Archive for May, 2009

The Search for Satan Fourteen Years Later

May 29, 2009
By Lynn Crook, M.Ed.

(permission granted to post)

AUTHOR NOTE: In my initial review of PBS Frontline’s “The Search for Satan” for Treating Abuse Today I reported some of the problems I had discovered in this documentary: (1) In several clips, producer Bikel flashed a quick shot of a document and narrowed the camera focus to one statement. Using the pause button, I was able to read the rest of the document. There I learned that Mary Shanley was not, as the producers claimed, “having a normal life and doing normal things” before her hospitalization in Houston. (2) The film contained a surprising number of recreated scenes which were not labeled as such. (3) A supposedly direct quote from FBI agent Ken Lanning had been edited. (4) A call to the State of Illinois revealed that Shanley had not been “listed with the State of Illinois as a child abuser,” nor had her teaching certificate been listed as “restrictive.” (5) I did some research and found the producers failed to mention that Shanley had been hospitalized at four different hospitals and received a diagnosis of “mixed personalities.”

I titled my review “Smoke and Mirrors,” and it appeared in the Jan/Feb 1996 issue of Treating Abuse Today.

Two years later, the women featured in the film, Shanley and Pat Burgus, had both settled their lawsuits against their therapists. Shanley’s case settled with a gag order in place. Malpractice carrier AIG and two others had settled Burgus’s case for $10.6 million .The medical license of Burgus’s psychiatrist was suspended for two years. Five of Shanley’s mental health care providers were indicted on federal fraud and conspiracy charges.

I flew down to Houston in September of 1998 to cover the trial in federal court, and was in the courtroom when Shanley was on the witness stand. During cross-examination, defense attorney Rusty Hardin discredited virtually all of the claims Shanley had made in “Search.” Shanley acknowledged she recalled memories of cult abuse long before she met the defendants, and could not name any false memories that Peterson had supposedly implanted. The government rested its case after five months. All charges against the five defendants were then dismissed.

My follow-up review “The Search for Satan: Three Years Later” was published in the September/October 1998 issue of Treating Abuse Today.

In 2001, I reviewed the lengthy deposition of Pat Burgus, the second woman featured in “The Search for Satan.” I found that on January 17, 1997, Burgus had acknowledged that her psychiatrist had not implanted any false memories. Instead, he had only passed on to her what other patients at the hospital had reported about her (Deposition, pp. 912-913). Based upon Burgus’s deposition, her mental health had improved significantly during her hospitalization.

The following article has been slightly revised from the version that appeared in Treating Abuse Today in 1998.

“The Search for Satan”: Three Years Later

“Two troubled women. Both sought help from some of the top doctors in the country. The diagnosis? Satanic ritual abuse!..After millions of dollars in treatment, the women now say, ‘The doctors were wrong!’”

So begins Frontline’s 1995 film, “The Search for Satan.” The media hailed the film as an “indictment against therapists” and the film was re-broadcast by public television stations around the world.

The “two troubled women” were Mary Shanley and Pat Burgus. “Some of the top doctors” were Bennett Braun, Roberta Sachs in Chicago and Judith Peterson in Houston. “The diagnosis” was not “satanic ritual abuse,” but multiple personality disorder.

“The Search for Satan” on Frontline

“The Search for Satan” was produced and written by Ofra Bikel and Rachel Dreitzen for PBS Frontline. “Search” aired on October 24, 1995. At its website, Frontline describes its commitment to viewers.

From its inception, FRONTLINE has never shied away from tough, controversial issues or stories others avoided because they seemed too gray and complex for the black and white spectrum of conventional broadcast journalism. For there is an aesthetic goal as well: the fusion of credible, thoughtful reportage with compelling narrative, the story well told. In the end, that is the core of Frontline’s commitment to its viewers.

The following excerpts compare the Frontline producers’ “credible, thoughtful reportage” in 1995 to what their interviewees said under oath during US v. Peterson et al. in 1998.


Search – Shriner said the Shanleys were the typical loving family. Mary was a model wife and mother, her husband’s lover and best friend, a woman filled with patience, the perfect feminine presence in a typical, loving family. She had a wonderful relationship with her son, Ryan. Mary was a great mom, she had tons of patience.
Shriner testified that Mary experienced panic attacks. Mary was increasingly disturbed by her angry outbursts against Ryan and Joe, and the Shanleys were experiencing marital problems.


Search – “I was in very poor health [when I left SSG].”
Shanley, a slender woman, testified during direct examination that she had gained 25 pounds since her Spring Shadows Glen (SSG) release. During cross, Shanley appeared confused when shown hospital records indicating that she weighed 108 pounds when she entered SSG, her weight dropped to 105 pounds during her stay, and she weighed 108 when she left SSG. Shanley testified during direct that she was prevented from seeing a dentist despite her complaints of pain from an abscessed tooth. However, hospital records showed that she refused dental care for 2 months prior to November 3rd because she felt that dental care prior to that date would be “triggering.” She was prescribed antibiotics to contain the dental infection. She complained of back pain due to abreactive sessions and was prescribed additional voluntary restraints to support her back.

Search – NARRATOR: In 1988, Mary fell into a deep depression… MARY: Because I was suffering from seizures and blackouts, the counselor thought I might be suffering from a dissociative disorder. So I went for an evaluation at the best hospital in Chicago [Rush Presbyterian-St. Lukes’ Medical Center].
– Two years prior to entering the dissociative disorders unit at Rush, Shanley was evaluated and hospitalized for memory blackouts and self-harming episodes at the following facilities: Alexian Brothers in May 1989, Forrest Hospital in January 1990, Old Orchard in March 1990 and Rush Memorial in 1990. She was hospitalized at SSG in Houston in May 1991, and discharged in June 1993. Under cross, it was shown that insurance claims reviewers determined that Shanley was “chronically suicidal,” hence, “untreatable,” and advised that she should be placed in a nursing home. Shanley refused this option, and SSG staff assisted her in finding housing and employment.


