Suspect No. 1: Inside Daniel Yuen’s Missing Person Case

The 2004 disappearance of a New Jersey teenager sent to a notorious San Bernardino County group home for depression treatment—and his alleged reappearance in San Diego—made national headlines. But was it all a web of lies?

On a late Sunday morning in February 2004, the Twin Peaks Station of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department received a call about a male juvenile who had fled from a location intimately known to law enforcement. Soon afterward, a Twin Peaks Station deputy drove out to speak with the reporting party.

Daniel Yuen arrived at CEDU, a sprawling but thinly populated private, for-profit residential treatment facility, on January 26, 2004. Daniel’s parents, Lisa and Wayne Yuen, had sent their 16-year-old son across the country from their New Jersey home believing he would undergo basic treatment for adolescent depression. It was Daniel’s first journey to the San Bernardino Mountains. 13 days later, he disappeared.

Emerging in the mid-1960s deeply connected to the self-help cult, Synanon, CEDU marketed itself by Daniel Yuen’s era as “the nation’s first emotional growth boarding school.” However, this “high school” was, in fact, licensed as a group home. And throughout four unsinkable decades, CEDU remained a law-flouting, scandal-plagued institution accused of rampant child abuse, misconduct, false marketing, and cultic behavior. The company that eventually bought CEDU Educational Services, Inc. declared bankruptcy in 2005.

According to a partial call history covering 1997-2005 previously obtained by LAMag, the Twin Peaks Station received nearly 1,000 calls for service—all involving dark doings inside the program. Unsurprisingly, fleeing CEDU’s grounds was the most commonly reported incident. CEDU’s secret lingo even had a word for it: “split.”

In eight years’ time, the Twin Peaks Station received 341 reports of runaways, 67 AWOLs, four missing juveniles, and three missing persons. These are all reports about the same incident—splitting—and should be counted together.

Twin Peaks officers consistently brushed off endless CEDU runaway issues. Out of 415 reports of program-fleeing juveniles in that eight-year stretch—the overwhelming majority regarding out-of-state children—local law enforcement logged only 10 “attempts to locate” and four search and rescue missions.

In 2004, the year Daniel Yuen vanished, the station reported 33 CEDU runaways and AWOLs, but not a single search and rescue or area check.

Kravchuck’s Version

Throughout his brief, miserable CEDU tenure, legal documents indicate that Daniel appeared startled and was largely uncommunicative right up to the point of his disappearance. And yet the police report filed by a Twin Peaks Station deputy named Robert Warrick, a thin document revealed here for the first time, notes Daniel’s mental condition was “OK.”

In December, LAMag obtained a copy of this report from Lisa and Wayne Yuen whose frustrating endeavor to access it hit many walls.

According to the report, 27-year-old CEDU counselor Stephen Kravchuck reported Daniel as a “runaway juvenile.” It appears that Kravchuck was the lone witness to Daniel’s alleged departure and Deputy Warrick’s only interviewee. And yet, for obscure reasons, Warrick didn’t record personal information regarding this alleged eyewitness. For example, next to Kravchuck’s “residence,” there is only a dash.

More perplexingly, Warrick entered Kravchuck in the “victim” category. Daniel, on the other hand, is placed in the box for “Suspect No. 1.”

While likely a simple error, local law enforcement falsely identifying teen victims as suspects neatly sums up the mountain cops’ decades-long relationship with CEDU.

Stephen Kravchuck sits in a CEDU staff office in 2002. (Photograph courtesy of a 2001-2003 CEDU resident who requested they not be named)

In the report’s synopsis, Warrick wrote that Daniel “fled the campus on foot” after the 16-year-old informed Kravchuck he wanted to buy cigarettes. Daniel’s “probable destination” was a “Valero gas station” or “Arrowbear,” the report indicates. It remains unclear why those specific locations were considered “probable.”

In Kravchuck’s version noted by Deputy Warrick, this is a simple incident of a counselor benignly tolerating a teen slipping away to get some smokes. In reality, CEDU residents weren’t permitted to leave the property, hold money or carry identification. Furthermore, cigarettes were vehemently forbidden. These basic facts were known to California state agencies yet Warrick’s report provides no indication of how a CEDU counselor might have reacted to Daniel’s flagrant defiance.

An unquestioning deputy also apparently missed another glaring fact: Daniel was unfamiliar with his new environment. “We never visited the area before,” Lisa Yuen told LAMag. “I am 100 percent sure Daniel did not know any place outside of CEDU.”

Boastfully owning a “76-acre forested campus,” CEDU itself was an unknown territory for residents mostly flitting between a few adjacent buildings. Navigating out of this backwoods compound toward mountain civilization would have been extremely difficult for Daniel to accomplish alone. Even if he did successfully reach those “probable destinations,” a lost Chinese-American teen from New Jersey in a small and overwhelmingly white SoCal community—with locals eagle-eyed in spotting CEDU runaways—would have made him easily retrievable.

In other words, Kravchuck’s account was likely false. So, why would he be Deputy Warrick’s main source of information? LAMag repeatedly contacted Warrick to explain his report, but he declined to comment.

