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Opinion & Essays - Oct, 2000 Issue #74 

A Letter from Merilee Gage-Groesz

My name is Merilee Gage-Groesz and I am writing in regards to the “Royal Haven” case.  My father, Steve Gage, was arrested on June 2, 2000 for charges that I feel are absurd.  I am writing this in hopes that you will want to know the truth about the Steve Gage that I know.  I, and a lot of other people know that my father is innocent and is not capable of any of these charges.  My father has worked with kids for years and has always taken these girls into his home and treated them like his own children.

There are many inconsistencies in what people are saying about my father. For example, I have been told that a former student of Royal Haven, who I knew personally, is now spreading lies about my father, even though he has always shown a great deal of kindness to her. Originally from California, she continued to live in Central Oregon after she left Royal Haven though her family remained in California.  She went to my father quite often for help and he always attempted to help her in any way that he could. On one occasion when I was in town she stopped by my father’s house and asked to leave her son there while she and her husband ran some errands. Of course my father said that was fine.  She had some troubles with her wedding so my father even let her have the wedding at his home.

Although treated with kindness, she always seemed to have a bad temper and be very conniving.  The Nugget Newspaper in Sisters, Oregon, reported on September 4, 2000 that this woman and her husband were arrested for assault. The Nugget stated that she had struck one woman, then grabbed a 14-year-old around the neck, and kneed her in the abdomen while her husband held the 14-year-old- girl. A Nugget sheriff’s deputy reported that the 14-year old’s face was red and swollen on one side and she allegedly was scratched and bloodied.  The deputy also reported seeing no sign of injury to “her” or “her husband.”   I was also told that a few years ago this woman tried to beat up another minor. Why she is spreading lies about my father, I don’t know. I think it is absolutely absurd when someone has to lie about someone else to make themselves feel better. I hope that she realizes how much he was there for “her” and stops her lies.

Also according to the Nugget Newspaper, the father of one girl who had been at Royal Haven said she seemed to be doing quite well. Principal Keyser reported to the school board that he had been contacted by several parents of the girls who told him that their children had “received an excellent educational experience” at the high school.  The Nugget also stated that, according to school officials, the girls historically did well in school.  The Nugget reported that many parents called Superintendent Swisher to see of they could find a way to continue their daughter’s education in Sisters, since they were doing so well.  I tell you this because I have previously talked to counselors who have told me that the first thing to suffer in a situation where there is abuse, is the child’s schooling.  At least 14 of the girls from Royal Haven were on honor role.  The Nugget also reported a former student stated that her experience at Royal Haven wasn’t a good one, though she proceeded to report how well she is doing now.  A coincidence??  I think not!!

I do not know, nor do I care to know, the motive behind the lies that have been spread. I just want the innocent man they put behind bars to be set free.  I was taught that innocent people do not belong behind bars and that I should have faith in our system. To be honest, I do not.  What happened to being innocent until proven guilty??  It seems instead that people are guilty until they are proven innocent.  My father has given up his life for teens in trouble, trying to get them rehabilitated for parents who could not handle the girls themselves. A system that most of the time turns their back on troubled teens is now going to put my father behind bars for trying to help them??  If this is the kind of reward you get for helping people then God help us because our world is collapsing.  He did all he could to help in situations where parents couldn’t help their own children.  Some of the girls even turned 18 and continued to live at Royal Haven, where he continued to help them, not because he had to but because he wanted too.  My father showed these girls how to have faith in people again.

I have also gone through a lot in my life and can thank my father (and mother) for showing me how to be strong and to never turn my back on the world, no matter how many times the world may turn its back on me.  I am married today with two children and would not be alive if it wasn’t for my great parents.  I pray every day for my father to have the strength to make it through this and hope you will all also pray for him.  My heart breaks every time I talk to my father on the phone.  I hear the hurt in his voice and can’t help but feel hurt myself.  I love my father so much and trust in him with all my heart as I hope any daughter/son would.  He has a lot of people backing him up who know that he is innocent.  Karen and my father have been by each other’s side from the beginning and will continue to do so.  Please pray for my family, that we can all stay strong enough to make it through these tough times. Thank you for reading my story and I will continue to believe a short but great saying I once heard, “The truth will set you free! ”

If you have any questions or comments about this article please e- mail me at: bike99@msn.com

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