Search – ‘‘These kids [Pat Burgus two sons] came into the hospital as really stable, well-functioning kids.”
Contrary to hospital records indicating the boys were very troubled, McDonald testified that the boys were stable because, in her judgment, they appeared stable. She further testified that she decided that a patient whose hospital records stated that she had been sexually abused could not have been sexually abused if a gynecological report showed that the patient’s hymen was intact

Search – “It became very clear to the nurses that if we objected that there would be a reprisal, and that reprisal would be a transfer off the unit, a demotion and in some cases an actual termination’
Under cross, McDonald could name no instances in which nurses were transferred, demoted or terminated. McDonald was eventually demoted for below-standard nursing practices.

Frontline’s “Guidelines on Journalistic Standards and Practices”

Frontline’s Guideline #7 states that “where it may be appropriate to re-enact or stage an event, it must be labeled clearly and unmistakably as such.”

Readers may recall a powerful scene from “The Search for Satan” which showed Shanley seated in a large, crowded church sanctuary as the pastor supposedly told his congregation: “In April of 1989, satanism came out of the closet for all of us to see it in all of its ugliness. The satan worshippers that pose the greatest threat to our society are the secret splinter groups, scores of clandestine groups are meeting right here in our neighborhood and the amount of activity is on the rapid increase…”

Under cross-examination, Shanley testified that she had never attended this church. The scene was not labeled as a re-enactment.

The Guidelines say that producers “will exercise extreme care in checking the accuracy and credibility of all information they receive, especially as it may relate to accusations of wrongdoing.”

During her final day on the witness stand, Shanley testified that she now views her hospital treatment as “worse than it was” and that, at some future time, and she might “testify differently” regarding her hospitalization experiences.
In response, the defense stood to object, “But Ms. Shanley, these defendants are facing prison terms.”

For reasons that remain unexplained, PBS pulled “The Search for Satan” from its mail order list.

The ISSD Responds to “The Search for Satan”

The International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD) issued a statement in December 1995 in response to the film’s characterization of the diagnosis and treatment of MPD (now referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder [DID]).

“The majority of people who suffer from Dissociative Identity Disorder are not diagnosed impulsively or capriciously, as was implied by this Frontline segment . . . Research has documented that, on average, people with Dissociative Identity Disorder have spent seven years in the mental health system before the diagnosis is recognized and maximally effective treatment can be provided . . . Although some persons with Dissociative Identity Disorder allege that they experienced ritual abuse during childhood, most do not make allegations of this kind, as was implied by this segment of Frontline . . . The ISSD strongly discourages therapists and members of the media from sensationalizing the diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder and from publicly appearing with, portraying, or otherwise exploiting individuals who suffer from this painful disorder. We urge the media to educate the public by presenting scientific information on this and all mental illnesses in a balanced and responsible manner.”

Co-producer Ofra Bikel Responds

Producer Bikel posted her response on the WITCHHNT listserve on January 3, 1996.

“I have made a point not to get involved in the arcane arguments among the various therapists, or schools of therapy, regarding my programs “Divided Memories” and “The Search for Satan.” But now that the ISSD official ‘response’ to my last program has appeared on the Internet, looking as if it sprang right out of Alice in Wonderland, I would like to say a few words about it . . . The program “In Search of Satan” [sic] was about two specific cases: two women, their children, and their therapists. The three therapists [Braun, Sachs, Peterson] were named repeatedly, as were their hospitals. . . . If I understand what I read correctly, it is supposedly a response to what the program ‘misleadingly implied’. But the program did not imply anything other than what it reported, and any answer to it must deal with the facts it exposed, before launching into their perceived implications . . . But a lofty declaration of principles and aspirations, cloaked as a damning response to myself and Frontline, while avoiding every single fact the program brought up, seems to me self-serving and cowardly.”


Dramatics accounts of satanic ritual abuse and years of “bad therapy” have caught the attention of the media. However, presenting uncorroborated claims as fact and failing to check an interviewee’s credibility cannot be excused on any grounds.


Crook, L. (1996). Smoke and mirrors. Treating Abuse Today, 5(6) & (6)1, 87-93.

Guidelines on journalistic standards and practices. (1996, February). Frontline. Boston: WGBH.

Smith, M. (1998, October 9). Former patient can’t attribute false memories to therapy. Houston Chronicle. Online at:


Frans Day Care

May 29, 2009
Fran’s Day Care
Randy Noblitt, PhD

(permission granted to post)

©Copyright R. Noblitt 2009. All rights reserved.

In recent days, an interest in the case of Fran and Dan Keller has reemerged and that reemergence has triggered new interest in the outcries of children that resulted in several investigations, trials, convictions, and tragedies throughout the 1990s. I can speak about Fran’s Day Care with some authority.

In 1992, the Travis County prosecutor’s office contacted me for advice as to how they should proceed with a bizarre case involving multiple child victims of sexual and ritual abuse in a day care. The accused perpetrators were the owners-operators of the nursery, Fran and Dan Keller. The day care was situated in a remote area beyond the suburbs of Austin, Texas. At this time, the legal community was reeling from the McMartin Day Care ordeal which was the costliest prosecution in California history up to that time, and had resulted in two hung juries in a seven-year prosecution. The prosecution, wishing to learn from the mistakes of McMartin, wanted advice regarding how to proceed without contaminating the children’s stories, compromising the alleged perpetrators’ rights, and getting to the truth of the children’s outcries.

