whitmore was cited for several fire-code violations by
the state Fire Marshal's Office earlier this year. One of
the citations was for failing to have a second exit.
The Sudweekses were given until mid-May to come into
compliance and state authorities report the Whitmore owners
have made those corrections.
Recently the Sudweekses remodeled another building on
Main Street. That building, known locally as the Robinson
Furniture building, was made into a school to be used as a
classroom. At the time of licensing, city council members
would not allow the upstairs to be used by students. At the
time, Mark Sudweeks indicated, in the business license
application, that he would use that area for offices.
Some of the charges stem from an incident in November
when a male teenager ran away after an assault reportedly
involving Cheryl Sudweeks. In an earlier incident, several
students allegedly assaulted the boy at her urging.
Matt Hilton, the Sudweekses' attorney, has said he
doesn't dispute the state Division of Child and Family
Services had the necessary information to conduct an
investigation. However, he said, the majority of parents
continue to support the program.
The latest charges stem from a several months-long
investigation by the Nephi Police Department and the Juab
County Attorney's Office.
The probe in Juab County came as a result of DCFS
Last month, the Sudweekses applied for and received a
conditional use permit to expand their operations to
unincorporated Juab County. Plans for the property, about
four miles south of Nephi, include a facility for equine
Eldridge said he is unaware of how the criminal
charges and pending investigation will play out with the
Sudweekses' plans for the property south of Nephi, but he
does believe it would be good for the operation to come
under some oversight.
The state Office of Licensing sent a notice of
revocation to the Sudweekses for the operation of their
residential treatment center earlier.
Licensing problems date back to 2001, and include
state concerns that a youth center was being operated under
the guise of a bed and breakfast.
The Sudweekses landed in trouble in 2002 after
Canadian authorities discovered a herd of starving horses on
their property in British Columbia, where they had operated
a youth program.
Although the Sudweekses asserted the animals' welfare
was left to a caretaker, a judge eventually found Mark
Sudweeks guilty of two charges under the Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals Act, imposing a lifetime prohibition of
owning or caring for animals. He was fined $4,000 and
ordered to pay more than $100,000 in restitution to the
animal cruelty organization tasked with caring for the
In 2001, the pair was ordered to pack up their program
in Mexico&emdash;along with 14 teen clients&emdash;because
of what authorities said was the illegal operation of the
business, a violation of their tourist visas.
The order came from the U.S. Consulate in Tijuana
involving a program in Santa Rosalia on the Baja California
"Of course all of this concerns me," Eldridge said.
"There is a pattern of disregarding procedures."