Private Christian boot camp shut down, owners arrested

South Floridian who alleged abuse at Alabama facility reacts

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

MOBILE, Ala. - The owners of a private Christian boot camp where parents paid to send their troubled teens have been arrested and the facility is also shut down.

Madison Litsky said the emotion flooded in when she heard that a so-called boot camp for troubled kids had been shut down and the two men running the place were arrested.

"Yes, I did cry," Litsky said. "I was overwhelmed by what happened ... while I was there, and how it affected my life and it still affects my life today."

Litsky, who lives in Plantation, was one of numerous teens who alleged abuse at the private facility in Alabama called Restoration Youth Academy. She and another South Florida teen, William Vargas, told their stories to Local 10 in 2013.

"He hit me and hit me again," Litsky recalled.

"I was choked," Vargas said.

William Knott and Pastor John Young, who ran the camps, denied the claims, but the Mobile Police Department shut down their current camp, now called the Saving Youth Foundation, for sanitary violations March 5 after serving a search warrant there during an ongoing criminal abuse investigation, removing all 36 teens there.

Knott was arrested on an unrelated domestic violence warrant, and Young was arrested on a traffic warrant.

"They didn't deserve to be in an environment like that," Litsky said.

Litsky, who is now 20, is now a lifeguard on Fort Lauderdale Beach and is getting training to become an EMT. She said she's relieved the 36 teens have been rescued from the camp.

"None of the kids there -- bad or not -- deserve any of that," said Litsky. "Yeah, those kids needed help, but they weren't getting the help they needed."

Litsky is expected to complete her EMT training in May as the criminal investigation in Alabama continues.

A Mobile, Alabama, police spokeswoman told Local 10's Bob Norman the 36 teens removed from the boot camp were turned over to the state and are being returned to their parents.

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