SBCSD Officer Robert Warrick (San Bernardino County)

At the time Kravchuck called the Twin Peaks Station about Daniel, he had been working at CEDU for half a decade. And he wasn’t the only Kravchuck on campus. According to personnel reports, Danielle Kravchuck, Stephen’s wife, was hired in December 2000. (Spouses working alongside each other was a well-established CEDU pattern.)

Full disclosure: I briefly knew Stephen Kravchuck in my adolescence. In January 1999, I was shipped off to CEDU for the same reason Daniel was enrolled exactly five years later—to be cured of basic teen blues.

Stephen Kravchuck joined the program in a “wilderness staff” role during my sixteen-month confinement. For me, though, he wasn’t a particularly memorable staffer. I learned more about Kravchuck as an adult scrutinizing a police report than a 15-year-old enduring some long-forgotten “outdoor recreation” he once facilitated.

CEDU’s Runaway Services

According to CEDU’s internal runaway report, an illegitimate but relevant form the program refused to share with the Sheriff’s Department, Daniel split “for good at approximately 10 a.m.” However, according to Deputy Warrick’s handwritten crime report, the incident occurred at 10:45 a.m. and was called in by Stephen Kravchuck at 11:09 a.m. More confusing, the Yuens recall a CEDU official informing them of their son’s AWOL status around 9 a.m. PT.

Which time is accurate? Did CEDU delay a call for service? If so, what happened in those hours between a parent call to New Jersey and a police call to the Twin Peaks Station?

This much is clear: Almost as soon as his runaway account left the facility—a narrative that smoothly deflects blame for losing a minor in its care—CEDU washed its hands of Daniel Yuen. Curt program officials showed little interest in communicating with his distraught parents as well. Instead, CEDU referred the Yuens to one of the program’s in-house “private detectives.”

Confused and desperate to locate their son, Lisa and Wayne Yuen overlooked a massive conflict of interest and “initiated the runaway services agreement stating that CEDU would provide runaway services to the client at a rate of $50-60 per hour,” as they would testify later.

In this particular case, CEDU’s runaway services went to a mountain-town couple, Keith “Dutch” Raymond and his wife, Cindy. Keith had been previously employed by the LAPD a mere seven years before retiring early under unclear circumstances in 1997. After leaving law enforcement, Keith and Cindy Raymond evidently owned a Big Bear-based private investigation firm, OHI Services, in addition to moonlighting as CEDU staff.

According to employee reports collected by California’s Department of Social Services on January 7, 2004—about three weeks before Daniel Yuen arrived in Running Springs—the Raymonds were working as “escorts” at “CEDU group home.” If these records are accurate, the Raymonds were apparently new to the CEDU family, having both been hired on the same day in January 2003.

A CEDU escort was more of a jazz lick than a job title. Within a seemingly improvisational role, an escort might track down runaways, “safehouse” children in a motel, or transport them out of state to another hideous private “troubled teen” facility. An escort also might accompany a disobedient but sniffly kid to Running Springs’ general practitioner. (The town doctor, by the way, double-dipped as CEDU’s “medical director” and his wife worked as the program’s “drug class facilitator” running AA/NA meetings as well as teaching a class on the existence of angels.)

Parents and guardians were required to sign CEDU’s runaway services agreement as part of the application process. (CA Department of Social Services)

By the year Daniel Yuen disappeared, married couple Bill and Carol Lane shared the title of CEDU’s Director of Escort Services. On paper, the Lanes would have been the Raymonds’ direct supervisors. Carol Lane’s level of involvement remains unclear, but Bill Lane had been towering over the entire CEDU operation for decades, functioning as a kind of sheriff—or fixer—within the program’s self-policing system.

Bill’s relationship with CEDU’s founder, Mel Wasserman, stretched back to the early 1960s when the two met inside the rabid halls of a rehab cult called Synanon. A star member, Lane played various roles crucial to Synanon’s success. And he would do the same at CEDU, “mov[ing] into admissions and every other aspect of the organization, culminating in his becoming president,” according to a 2005 interview.

Bill Lane as featured in a Synanon promotional video. (Instagram/Synanon Kids)

Lane, who died in 2019, faced allegations of abusive intimidation tactics throughout a half-century in which he helped develop Synanon, CEDU, and the youth transport business. This includes a claim made by a long-term CEDU counselor that a colleague “had a complete breakdown…convinced that the guy who picked up students and was part owner, Bill Lane, was going to kill her and disappeared.”

It doesn’t appear that Bill Lane’s relationship with Keith Raymond was as dramatic. Still, the gruff former junkie turned unrepentant “tough love” true believer reportedly clashed with the ex-LAPD officer turned mountain-town PI. In a February email to LAMag, Josh Bloch, host of USG Audio’s CEDU podcast “The Lost Kids” shared more details: “Keith Raymond told me that they butted heads a bit, but were not enemies—they had a love/hate relationship. Keith claimed to run a more ethical service than Bill.”

