Public Radio Covers Kanakuk Victims Support of the Bill Expanding the Statute of Limitations

Laffey Bucci Kent

For decades, Kanakuk Kamps has ignored allegations of sexual abuse, resulting in the victimization of children and no accountability for those who enabled the crimes. Often, victims of this kind of institutional abuse take many years to process the trauma they have endured and, as a result, do not come forward until years later, after the statute of limitations has run out. This can leave them with no recourse for seeking justice.

Now some of these victims and their advocates are speaking out in support of HB 1617, a Missouri bill that would add 10 years to the existing statute of limitations and allow victims to file lawsuits until they reach age 41. Attorney Bobby Thrasher, who represents Kanakuk victim Logan Yandell alongside Laffey, Bucci & Kent attorneys Brian Kent, Guy D’Andrea, Michael McFarland, and Jill Roth, spoke with St. Louis Public Radio about the benefits of the bill for victims.

“It would give them more time to work through their own pain and suffering,” he said.

Yandell filed a lawsuit against Kanakuk Camps in 2022, claiming his family was tricked into signing a settlement agreement after he was sexually abused by camp director Peter Newman. Yandell and his parents claim they agreed to the settlement because Kanakuk leaders told them that the camp had no previous knowledge of misconduct by Newman.

Thrasher said the bill gives victims more years to process what they’ve experienced “before re-traumatizing themselves and trying to bring a lawsuit against an organization — or re-face the perpetrator themselves.”

He acknowledges that the bill is limited; there would be no retroactivity. “We would have to amend the state constitution. There’s more steps involved,” Thrasher said. “It just becomes a bigger fight in order to get a law like that.”

Because these brave victims and their families come forward, awareness has grown of the immense harm that occurs when organizations like Kanakuk look the other way and enable abuse. Trey Carlock, a former camper who was abused by Newman, took his own life at age 29. His family disclosed his abuse in his obituary, motivating others to speak out.

“Because we were public about his abuse in that obituary, other families began reaching out and sharing their stories,” said Carlock’s sister Elizabeth Phillips. “And it became this mini ‘Me Too’ movement around Kanakuk victims connecting for the first time.”