Some of the parents whose children attended the preschool became suspicious when their children returned home wearing underwear not their own, or with their clothes inside out or with their hair wet. There were always reasonable explanations: the child had an accident and was changed into clothes on hand for that purpose; or the child splashed water on herself when the children were cleaning up; and so forth. However, when one of the children made an outcry, the parents more closely scrutinized the strange behaviors some of the children had started engaging in and the aforementioned episodes, and they took their concerns to the police. The police took the concerns seriously and collected statements and evidence. The grand jury found a basis for indictment. The Kellers responded to the warrant for their arrest by fleeing the state in disguise, obtaining false identifications in their new personas, and attempting to leave the country. They were apprehended in Las Vegas, Nevada and extradited back to Travis County.

It was at this point that I was introduced to the situation. I was in private practice in Dallas, two hundred miles north of Austin and had no knowledge of what was happening at Fran’s Day Care. The prosecutor, Judy Shipway, contacted me for advice on how to deal with the children, their stories, their parents’ reactions, and the impact of ritual abuse allegations on the court. I advised her to focus on the sexual abuse allegations for which there was substantial support and evidence. I expressed my opinion that introducing the topic of ritual abuse would be exploited by the defense as a means of discrediting the children. I also advised Ms. Shipway to make sure that every child had a therapist and that no therapist treat more than one child from Fran’s Day Care. Finally, I advised the prosecutor to request that the children’s parents not communicate with one another until after the trial to avoid inadvertent contamination of their children’s stories and their own interpretations. These suggestions were all implemented.

I was also invited to review the evidence which included drawings and writings produced by Danny Keller; the confession of co-defendant Doug Perry; the testimony of the children. I was able to describe for the prosecution the kinds of abuses ritually practiced by various groups and individuals and explain the psychological consequences of such abuse. I was able to interpret for the prosecutor the children’s stories in the context of what had been learned from other victims including the use of coercion, duplicity, threats, and other means of controlling survivors of such abuse.

Although several children at the day care were thought to have been sexually and ritually traumatized, some of them were so young that they did not yet speak in complete sentences. Some of them were identified by other victims. Three of the children were selected to represent the whole population. These were slightly older children, five and six years old, and they were able to convey their stories most articulately of all the child victims.

As the trial commenced, the prosecution developed an excellent case against the Kellers. I was surprised only by the defense attorneys’ rather blasé approach to their defense of the Kellers, perhaps operating under the assumption that the children would not be believed. In defense of the Kellers, their attorneys did raise the specter of ritual abuse by introducing into evidence the book Sex Abuse Hysteria: The Salem Witch Trials Revisited (Gardner, 1991), which promoted the idea that sexual and ritual abuse allegations by children were projections of their parents (and other adults’) latent pedophilia. It was at this point that I was asked to take the stand as an expert witness and address the topic of ritual abuse and Gardner’s book.

The case ended with the conviction of the Kellers and their sentencing to 48 years in prison each. They are in prison still, any efforts for appeal having failed to date. Shortly after the trial, the magazine, Texas Monthly, published a piece by Gary Cartwright in which he implied that the Kellers were the true victims in this sorry tale. He did me the courtesy of a call to “fact check” his story, particularly ideas attributed to me, except that it was only after the issue had been published.

Recently, the Fran’s Day Care case was dredged up by the Austin Chronicle, an alternative periodical produced locally in Texas. My son sent me the link in an email with the heading, “Dad, you’re in the news again.” Once more, the perspective was one of advocacy for falsely accused, persecuted, prosecuted, and convicted victims of a malicious or inept legal system that places too much trust in the stories children tell. A particular flaw in this story was the story. It was certainly not founded on anything I witnessed during my participation in the case. Evidence was not withheld from the prosecution to my knowledge. The defense was left flat-footed by their own conviction that the children would not be believed. And the advice I offered may have helped to prevent influence or contamination of the children’s testimony. The children’s stories were credible – Fran and Dan Keller’s defense was not. End of story? Probably not. I doubt that we have heard the last of Fran and Dan or of their day care or of their victims.

Interestingly enough, the Austin Chronicle article, Believing the Children, ended with a reference to one of the child victims, Veejay Staelin, a now 21-year old. Although he declined to be interviewed for the story, he re-asserted that he had been abused by Fran and Dan Keller.

McMartin, Day Care and Child Abuse Case Information

May 29, 2009
The McMartin Preschool Case – What Really Happened and the Cover-up Investigations of the McMartin Preschool Site by E. Gary Stickel, Ph.D. This is the final report, written by Dr. E. Gary Stickel, describing his findings at the McMartin preschool site in Manhattan Beach, California.

Day Care and Child Abuse Cases

This page has information on the McMartin Preschool Case, Michelle  Remembers, the Fells Acres – Amirault Case,the Wenatchee, Washington Case, the  Dale Akiki Case, the Glendale Montessori – Toward case and the Little Rascals  Day Care Center case.

Sexual Abuse in Day Care: A National Study – Executive Summary – March 1988 – Finklehor, Williams, Burns, Kalinowski “The study identified 270 “cases” of sexual abuse in day care meaning 270 facilities where substantiated abuse had occurred involving a total of 1639 victimized children….This yielded an estimate of 500 to 550 reported and substantiated cases and 2500 victims for the three-year period. Although this is a large number, it must be put in the context of 229,000 day care facilities nationwide service seven million children….allegations of ritual abuse (”the invocation of religious, magical or supernatural symbols of activities”) occurred in 13% of the cases.” The authors divided these cases into “true cult-based ritual,” pseudo-ritualism” with a primary goal of sexual gratification and ritual being used to intimidate the children from disclosing and “psychopathological ritualism” the activities being “primarily the expression of an individuals obsessional or delusional system.”