The View From the Top

According to employment records, Keith and Cindy Raymond’s escorting days were brief. Their names aren’t included in CEDU’s internal staff list dated October 18, 2004. (Incidentally, Stephen and Danielle Kravchuck are also missing from these 2004 employment records.) A January 2019 ABC News segment further shortened Keith’s stint, reporting that he worked at CEDU for “eight months.” That same year, Keith implied in an email that his role was closer to a counselor than an escort, but he quit in disgust after allegedly witnessing one of CEDU’s mandatory 24-hour workshops. “Being a retired police officer,” Raymond wrote, “I quickly determined they were using things like sleep deprivation as a tactic…I quickly resigned.”

Contradicting all this, Keith testified in a 2009 deposition taken as part of the Yuen’s lawsuit against CEDU that he “personally investigated approximately 150 runaway cases from CEDU…over the course of six years.”

What was Keith Raymond’s exact job at CEDU? And how long was he affiliated with the program?

With Bill Lane deceased, another high-ranking official who could explain these discrepancies is David LePere. At the time of Daniel Yuen’s disappearance, LePere served as CEDU’s program director and “dean of students.”

Overseeing an insular community that was wary of outside scrutiny, LePere would have been carefully alerted to the events of February 8, 2004: Stephen Kravchuck calling the Twin Peaks station, the Yuens receiving instructions to hire the Raymonds, and so on.

LePere didn’t respond to LAMag’s emails seeking comment. But in the recent past, he and I exchanged several messages and had one long phone call.

LePere and his wife, Janine, joined CEDU in 1998, brought into the mothership via a spin-off program, Mount Bachelor Academy. During my confinement at CEDU, LePere—like Kravchuck—appeared on campus infrequently as a “wilderness instructor” while his wife was an all-powerful, ever-present “team leader.” By 2004, Daniel’s era, LePere was overseeing the entire facility.

David LePere seen outside of CEDU’s main building in June 2004. (Photograph courtesy CEDU 2004-2005 resident who requested they not be named)

Corresponding in 2020, LePere didn’t recall me from my CEDU days. Nevertheless, my old backpacking instructor was friendly and cautiously informative throughout our dialogue. He only turned tight-lipped when I brought up Daniel Yuen.

Despite a new resident disappearing on his watch, LePere has enjoyed a long career ascending the teen treatment industry. As of this writing, LePere is the executive director of Cherokee Creek Boys School in South Carolina and serves as board president of the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs. Functioning as “the ‘troubled teen’ industry’s largest trade group,” as NPR Utah noted in 2020, the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (or NATSAP) has propped up and endorsed the country’s labyrinthine system of youth treatment facilities since the late 90s.

NATSAP Executive Director Megan Stokes vigorously defended LePere when LAMag questioned whether a program director at the center of a missing juvenile case should represent a national organization dedicated to institutionalizing young people.

“I truly do not know enough about Daniel’s case to comment,” Stokes wrote in an email. Maneuvering around the question of CEDU, she characterized LePere as an “honest and forthright person who cares deeply about the kids in his care,” and went on to describe him as a positive and transformational force within their industry. Stokes also maintained NATSAP’s commitment to “the best and safest care” for adolescents.

It should be noted that LePere is not the only key NATSAP figure with a problematic CEDU background. Since its 1999 inception, this dominant organization has reportedly installed senior officials from CEDU and its spin-offs in top roles within NATSAP’s ranks—despite countless substantiated allegations of institutional child abuse.

Stokes was unable to provide a clear number of ex-CEDU employees associated with NATSAP and declined to answer about her trade association retaining close ties to a program that, among many other things, lost multiple adolescents. “I stand by my previous written comments,” she told LAMag.

Somewhere in San Diego

In the winter of 2004, not long after the Yuens paid for CEDU to investigate itself in their son’s disappearance, the search conveniently moved away from Running Springs to a San Diego park where Keith and Cindy Raymond claimed Daniel had been spotted and bloodhounds had picked up his scent.

Roughly a 2.5-hour drive from CEDU’s property, San Diego was a peculiar destination for a runaway to land. For one thing, most kids barely made it a few miles away from campus before getting caught or returning on their own in defeat. Even CEDU-fleeing residents who, by some miracle, successfully escaped out of the San Bernardino Mountains were often hauled right back to their remote facility. For example, in 1995, another newly-enrolled 16-year-old resident reportedly went missing from the program. 10 days later, the runaway was discovered by another CEDU private investigator (and former L.A. cop) at his brother’s Santa Barbara-based alma mater among a “group of college students and fraternity members.”

Unlike splitting CEDU for a UC frat house, Daniel Yuen didn’t have family or friends in San Diego. So, why was he in this unknown area? Just as important, why were the Raymonds and CEDU unable to locate him? After all, the program had at least one sweeping connection to San Diego: Bill and Carol Lane, the two-headed director of CEDU escorts.

In 2004, the Lanes had the only San Diego address amid five pages’ worth of CEDU staff records. Additionally, Bill Lane was launching his own omnipresent adolescent escort company out of San Diego. Overseeing “additional emergency services” including “searching for runaways”—and personally handling teen transports himself—Lane could have easily conducted his own search of nearby locations or called in other operatives to where Keith and Cindy Raymond claimed Daniel had been spotted. None of that appears to have occurred.

