Court records tell story of torture, death at slave ranch

KERRVILLE, Texas -- The son of a central Texas rancher tape recorded torture sessions and repeatedly used a cattle prod on an injured drifter who eventually died, court records showed Thursday.

Mark Allen Hamilton, one of six hitchhikers who claimed they were enslaved at the ranch, said in a deposition that he participated in some of the torture sessions on drifter Anthony Bates, whose body was doused with gasoline and burned.


Hamilton said Bates, who injured his leg and could not perform hard work, was shocked with a cattle prod on '20 or 30 different occasions, each session lasting about one or two hours.'

Hamilton's statement, along with other depositions and documents attached to a search warrant served on the ranch last week, were entered into the public record at the Kerr County Courthouse.

Hamilton, a native of California whose wife was also held captive, alleged the shocks were administered mostly by Walter Wesley Ellebracht Jr., 31, the son of ranch owner Walter Wesley Ellebracht, 53.

'Bates was shocked on various parts of his body, including his genitals and his tongue, during the sessions,' Hamilton said. 'Eventually, Bates became very weak and died.'


Hamilton said he was forced to burn the body, then place the ashes in a drum which was thrown in the river. Charred bone fragments found at the ranch are being tested.

Hamilton said the younger Ellebracht tape recorded two of the alleged torture sessions. Court records showed 18 cassette tapes were recovered from the ranch.

Authorities also recovered chains, guns, a set of handcuffs and a cattle prod from the 3,500-acre ranch about 75 miles north of San Antonio.

Ellebracht, his father and wife, Joyce, 29, were being held in lieu of $100,000 bond each on charges of aggravated kidnapping.

Hamilton was one of six hitchhikers rescued April 6 from the ranch, where they claim they were enslaved, tortured and chained in a barn at night to prevent escape.

In their depositions, they said Joyce Ellebracht shot at bottles and stones near the workers' feet to see how close she could come without hitting them.

They said the Ellebrachts forced workers to sign statements that they worked at the ranch voluntarily and were paid for the work, and made one man sign his own suicide note before releasing him.

District Attorney Ron Sutton said he was considering murder charges against Ellebrachts.


Other victims who gave depositions were Darryl Hunsaker, 21, of Wichita Falls, Texas; Marshal Van Scoyk, 19, of San Antonio; Howard Bailey, 36, of Portland, Maine; and Travis Boyd, 36, who escaped from the ranch and called police.

Before Boyd escaped, he said he asked Joyce Ellebracht why they wanted to kill him and she allegedly said her mother-in-law 'had run off with a hitchhik

'And so this, as far as I know, was the reasoning behind the whole ordeal,' Boyd said.

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