describes crimes – Reporter’s Notebook: 6 Months of California Case By Robert Lindsey Published: February 13, 1985 “Prosecutors say they intend to present as witnesses 41 former pupils of the school, almost all of whom, physicians testified at the hearing, showed physical evidence of having been sexually abused. The second of the children to testify at the hearing, a 10-year-old boy who attended the McMartin Preschool almost five years ago, has now been on the witness stand for nine days, including eight days under intense cross examination by defense lawyers who have been trying to find inconsistencies in his story. So far, often under rapid-fire questioning that might wither some adult witnesses, the child has stuck to his story with only minor contradictions. He described being sodomized or otherwise sexually molested by all seven of the defendants and asserted that children had been made to pose for pornographic pictures. The 10-year-old boy repeated under cross examination an account of how he and other children were taken to a church where he said adults wearing masks and black robes danced and moaned while Mr. Buckey went to the altar and killed pet rabbits, turtles and birds and threatened to kill the children’s parents the same way if the children told of the alleged abuse.

describes crimes – Boy, 7, Is Witness in California Child Abuse Case by Robert Lindsey January 23, 1985 A 7-year- old boy testified today that he had played ”naked games” at the Virginia McMartin Preschool near here and that in at least one of the games teachers at the school had touched his genital organs….Prosecutors have asserted that more than 100 children were abused at the school in the past decade. All the defendants have denied the charges, which date from 1978….After pointing out his former teachers in the courtroom, the boy said he had played ”naked games” at the school. Describing a game called ”Cowboys and Indians” under questioning by Glenn Stevens, a deputy district attorney, the boy said the children playing the game were taken into a room. ”They’d put us in jail; they’d touch us in jail,” he said. ”How did the teachers touch you?” Mr. Stevens asked. ”In the penis,” the boy replied….While Mr. Stevens appeared satisfied with the answers regarding the first game the child mentioned, he was less successful when questioning the child about two other games, called ”the Alligator Game” and ”Naked Movie Star.” In both games, the boy said, children were asked by other children to remove their clothes, but he seemed to draw a blank whenever he was asked to give details. ”I don’t remember,” the boy said repeatedly. The first grade pupil also testified that Mr. Buckey had cut the ears off rabbits and injured other pets in front of the children and had threatened to harm their parents if they told anyone about the alleged sexual molestation.

describes crimes of abuse

Satanism Linked To Scores of U.S. Child Abuse Cases Edward W. Lempinen. San Francisco Chronicle 11/5/87 p. A1 Satanism and cult rituals have been linked to scores of child-molestation cases nationwide in the past five years, including dozens in California. Children as young as 2 and 3 years old have come forward with harrowing tales of drinking blood, animal sacrifices and sexual abuse as part of rituals, according to law enforcement investigators, child abuse experts and parents. Others have even talked of cannibalism and ritual sacrifice of children. After hearing similar tales over and over from people across the country, many investigators and child abuse experts now have come to believe in the unbelievable….In San Francisco, police confirmed last week that they are investigating reports by a 3-year-old girl who claimed that she was taken from a day-care center at the Presidio Army base and driven to a home where she was molested by two men in costumes. Police suspect that the home was the headquarters of the Temple of Set, a Nazi-Satanic group, and they have listed the temple’s high priest as a possible suspect. No arrests have been made. Investigators and parents have declined to give details of the cases of at least 58 children who attended the Presidio Child Development Center, fearing that they might jeopardize the prosecution of a former day-care worker. But in other cases across the nation, experts say there is striking evidence of ritualized sexual abuse that recurs in case after case: — At West Point, N.Y., Army families have pressed an investigation into widespread child abuse at a military day-care center in 1983 and 1984….But an increasingly influential group of legal, psychological and medical experts say they are beginning to amass considerable testimony and circumstantial evidence of cult and Satanic abuse nationwide – and dating back four generations or more. Sandi Gallant, an intelligence officer with the San Francisco police and one of the nation’s most influential experts on cults, cautions that many cases are proving unfounded. But she says that there have been 60 to 70 “solid” cases of ritual sexual abuse in the past few years nationwide. She and others have heard hundreds of children and adult – people who have never met and who live a continent apart – tell stories that are fundamentally the same. “Independently, the victims are describing incredibly similar circumstances,” said Catherine Gould, a clinical psychologist in the Los Angeles district of Encino who has counseled dozens of children who claim they were molested in rituals.

verification of the accuracy of the book “Michelle Remembers“by Michelle Smith and Lawrence Pazder, MD from the book “A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER” pages xi – xiii”

“Dr. Pazder’s credentials are impressive. He obtained his M.D. from the University of Alberta in 1961; his diploma in tropical medicine from the University Liverpool in 1962; and in 1968, his specialist certificate in psychiatry and his diploma in psychological medicine from McGill University. In 1971, he was made a fellow of Canada’s Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons. He is a member of three Canadian professional associations and of the American Psychiatric Association as well. He practiced medicine in West Africa and has participated in medical task forces and health organizations. He has been chairman of the Mental Health Committee of the Health Planning Council for British Columbia. A member of the staff of two hospitals in Victoria, British Columbia -the Royal Jubilee and the Victoria General-he is in private practice with a group of five psychiatrists. His professional papers include a study of the long-term effects of stress upon concentration-camp victims.

Two experienced interviewers journeyed to Victoria and talked to Dr. Pazder’s colleagues, to the priests and the bishop who became involved in the case, to doctors who treated Michelle Smith when she was a child, to relatives and friends. From local newspaper, clergy, and police sources they learned that reports of Satanism in Victoria are not infrequent and that Satanism has apparently existed there for many years. Satanism in Western Canada flourished in many areas with activities far more ominous than some of the innocuous groups now found in parts of the United States who claim some connection with Satanism.

The source material was scrutinized. The many thousands of pages of transcript of the tape recordings that Dr. Pazder and Michelle Smith made of their psychiatric sessions were read and digested; they became the basis of this book. The tapes themselves were listened to in good measure, and the videotapes made of some of his sessions were viewed. Both the audio and video are powerfully convincing. It is nearly unthinkable that the protracted agony they record could have been fabricated.”