Bill Lane’s adolescent escort company was headquartered near San Diego areas Daniel Yuen allegedly had been spotted. (Bill Lane & Associates)

With the Raymonds reporting more sightings out of San Diego, the Yuens made frequent trips to the distant city. On one occasion, Daniel’s closest friend, Nick Galayda, flew with Lisa Yuen to California. In a 2020 podcast interview, Galayda described a perplexing, maddening fool’s errand orchestrated by Cindy Raymond: She would drive to a supposed area of a Daniel sighting, point to it, and have Galayda “walk around aimlessly like I had a friggin’ Dan detector on me,” he said.

Speaking with LAMag in January, Galayda underscored his exasperation with the 2004 search. “The whole thing didn’t make any sense. I kept telling everyone that [Daniel] would have called me, had he been able to get a hold of a phone. I was extremely skeptical of the possibility that if he did make it out of [CEDU], he wouldn’t have traveled over 120-plus miles without ever trying to make contact with someone.”

Dragged down by what seemed like misdirections, the 16-year-old finally had it with the search’s disarray. “I became very frustrated of wandering around in random places that Cindy Raymond was taking us,” Galayda told LAMag. “I said, ‘Dan isn’t here. I really don’t think he’s here. I want to go to this ‘school.’”

“[The Raymonds] saw no reason for a 16-year-old kid on a mountaintop in the middle of a forest running away from a fucked up institution to call someone, anyone, for help.”

Despite Galayda’s “heat of the moment comment” to search CEDU, the focus remained in San Diego. “I could feel extreme sadness in [Lisa’s] voice and I didn’t want to press the issue any further. I was a kid with my best friend’s mom who was just looking for her son so far away from home,” he said.

Lisa Yuen now says the group should have listened more to Galayda. “Thinking back, Nick was right,” she told LAMag.

Keith Raymond didn’t join this futile 2004 search of downtown San Diego, Mira Mesa, Rancho Peñasquitos, and other areas, as Galayda remembers. But he did receive one disturbing call from Keith soon after his best friend vanished.

“Keith tried telling me that friends change over a period of time and maybe I wasn’t as close to [Daniel] as I originally thought,” Galayda wrote to LAMag. “I was completely offended, sure, but what aggravated me most was the complete disregard—or maybe the insinuation—that Dan didn’t want to call anyone. The investigators tried to paint it like Dan wanted to be alone and start his own life.”

Daniel Yuen, Lisa Yuen, Selena Yuen, Nick Galayda (far right) and his sister in 2000. (Photograph: Lisa and Wayne Yuen)

Galayda walked away from his experiences with Keith and Cindy Raymond concerned they were leading the Yuens in a false direction. “[The Raymonds] saw no reason for a 16-year-old kid on a mountaintop in the middle of a forest running away from a fucked up institution to call someone, anyone, for help.”

Galayda now speculates on the Raymonds’ possible motivation to gaslight and misdirect. “I think what they were really doing was trying to convince everyone that [Daniel] didn’t want to be found,” he said. “Whether they believed that or trying to hide something.”

LAMag called Cindy Raymond in late January with the number she had given to Nick Galayda but it appears to be disconnected. However, Cindy did answer the phone at Salon St. Moritz, the business she now runs in Big Bear Lake. In a minute-long call, Cindy denied remembering Daniel’s disappearance (while recalling roughly how long ago it occurred) and forcefully declined to comment. But Cindy did divulge one detail: she and Keith are now divorced.

“Deep Down, You Just Know He Isn’t Coming Back”

The Yuens said they don’t remember speaking with Bill and Carol Lane and only learned of their San Diego residence from LAMag’s investigation. Instead, the Yuens recall another CEDU couple having a San Diego connection: Keith and Cindy Raymond.

“As I remember,” Wayne Yuen recently revealed, “the Raymonds had relatives in San Diego back in 2004. And in 2019, I think Keith said his son was in the military stationed in San Diego.”

Nick Galayda says he doesn’t find this surprising. “I always thought they lived there anyway,” he told LAMag.

LAMag was unable to independently verify claims about San Diego-based relatives of the Raymonds. But we asked the Yuens if they were ever skeptical about their private investigators suggesting random Daniel sightings in an area where they might have had personal ties. “I never have spent too much time thinking about it,” Wayne admitted. “San Diego is the biggest city in Southern California—having relatives there sounds normal to me.”

Daniel Yuen and Nick Galayda at a high school birthday party. (Photograph: Lisa and Wayne Yuen)

Aside from Galayda’s suspicions, strong doubts never emerged over the Raymonds’ out-of-the-blue San Diego leads. With a lack of closer scrutiny, these alleged developments irrevocably transformed Daniel’s case in a way even embraced by law enforcement agencies. In 2009, for example, a California Department of Justice consultant looked into a possible connection between a serial killer named James Lee Crummel and CEDU’s multiple missing boys—a far-fetched, misguided investigation that apparently ended with a shrug. Nevertheless, Daniel was excluded from the potential victims list, in part due to “reported sightings.”

