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Feds Arrest Mom in Family Dispute Spanning Fresno to Missouri



photo of handcuffs on a booking slip
The victim allegedly was driven nearly 1,750 miles from Fresno to Stockton, Missouri, while handcuffed. (Shutterstock)
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Federal agents have arrested the mother of a local youth, as well as a former Missouri boarding school dean, for allegedly teaming up to take the teenager out of state against his will.

A federal indictment unsealed on Tuesday in Fresno charged Shana Gaviola, 35, formerly of Clovis, and Julio Sandoval, 41, of Piedmont, Missouri, with violating a protective order issued at the request of Gaviola’s son in July 2021, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced in a news release.

You can read the indictment at this link.

Sandoval was formerly the dean of students at Agape Boarding School “for at-risk or unmotivated boys” in southwest Missouri. He was also the founder of an agency that transported minors to the boarding school.

According to court documents, in 2020, Gaviola’s son began living apart from Gaviola with another family. He petitioned for emancipation from Gaviola and obtained a domestic violence protection order against Gaviola in Fresno County Superior Court.

Youth Kept in Handcuffs for Nearly 1,750 Miles

Despite the order, Gaviola and Sandoval made plans for Gaviola’s son to be forcibly transported from California to Missouri. Individuals acting on behalf of Gaviola and Sandoval found her son at a business in Fresno, handcuffed him, and forced him into a car, the indictment alleges.

He remained handcuffed for more than 24 hours while they drove nearly 1,750 miles from Fresno to Stockton, Missouri. He was held at the boarding school until his father freed him.

Sandoval Now at Another Unlicensed School

The Kansas City Star reported in February that Sandoval, who left the Agape Boarding School after five staffers were charged with abusing students, is now an officer at another unlicensed Christian school in Missouri.

The FBI, Fresno police, and Clovis police investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael G. Tierney is the prosecutor.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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