Thomas B. Congdon, Jr New York April 22, 1980

Fells Acres – Amirault Case /hardoon.htm

Letters to the Editor: The Real Darkness Is Child Abuse WALL STREET JOURNAL (J) 02/24/95


As the chief prosecutor of both of the Amirault cases I am writing to prevent the public from being misled into believing that an injustice occurred as Dorothy Rabinowitz alleges in her Jan. 30 editorial-page piece “A Darkness in Massachusetts.”

Her suggestion that the convictions were based on “some of the most fantastic claims ever presented” presumptuously ignores the reality of the cases. The three Amiraults — Gerald, Violet and Cheryl – were convicted after two trials before different judges and juries almost one year apart. They were represented by able and well-known defense counsel. The convictions were upheld after review by state and federal appellate courts. The McMartin case in California was the result of a botched legal system and Kelly Michaels’s conviction was overturned because of legal errors. Contrary to Ms. Rabinowitz’s implication, the Amirault convictions were neither of these.

Studies show, as did testimony from a nationally recognized pediatric gynecologist, that most sexually molested young children have absolutely normal physical examinations. However, in Amirault, the majority of the female children who testified had some relevant physical findings, as did several female children involved in the investigation who did not participate in the trial. The findings included labial adhesions and hymenal scarring of the sort present in avery small percentage of non-sexually abused children.

Ms. Rabinowitz’s article is a superficial, one-sided look at a case handled extensively and carefully by the legal system. The victims and their families in these cases have been irrevocably harmed by what was done to them by the Amiraults. Every argument raised by Ms. Rabinowitz was ably presented by the defense at the trials. The juries, by their verdicts, rejected these arguments. Justice was done.

see for actual case evidence -vs-amirault-424-mass-618-page-624.jpg

“All nine children testified in a broadly consistent way…The children testified to numerous instances of sexual abuse. Some of the children testified that they were photographed during this abuse, describing a big camera with wires, a red button, and pictures which came out of the camera. The children testified that the defendant threatened them and told them that their families would be harmed if they told anyone about the abuse….The Commonwealth also presented a pediatric gynecologist and pediatrician who examined five of the girls who testified…She made findings consistent with abuse in four of the girls.”

http://pqasb.pqarchive ;FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Aug+7%2C+2001&author=Peter+Gelzinis&pub=Boston+H erald&edition=&startpage=002&desc=Amirault%27s+accusers+reveal+the ir+faces%2C+and+their+pain

Amirault’s accusers reveal their faces, and their pain Boston Herald – Boston, Mass. – Peter Gelzinis – Aug 7, 2001 0/

Mass. Victims Fight Commutation Plea By Leslie Miller, Associated Press Writer


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) – Victims in the Fells Acres child abuse case broke down Thursday as they described their pain publicly for the first time in hopes of keeping the last person convicted in the case behind bars. Victims urged her to keep Amirault in prison. “During counseling meetings as a child, I would speak of a tall man touching me and taking pictures of me,” Phaedra Hopkins, 20, said at an emotional news conference. “So many times, Mr. Amirault hovered over me, touched me and hurt me and committed many disgusting acts of abuse.” Those children, now adults, stood by their testimony Thursday.

“This family raped me, molested me and totally ruined my life,’’said Jennifer Bennett, who was 3 1/2 years old when she started at Fells Acres. “We weren’t coaxed. We weren’t lying. We’re telling the truth and we always will,” said Bennett, 22. “I was there. None of you were there. We weren’t coaxed, nor were we ever ever ever brainwashed.”Brian Martinello, 21, said he was sexually abused by Amirault. His mother, Barbara Standke, claims her son came home from the day care with sores on his genitals and other people’s underwear. “I think it’s an absolute disgrace to let anyone out of prison for such a disgusting crime,” Martinello said.

Paul Ingram – Thurston County Washington Case

Seattle Post-Intelligencer – June 8, 1996 – News, Pg. B1 – Son of Deputy Says He Was Sexually Abused ; Dramatic Report in Testimony to Clemency Panel -: Rachel Zimmerman P-I Capitol Bureau – Olympia


The son of Paul Ingram, a former Thurston County deputy sheriff who confessed to raping his daughters during nightmarish satanic rituals but later recanted, said for the first time yesterday that he was physically and sexually abused by his father for eight years. Chad Ingram, 27, told the state Pardons and Clemency Board that his father, who is serving 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to six counts of third-degree rape – crimes he now says never happened – said he was abused by his father from ages 4 to 12. “He would put himself on top of me and I would perform oral sex on him,” Chad Ingram said.

Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards, though the case never went to trial, it was subject to intense judicial scrutiny, “all the way up to the Ninth Circuit.” Edwards added, “This case was not perfect but it had complete judicial review. “Paul Ingram did commit these crimes; he plead guilty to these crimes. I have no problem shaving in the morning. I can look myself in the mirror.”

The Facade of Scientific Documentation: A Case Study of Richard Ofshe’s Analysis of the Paul Ingram Case” by Karen Olio and William Cornell. APA’s journal “Psychology, Public Policy, and Law,” (1998, Vol. 4, No. 4, 1182-1197) “The case of Paul Ingram, a man who pleaded guilty to sexually abusing his daughters, has received widespread media attention. Richard Ofshe (1992, 1994) set forth a narrative of the case which included his account of an experiment to test the veracity of Ingram’s confessions and concluded that the inadvertent use of hypnosis during Ingram’s interrogation resulted in the creation of pseudomemories that convinced Ingram of his guilt. On the basis of an examination of the original source documents, the authors discusses the errors of fact, methodological flaws, and confounding factors in Ofshe’s rendering of this case of alleged child abuse. They also cite examples of the extent to which Ofshe’s imperfect narrative of this case and pseudoscientific conclusions have been uncritically accepted and repeated in the literature…”