After losing contact with the Raymonds in the mid-2000s, the Yuens said they approached a San Diego-based private investigator who declined to take their case. The couple then enlisted missing persons organizations. Specifically, the Yuens recall working with a former case manager for the Jahi Turner Foundation named Kim Williams. Speaking to LAMag, Williams said she was contacted by a National Center for Missing and Exploited Children employee who “requested assistance for the Yuen family.”

Wayne Yuen described Williams as a “personal friend” overseeing intermittent but long-term on-the-ground assistance exclusively in San Diego. In Williams’ recollection, this involved “periodic flyer distributions” and “talking with individuals that reported having seen Daniel” as well as connecting the Yuens with the media.

Daniel Yuen’s photo appears in a People Magazine cover story in 2019. (Courtesy Dotdash Meredith)

“Some of the sightings did appear credible here in San Diego,” Williams told LAMag, sharing an account made by a hairstylist in 4S Ranch, California who identified Daniel via an age-progressed picture and claimed to cut his hair on several occasions. The stylist also claimed to be familiar with a birthmark on the back of Daniel’s head.

A police source familiar with the matter told LAMag that alleged hair salon sightings—and others throughout San Diego—fell apart upon scrutiny and “led to nothing.”  Furthermore, the Yuens confirmed that the salon lacked security cameras and staff were unable to locate relevant client records.

“Although we don’t have concrete evidence of the sightings,” Lisa Yuen said, “we just do not want people to think this case is not going anywhere. Any sightings will give us hope.”

Kim Williams insists that the stylist’s 2019 claims were convincing. But even this years-long volunteer in the Yuens’ search for their son acknowledges nagging anomalies about Daniel’s case.

“It does cause one to consider the unimaginable scenario that these three were harmed and there was a cover-up.”

“I always wondered how he made it down the mountain in the snow. After all these years, I’ve often wondered why Daniel has never reached out to family or friends,” she told LAMag. “It is shocking that three people from CEDU went missing and have never been found. So many allegations of abuse. It does cause one to consider the unimaginable scenario that these three were harmed and there was a cover-up.”

Daniel’s closest friend echoed this suspicion. “It breaks my heart to say it,” Nick Galayda wrote to LAMag, “but I don’t believe Dan is alive and I’ve felt that way pretty soon after months went by not hearing from him. It’s one of those terrible feelings you have and hope to God you’re wrong. But deep down you just know he isn’t coming back.”

The “Hot Again” Case

The Yuens went on to take legal action against CEDU. But without evidence of foul play and Daniel allegedly in San Diego, their case was largely about CEDU’s negligence and intentional misrepresentation. They eventually settled with an insurance company after CEDU’s parent company, the Brown Schools, filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and a self-help institution deposited in the San Bernardino Mountains abruptly ended its four-decade reign.

The Yuens might as well have settled with a ghost. And a cheap one at that.

By late 2018, 14 years after he vanished, supposed San Diego sightings of Daniel had ceased. Nearly defeated, Lisa Yuen sent an unsolicited message to Zack Bonnie, author of Dead, Insane, or In Jail, an acclaimed memoir about surviving a CEDU program in Idaho. In a last-ditch attempt to find their son, the Yuens were now seeking help from a survivor.

Unfamiliar with Daniel’s case and accustomed to receiving odd fan mail, Bonnie forwarded me Lisa’s message to check its authenticity. This is how I met the Yuens.

Soon after, Daniel’s case took another challenging turn. In November 2018, the same month Lisa Yuen emailed Bonnie, a family friend named Russell Cirincione overseeing a years-old email account for tips about Daniel alerted the couple to a headscratcher. “[T]his guy Dutch sent a mail with a few questions,” Cirincione messaged the Yuens. “I replied thinking it may be a scammer.”

After over a decade of silence, Keith Raymond was back and reflecting on Daniel’s case.

“To this day,” Raymond wrote to Cirincione, “Daniel is the only missing juvenile we have not located and we searched for over 200 closer to 300…I have no agenda other than to find out if there is any new information regarding Daniel.”

No evidence exists that Raymond searched for and located 200-300 missing kids. Despite such an impossible claim, though, the Yuens reconnected with their former PI.

In December 2018, weeks after resurfacing with a casual inquiry, Raymond announced a jaw-dropper: a caller left him a voicemail stating Daniel was alive but didn’t want to be found.

How did this person know to call Keith Raymond? More important, who made this call?

In a television interview, Raymond claimed the caller was an “unknown individual.” Similarly, the Yuens were told the call was made anonymously. However, according to a supplemental Sheriff’s Department report added in 2019, “Raymond received a message on his phone from a psychic stating Daniel was still living in the San Diego Forest.” Raymond further amended his account in a subsequent podcast interview, boldly suggesting it was a “first person” call from Daniel himself.

Raymond refused to share the alleged voicemail publicly and, confoundingly, the Yuens never asked to hear it. None of that appeared to matter, though. Daniel’s case was “hot again,” as ABC News declared in January 2019.