Harvard Society for Law & Public Policy, Inc. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy – Spring, 1999 – 22 Harv. J.L. & Pub. Pol’y 523 The Guilty and the “Innocent”: an Examination of Alleged Cases of Wrongful Conviction from False Confessions by Paul G. Cassell -”According to the authors (Leo and Ofsche), in twenty-nine of these cases the false confession resulted in the wrongful conviction of an innocent person.” “examines nine of these twenty-nine cases in detail. Based on review of original trial court records and other similar sources, the part concludes that each of these nine persons were, in all likelihood, entirely guilty of the crimes charged against them.””Leo and Ofshe rely in large measure on secondary sources for the descriptions of the evidence against the defendants in their collection….For many cases, court records are available only in the local courthouses where the trial took place, while media accounts are often readily accessible in computerized databases. Relying on secondary sources, however, poses the risk of inaccurate recounting of the evidence. Examining primary sources for the cases in Leo and Ofshe’s collection reveals that this is a very real problem.” “The problems with the subjective determination of “innocence” in the Leo-Ofshe collection, like similar problems elsewhere, suggests that reliance on second-hand sources combined with understandable enthusiasm for the enterprise of discovering miscarriages may produce more such cases than really exist.” “Only a relative handful of Leo and Ofshe’s cases would satisfy the criterion of undisputed wrongful conviction.”

Wenatchee, Washington Case

information from articles :

At the trial, one girl showed “definite medical signs of sexual abuse” while “it could not be ruled out for two others.

In 1996, a consultant, retired Bellevue Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom, hired by a city insurer who looked into how the Wenatchee police ran the child abuse investigations stated that the cases were handled properly. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation also found that there was no evidence of civil rights violations.

Cops Win Wash. State Sex Ring Case – June 29, 1998 – Aviva L. Brandt AP Online – Seattle “A jury on Monday rejected claims of police misconduct brought by four people who say they were falsely accused of child rape and molestation. After deliberating for more than five days, the King County Superior Court panel decided that the central Washington town of Wenatchee, the town’s police officials and three members of the Douglas County sheriff’s department did not violate the civil rights of the four, who said they were falsely accused in 1994-95. Douglas County Sheriff Dan LaRoche said the verdict allows police to keep investigating sex abuse and molestation cases without fear of lawsuits.

Debate Rages Over Wenatchee Sex-Ring Allegations – November 6, 1995- Aviva L. Brandt, Associated Press Writer – Wenatchee, Wash.


A line divides this town. On one side are those who believe dozens of children were raped and molested over seven years by adults in two loosely organized sex rings. On the other are those who assert a rogue cop and obsessed social workers created a whirlpool of sexual hysteria- coaxing children into accusations and bullying bewildered, poorly educated adults into confessions. Gov. Mike Lowry, petitioned by critics who believe the case is a witch hunt, has asked for a Justice Department review and is awaiting a decision from U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Authorities say as many as 50 children were forced to have sex with adults since 1988 – sometimes alone, sometimes in groups. In the last year, 28 adults have been charged with child rape and sexual abuse. Five have been convicted, 10 have pleaded guilty.

“Every female victim had physical evidence of sexual abuse and the majority of the males did,” Smith said. “Clearly it’s pretty good evidence to show that this is occurring.”

Douglas County Prosecutor Steve Clem sounded frustrated when asked about allegations that his office hasn’t bothered to look for the truth. “The defense attorneys are using what I’m sure … some day in the future will be called the O.J. defense, where they sling mud, make wild accusations and see conspiracies all around them,” he said.” There’s physical evidence consistent with the stories they (the children) tell. There’s more than one person talking about the very same things going on,” said Tim Abbey, a regional supervisor with the state Child Protective Services. “And there are a lot of confessions, and many times they’re confessing to more than the kids said happened.”

Dale Akiki Case

describes crimes

Ex-School Volunteer Acquitted of Child Abuse Charges Verdict: After deliberating for just seven hours, jury finds Dale Akiki not guilty on all 35 counts. Trial was longest in San Diego’s history. Los Angeles Times – Los Angeles, Calif. – Michael Granberry – Nov 20, 1993 4778&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Nov+20%2C+1993& author=MICHAEL+GRANBERRY&pub=Los+Angeles+Times+(pre-1997+Fulltext)&edi tion=&startpage=29&desc=Ex-School+Volunteer+Acquitted+of+Child+Abuse+C harges+Verdict%3A+After+deliberating+for+just+seven+hours%2C+jury+finds+Dale+A kiki+not+guilty+on+all+35+counts.+Trial+was+longest+in+San+Diego%27s+history

A Superior Court jury concluded a 7 1/2-month trial Friday by acquitting a former nursery school volunteer of 35 counts of child abuse and kidnapping that had kept him jailed without bail for 2 1/2 years….

Nearly 170 witnesses testified during Akiki’s trial-the longest in San Diego history-which ended after only seven hours of jury deliberation….

Several on the (jury) panel sided with Akiki’s attorneys, public defenders Kathleen Coyne and Susan Clemens, who tried to show that Akiki’s alleged victims-nine boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 5-had been systematically brainwashed by parents and therapists.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Avery, the lead prosecutor, disputed such claims.

“The whole idea of contamination and suggestibility just does not account for the major behavior changes that occurred (in the children) while they were in Dale Akiki’s (nursery school) class,” she said, referring to such incidents as bed-wetting and nightmares.

Witnesses accused Akiki of sexually molesting and terrorizing children at Faith Chapel charismatic church in Spring Valley by hanging them upside-down from a chandelier, dunking them in toilets and making them drink the blood of animals in ritualistic ceremonies.

Molestation Hearing Continues Next Week – Los Angeles Times – February 8, 1992 – San Diego County Edition

.…Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Avery has called some of the parents to testify about behavioral changes they observed in the children. “There were drastic changes observed,” Avery said. Defense attorney Kate Coyne, however, maintains that Akiki has been falsely accused by parents who did not like his physical appearance.

Judge Rejects Bail for Suspect In Molestations at Preschool – Los Angeles Times – May 25, 1991 Amy Wallace; Times Staff Writer

….But Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Avery, the prosecutor, said that, in addition to the grand jury testimony of seven children who attended the Faith Chapel in Casa de Oro, her case will rely on behavioral symptoms observed by parents months before any allegations of abuse were raised.

One mother said her daughter was so terrified of having her head near water that it was impossible to wash her hair, Avery said. Grand jury testimony later revealed that at least one child had had her head dunked in a toilet, she said.

Testimony was also heard that a child became hysterical when he was taken to a hospital to get stitches, apparently because he had a flashback of “the defendant holding him down and hurting him,” Avery said. The indictment filed against Akiki said he inflicted injuries on children with a needle.

Avery maintained that some of the children remain so traumatized by Akiki’s treatment that they have attempted suicide–one by running in front of a car, another with a knife.

Other Suspects Added to Child Sex Abuse Probe – Los Angeles Times – May 15, 1991 – Amy Wallace; Times Staff Writer

As many as three former child care workers at Faith Chapel in Spring Valley are suspected of molesting and abusing preschoolers over a 15-month period ending in August, 1989, a San Diego County prosecutor said Tuesday.

Speaking after the arraignment of Dale Anthony Akiki, a former church volunteer who was indicted last week on 50 felony counts of child molestation and related charges, Deputy Dist. Atty. Mary Avery said two other former child care workers are being investigated….

According to the 13-page indictment, which a grand jury returned after hearing live televised testimony from seven of the children, Akiki abused them sexually and physically, at times using a bottle top, a toy, a glass, a stick and a needle.

Church Volunteer Indicted in Molestations – Los Angeles Times – May 14, 1991 – Amy Wallace; Alan Abrahamson; Times Staff Writers

….Soon, Avery said, a couple of parents noticed that their children were exhibiting similar “unusual” and “regressive” behavior. The children had not yet said they were abused, Avery said, but the parents observed a pattern.

“In thinking it over, they realized the one thing the children had in common was they went to the same church,” she said.

The church asked a licensed social worker to assess whether there was reasonable suspicion of abuse and, after talking to a few families, he reported the case to the authorities.

Avery began investigating in February, 1990. Since then, she said, the district attorney’s office has kept Akiki under periodic surveillance, “to make sure he was not working with children during the week or involved with child care in any way.”

Avery said her case is strengthened by the fact that it relies on the children’s behavior as well as their testimony. “It will focus on behavior that was observed prior to the initial disclosure” of the alleged abuse, she said. “So there cannot be a contamination issue regarding behavior that occurred prior to anyone ever mentioning this to the children.”

Unlike other child molestation cases that rely largely on the testimony of the victims, the Akiki case is “one which can be cleanly and coherently presented to a jury for their determination,” said Steve Casey, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Glendale Montessori – Toward case
describes crimes

Headmaster’s evil lives on in 20-year-old abuse case By Jill Taylor Palm Beach Post Staff Writer 3/1/08 Stuart – Twenty years ago today, on a quiet street in a guard-gated Palm City community, investigators snapped handcuffs onto the wrists of a respected Montessori school headmaster and delivered a message the people of Martin County did not want to hear. Little children, lots of little children, were raped and defiled in unspeakable ways by a man some of the smartest and richest people in the community had trusted to care for their sons and daughters….Hours later, Toward’s office manager, Brenda Williams, turned herself in at the Martin County jail to answer similar charges. Four months later, Toward was charged with molesting and kidnapping five more preschool boys, and Williams was charged in four of those cases. Investigators later learned of up to 60 victims, most ages 2 to 5….Toward, now 77, pleaded guilty to molesting or kidnapping the six boys and was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He was released from his prison term on probation after 12 years, but has remained in custody under the state’s Jimmy Ryce Act, which allows confinement of sex offenders deemed a continuing danger to the community. Toward is challenging his commitment and maintains his innocence, saying his plea was only to avoid a harsher sentence. No date has been scheduled for a civil trial on the issue. He did not respond to a request for an interview. Part of Toward’s plea deal prevented prosecutors from filing more charges or arresting others they thought were involved when dozens more victims came forward later….”We found there were literally dozens of kids who were affected by this guy for a long time,” Colton said. “He spent his life manipulating people. He convinced people they could trust him with their children.” Ralicki expects she will be called to testify at an upcoming Jimmy Ryce hearing. She says she has no doubt that Toward still poses a threat to children. She can never forget what he did to the 20 or so children she treated….Williams pleaded no contest to sex and attempted kidnapping charges involving five boys, and was released from prison in 1993 after serving five years of a 10-year sentence. She could not be reached for comment, but is listed in records as owning a home in Vero Beach….
The psychotherapist Jeanne Ralicki, who treated many of the victims stated “There’s this whole underbelly of evil here that just oozes…Who wants to think that that exists in the world?”

Little Rascals Day Care Center case
(describes crimes)

Closing Arguments in Child-Abuse Trial By Ronald Smothers, 3/24/1992 New York Times – Calling the operator of a day-care center who is the defendant in a child sex-abuse case an “evil, evil man,” the prosecution in the eight-month-long case began closing arguments today, painstakingly recalling children’s testimony that jurors had not heard since September…. Mr. Kelly, 43 years old, is facing 100 charges of sexually abusing a dozen children in 1988 and 1989 at the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, N. C., 60 miles east of here. Originally there were 248 charges involving 22 children, but the prosecution has withdrawn many charges while Judge D. Marsh McLelland of Pitt County Superior Court has dismissed others. Six Others Charged – Still, the case remains one of the largest child sex-abuse cases in the nation’s history in terms of number of charges and alleged victims. The case also involves charges against Mr. Kelly’s wife, Elizabeth, three adult employees of the center and two other adults. All have been accused of fondling, raping and sodomizing the children at the center….Testifying on his own behalf in January, Mr. Kelly said he never touched any of the children in a sexual way….Using 8-by-10-inch color photographs of each of the dozen children who testified, Mrs. Lamb recounted their own childish words in testifying about what “Mr. Bob” did to them. The words, which were children’s euphemisms for sex organs and body parts, seemed incongruous coming from the adult prosecutor, but with repetition even that incongruity served to highlight the horror of the allegations.