Keith Raymond interviewed in a 2019 ABC News segment on Daniel’s supposed reappearance. (ABC)

SBSD’s supplemental police report reveals that after receiving a psychic’s message, Raymond “contacted a local news station in San Diego and planned on airing a cold case news story about Daniel.”

Raymond was now driving publicity around his own leads. But were they concocted?

After a mysterious voicemail in late 2018, Raymond allegedly returned to Hilltop Community Park, the site he originally claimed Daniel had been spotted and scent dogs sniffed up “100 percent hits.” And he then claimed to stumble upon another startling breakthrough. “Within five minutes of being here,” Raymond told ABC News, “someone said ‘I’ve seen [Daniel] 45 minutes ago.’”

Raymond had followed up his smash voicemail revelation with another bombshell. And, once again, what sounded like fantasy was distracting attention away from CEDU.

In March 2019, the hopeful Yuens flew to San Diego to meet their now-rehired PI— but Raymond didn’t show up to meet them, insisting he was too sickly. Ditched by Raymond, the Yuens spent weeks tracing clues dangled by an absent private detective about their missing son.

The Yuens now admit Keith Raymond is unreliable, but this hasn’t stopped missing persons organizations and media outlets from continuing to disseminate his claims. For example, in 2021, Court TV interviewed the Director of Communications at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Angeline Hartmann, about Daniel’s case. In this moment, Hartmann could have used her credibility to challenge alleged sightings in the popular imagination. Instead, she leaned hard into them, emphasizing—as fact—that Daniel “was spotted in San Diego, we believe, not long after he disappeared.” Astonishingly, Hartmann also reinforced Raymond’s new leads.

“The private investigator says that people out there claim [Daniel] was with a woman and a baby. So maybe he has his own family by now,” she told Court TV.

“You Won’t Get To Me”

The Yuens said they haven’t heard from Keith Raymond since early 2019. Apart from a clumsy appearance in a podcast, the former CEDU escort pulled out of retirement to reignite Daniel’s case has gone underground.

LAMag emailed Raymond in January to untangle his claims. Surprisingly, he replied. In a lengthy rebuttal often lacking proper punctuation, Raymond unabashedly maintained that he “made no conflicting statements” but gave himself some wiggle room to admit misspeaking in his deposition. “I said what I felt that day with the lack of supporting evidence.”

Raymond’s current view of his deposition testimony reads like wistful teen poetry: “Life changed people do also years go by.”

In Raymond’s telling, his 2004 search for Daniel was a noble, selfless and often unpaid effort fully hindered by outside forces. “My god,” Raymond wrote, “nobody wants to take responsibility for their actions or lack of.”

“You’re almost there and getting close, push this the last mile and I will return to clean this up if law enforcement wants to deal with it.”

Irate and defensive, Raymond made it clear that, for him, working Daniel’s case had been a raw deal. He specifically placed the blame on the San Bernardino County sheriff—the man himself, not just the department—for denying resources. Raymond also blamed the Yuens. “I’m never going to let anyone suggest I did anything but the best job I could have like working for free the entire first night in those temperatures after Wayne faxed us to not work thru the night we did because of the weather and we did it alone no search and rescue no help from anyone.”

As for CEDU, Raymond offered blustery contempt and questions suggesting financial conspiracy: “Why would the brown school buy that location for the money they did? And where did the money go?”

Dismissing my entire CEDU experience in one swift sentence, Raymond continued to scold: “You may think you have a finger on what that school was about but you would be wrong.”

Keith Raymond has revealed his conspiratorial views on CEDU and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in the past. For example, Raymond once claimed that he was targeted by the police and forced to leave town for re-investigating Daniel’s case.

Keith and Cindy Raymond’s names appear in CEDU staff records collected by the California Department of Social Services in January 2004. (CA Department of Social Services)

Refusing to speak with LAMag on the phone, Raymond’s reply ended with a warning: “tread carefully…I’m sure you know what slander and defamation suggest?”

Unmoved by this threat, LAMag again asked if his claims of San Diego sightings and a voicemail were just headline-grabbing fabrications.

“See you’re missing the main interesting party here,” Raymond deflected unconvincingly. “Why hasn’t anyone looked into why the family who owned the school sold it when they did? Why did the browns school borrow against this property? Why did the escorting company house kids with adults?”

To Raymond, I was a novice asking the wrong questions. “You’re almost there and getting close, push this the last mile and I will return to clean this up if law enforcement wants to deal with it. Everything your [sic] seeking is at the sale, look into why, who gained and why the escort company had a direct relationship with the school.”

In 1998, the Brown Schools, a notorious Texas-based corporation operating for-profit facilities aimed at “at-risk” youths, acquired CEDU’s family-owned chain of programs. Reportedly bought for its prestige, CEDU’s new parent company largely remained hands-off, allowing this historic institution to continue functioning as it had since the 1960s. As such, in both 1998 and 2004, the year Daniel went missing, CEDU functioned as its own escort company.

Is Raymond’s sale fixation an attempt to spin and distract? Or is he teasing CEDU’s possible involvement in Daniel’s disappearance?

“Well Gota [sic] run the weather here is unlike anything in california,” a suddenly chummy Raymond signed off. “Gods speed I truly mean that. Also stop twisting the little things up, you won’t get to me not to worry focus on why and who had to gain.”

CEDU’s Conflicting Runaway Narratives

Keith Raymond is all over Daniel’s police report, both the supplemental document from 2019 and the 2004 “runaway juvenile” two-pager dashed off by Deputy Warrick.

The original report, taken during the crucial moments after Daniel allegedly split, twice mentions that the Yuens “hired a private investigation company to assist.” This could easily be interpreted as the Twin Peaks Station providing itself an excuse to not investigate a missing child.

Deputy Warrick claimed in the 2004 runaway report that “an area check was conducted by CEDU staff and by deputy.” The Yuens firmly disagree with this. According to them, officers “refused” to search for their son after he went missing and it took a misconduct complaint threat for law enforcement to promise to check the area “weeks later.” Today, the Yuens remain skeptical that the SBSD actually conducted this belated on-the-ground search effort.

As years wore on, the Yuens occasionally hounded the Sheriff’s Department. “As far as we remember,” Lisa Yuen told LAMag, “every time we contacted the police department, we did not get any help or information.”

With SBSD failing to investigate, additional details of Daniel’s disappearance were revealed by former CEDU staff and residents in conflicting, suspicious, and often physically impossible escape narratives. What’s unmistakable, though, is that CEDU “provided several different versions of the events surrounding Daniel’s disappearance,” as the Yuens’ lawsuit stated.

CEDU, a program known for a “no snitching” to outsiders stance, hid the truth by adding chaos.

According to a detailed timeline stitched together from various depositions, the Sunday Daniel disappeared, he was being monitored by another resident—this “24-hour escort” was an apparent punishment for refusing to comply with the program.

In one runaway narrative shared as a secondhand account, Daniel was sweeping next to his teen escort behind the main building in a mountain-perched part of campus. The escort “turned around and Daniel was gone,” a former resident testified anecdotally.

“Every time we contacted the police department, we did not get any help or information”

Short of covering himself in an invisibility cloak and jumping into a helicopter, Daniel vanishing from this treacherous and highly visible area on a wintry morning seems unlikely.

Perhaps the most distressing testimony comes from a former resident we’ll call “M.” According to his account, sometime between 10-11 a.m., in a rare moment free of around-the-clock supervision, Daniel attempted to flee but was caught by M and restrained “until a CEDU staff member arrived to take control.” The would-be runaway was then hauled off to the boys’ dorms for an indefinite amount of time.

Contradicting all information about this disappearance, M testified that he saw Daniel “around the campus the rest of the Sunday.” If true, Deputy Warrick took down his “runaway juvenile” report with the runaway still at CEDU.

Conflicting accounts given by CEDU staff and residents claim Daniel Yuen fled campus via opposite directions including (pictured here) the backside of the mountain, the main road into downtown Running Springs, and the boys’ dorms parallel to the woods (Screenshots: D. Safran and “Surviving CEDU”)

Unlike other behavior modification facilities, CEDU maintained it avoided restraining its high school-aged residents. The program’s untrained staffers certainly weren’t teaching kids about safe physical crisis intervention techniques. So, what happened as a result of another teenager restraining 125-pound Daniel Yuen?

Because these depositions were strictly for the Yuens’ civil case against CEDU—with Daniel believed to be hiding out in San Diego—basic questions about possible restraint gone wrong were apparently never asked and key individuals were never properly interrogated. In fact, M’s narrative is described as “illogical” given the time inconsistencies.

“Clearly, Daniel attempted to run away on the only other Sunday he was enrolled at CEDU,” the Yuens’ legal team concluded, ignoring the testimony about Daniel getting tackled by a teen.

Late Sunday mornings were unique, busy hours at CEDU with residents allowed a somewhat relaxed schedule across campus, a leisurely 10:45 a.m. brunch, and parents traveling a long distance for brief visitations. Why, then, would Daniel make a daring escape attempt in front of an audience at roughly the same time on two Sunday mornings?

It’s very possible, of course, that M’s statement is false or mistaken. And yet, far from being “illogical,” M’s deposition raises serious questions. Above all, did Deputy Warrick check the boys’ dorms on February 8, 2004? Did he inspect any room or building throughout CEDU’s reported 76 acres beyond the area he interviewed Stephen Kravchuck?

LAMag repeatedly contacted Officer Warrick as well as Jeff Allison, a lieutenant overseeing SBSD’s Public Affairs Division. Both California state public employees ignored multiple inquiries.

SBSD Blocks Its Own Investigation

The Yuens and their attorney said they strongly believe CEDU staff and residents lied in their testimony. But law enforcement officials never followed up on contradictory accounts or reevaluated statements. Instead, from 2004 to 2021, Daniel’s case remained open but inactive.

In late November 2021, 17 years after Daniel vanished, a newly-promoted San Bernardino County detective named Alisha Rosa was determined to correct the Twin Peaks Station’s strikingly un-investigative history with CEDU. This started with reviving Daniel’s botched case.