Man convicted in N.C. child sex abuse case M. Mayfield 4/23/92 USA TODAY In April 1992, “Robert Kelly Jr. was convicted of 99 of 100 counts of rape and related crimes against children.” One of the mothers of the 12 children that testified against Kelly stated that she felt “overwhelming relief.” The six other defendants, including Kelly’s wife, would face trials later. The jury believed the children on the witness stand. One juror stated “the children were convincing.” Kelly and his supporters believed he was innocent. He was sentenced to 12 consecutive life terms in prison. The trial “included 83 prosecution witnesses and 60 defense witnesses.” The children had testified that Kelly had forced them to have different types of sex. The parents testified that the children exhibited abnormal behavior. “Twelve children, between the ages of 4 and 7, testified, and the results of physical and psychological tests of them were presented as evidence.”

Child Abuse Conviction in Day Care Case; N.C. Man Was Subject of Sympathetic Documentary – The Washington Post – April 23, 1992- Megan Rosenfeld ” North Carolina’s longest and most expensive trial came to a close yesterday with the conviction of former child-care center operator Robert Kelly on 99 of 100 charges of sexually abusing 12 children. Kelly’s wife, Betsy, and five other people are also charged with abusing children at the Little Rascals Day Care Center, but have yet to stand trial. Kelly’s trial, which started in August, included 83 prosecution witnesses and 60 defense witnesses. In the end, juror Dennis Ray told the Associated Press, “the children were convincing.” Twelve children, between the ages of 4 and 7, testified, and the results of physical and psychological tests of them were presented as evidence.

Day-Care Owner Is Convicted of Child Molesting 4/23/92 The longest and costliest criminal trial ever held in North Carolina ended today when the owner of a day-care center was convicted on 99 of 100 charges of sexually abusing 12 children there. After 14 days of deliberating, a Pitt County Superior Court jury found the 44-year-old defendant, Robert F. Kelly Jr., guilty of 4 counts of rape, 46 of taking indecent liberties, 36 of first-degree sexual offense and 13 crimes against nature. He was acquitted only of a single charge of taking indecent liberties with one of the 12 children….one juror, Dennis Ray, did speak to reporters, saying the panel had rejected the defense’s assertion of widespread hysteria and had believed the children. “The children were convincing,” Mr. Ray said.

Six months after Betsy’s release, the Appellate Court of North Carolina overturned the convictions of both Robert Kelly and Dawn Wilson, stating that there were legal errors by the prosecution. On May 23, 1997, the prosecution dropped all charges related to the Little Rascals case against the two.

Fran’s Day Care Case – Randy Noblitt, PhD

Baran case

Baran received a fair trial By William W. Simons – Pittsfield 9/13/03 “I have spent my professional life (going on 50 years) as a prosecutor, defense lawyer and Superior Court judge….I was the presiding judge in the Superior Court trial of Bernard Baran that took place in Pittsfield, extending for 10 days in January 1985. Baran was charged with rape and indecent assault and battery on six children while he was a child-care worker in a Pittsfield day care center. He was originally represented by the Public Defender’s Office but chose to obtain private counsel, Leonard Conway of Westfield. After his conviction on these cases involving five of the children, an appeal was taken on Baran’s behalf by Attorney David O. Burbank of Pittsfield, also an experienced and able trial and appellate counsel. The appeal was decided on March 27, 1986, affirming the convictions. Mr. Burbank sought further appellate review and that application was denied by the Supreme Judicial Court on May 30, 1986….The concern that young victims are prone to suggestibility pales in comparison to the suggestibility of grown and experienced newspapermen. A more serious injury is that distorted claims of injustice that seek freedom for Baran are not without consequences for society and this community, should they succeed.”

also see:

Halsey case

The Legend of Robert Halsey – Journal of Child Sexual Abuse, v9 n3-4 p37-52 2001 – Cheit, Ross E. Abstract: A brief narrative description of the journal article, document, or resource. Examines the criminal conviction of Robert Halsey for sexually abusing two young boys on his school-van route near Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Based on a comprehensive examination of the trial transcript, suggests that the credulous acceptance of the “false conviction” legend about Robert Halsey provides a case study in the techniques and tactics used to minimize and deny sexual abuse.

False-conviction chic in the Berkshires
Robert Halsey was convicted in 1993 of sexually abusing two boys on his school van route in Lanesboro, Mass. There was a mountain of evidence against him, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Now a growing movement is trying to suggest that Halsey was unjustly convicted. A country that cherishes the presumption of innocence still needs to learn something about the presumption of guilt. There is a dark side to the growing movement on behalf of persons falsely convicted by the criminal justice system: phony false-conviction claims. There is just such a phony claim currently brewing in the Berkshires….As long-time residents of the Berkshires will remember, Robert Halsey was convicted in 1993 of sexually abusing two boys on his school van route in Lanesboro, Mass. There was a mountain of evidence against him. The two boys…had clear medical signs of the abuse. Their disclosures were extremely detailed and they were written up well before the boys were involved in any repeat interviews, therapy sessions or other measures which are commonly cited as sources of “child suggestibility.”….Various parts of the boys’ testimony were corroborated by three other children, two of whom had moved to Florida nine months before Halsey was arrested.

The Legend of Robert Halsey: A cautionary tale about the dangers of “false-conviction chic”