Untangling likely scenarios amid various discrepancies, negotiating access to the old CEDU property (current owners tend to refuse entry), and tracking down key witnesses required more on-the-ground support. In January 2022, Detective Rosa received approval for assistance from Team Adam, a “free resource provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to law enforcement,” as its literature explains, offering “investigative advice, search, analysis, technical support, equipment, and other resources.”

Before Team Adam could begin its assistance, Rosa was summoned to a meeting with her superiors. For unclear reasons, she was told the Specialized Investigations Division’s Homicide Detail would be taking over Daniel’s case.

Rosa, reduced to a shackled sleuth, continued sniffing around. But any leads that she uncovered had to be funneled to the cold case team for follow-up. By all accounts, this unit remained too busy to work the case they had just overtaken. Inexplicably, they also halted cooperation with Team Adam.

SBSD’s Robert Warrick (second from left) stands behind Yucaipa PD Deputy Alisha Rosa during an October 2021 ceremony in which she was promoted to detective and moved to the Twin Peaks Station. Warrick previously worked at the Twin Peaks Station and responded to CEDU’s call about Daniel Yuen. (San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department)

By spring, counterintuitive SBSD decisions had turned Daniel’s case inactive and unprioritized again. Knowing this, Rosa asked an overworked Homicide team to return her three CEDU cases, including Daniel’s. An official request made was apparently met with silence. Furthermore, Twin Peaks Station’s captain, Don Lupear, admonished Rosa for requesting her CEDU cases back.

Despite Rosa’s progress, Lupear made it clear to LAMag that his detective wouldn’t be working on Daniel’s case again.

Numerous SBSD officials refused to answer questions posed by LAMag regarding why the Homicide team took these CEDU cases only to ignore them and why help from Team Adam had been nixed.

After Daniel’s case left Detective Rosa’s desk, her direct connection to the Yuens ended. The case’s new lead detective, Eric Ogaz, stopped returning the Yuens’ phone calls last spring. “I followed up with him twice and then he’s never available to answer the call,” Lisa Yuen told LAMag. “I didn’t even know if he’s working on the case. That’s my confusion.”

After long stretches of silence, another SBSD Homicide detective, Edward Hernandez, begrudgingly responded to the Yuens’ calls. According to the Yuens’ conversation with Hernandez, Detective Ogaz left Daniel’s investigation; no explanation for this departure was given. If correct, Daniel’s case burned through two lead investigators in less than a year.

On a phone call apparently teeming with hostility, Hernandez questioned why the Yuens wanted to obtain their son’s police report and asked “who else is looking for it,” Lisa Yuen recalled to LAMag. Hernandez also admitted by phone that this is ”still considered a missing person case and not a homicide cold case,” Lisa said.

As of today, Daniel’s case number remains tied to the Twin Peaks Station and is still affiliated with Rosa’s missing persons caseload. Yet the case is actually sitting at the Homicide division in San Bernardino City and Rosa is blocked from assisting with it. Jeff Allison, the lieutenant overseeing the department’s Public Affairs Division, declined to explain to LAMag why senior SBSD officers won’t let Rosa work her own case.

Wayne Yuen doesn’t seem surprised by SBSD’s disorientating drama. “They have never done anything for Daniel’s case,” he flatly told LAMag.

A Return to New Jersey

Buried in the middle of over 500 pages of Yuen v. CEDU documents is a list of admissions that needed to be pried from amateurish, elusive institutions. Among them, to “[a]dmit that an area search was not performed to locate Daniel on February 8, 2004” and to ”[a]dmit that no CEDU employee or agent witnessed Daniel Yuen leaving the CEDU campus when he ran away.”

The Yuens still haven’t received these acknowledgments. However, after 19 years of calling a faraway police department that seems disinclined to investigate, an SBSD sergeant recently offered a professional tip on how the Yuens could solve their son’s disappearance—trying

“He said some cases were resolved after people submitted DNA through that website,” Lisa Yuen wrote to LAMag. “This sergeant just wants us to stop bothering them,” Wayne added.

Robert Warrick, the deputy behind Daniel’s flimsy runaway report, is now the captain of SBSD’s Morongo Basin Patrol Station. The reporting party, Stephen Kravchuck, is now a psychologist who has since relocated to New Jersey, roughly 90 minutes from the Yuens’ home.

Almost 20 years after Kravchuck reported their son as a kid storming off for cigarettes, would he like to adjust his narrative?

Kravchuck declined to respond to LAMag. So, in November, the Yuens reached out instead with the two numbers we provided. They were unable to reach him. “I even wanted to leave a message for a new patient message box and was not successful,” Lisa told LAMag. “If the numbers are used for business and helping others, why is it so hard to talk to anyone?”

Despite a shared New Jersey connection, the closest Lisa and Wayne Yuen can get to the man who sparked their son’s case is a throwaway SoCal police report from 2004. And inside it, an adult counselor sharing an improbable story is identified as a victim and a 16-year-old trying to escape institutional abuse is labeled as “Suspect No. 1.”

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