Uncovering the Hidden

Remember, the OFFICIAL view of the U.S. Federal Administrative Government under Klinton was revealed by Attorney [Gestapo] General Janet Reno, during a Senate Investigation into the reason why the government murdered, by burning to death, the men, women and children, in a church on Mount Carmel, near Waco, Texas. Her OFFICIAL OPINION for the US FEDERAL ADMINISTRATION was '..to end the child abuse...'

The U.S. Child Abuse Industry

by Frontline, PBS

The Little Rascals Day Care Center | The McMartin Preschool | Fells Acres Day School | Wee Care Nursery | Country Walk | Wenatchee | The Bronx Five | Dale Akiki

The Little Rascals Day Care Center

FRONTLINE producer Ofra Bikel first arrived in Edenton, North Carolina in the spring of 1990. Seven people - including the owners and staff members of Little Rascals Day Care center - had been arrested and charged with child sexual abuse. They were facing over 400 counts of heinous sexual abuse against 29 children. The indictments involved rape and sodomy, intercourse in front of the children, forcing children to have intercourse with each other, conspiracy, photographing the abuse, urinating and defecating in front of the children, and much more.

Over the next seven years, Bikel and FRONTLINE chronicled the story of the seven defendants, following the investigation, the trials and the twists and turns in the criminal justice process. Bikel produced three FRONTLINE documentaries about the case: "Innocence Lost" (1991); "Innocence Lost: The Verdict "(1993); and "Innocence Lost: The Plea" (1997). Little Rascals became one of the largest and most well-known in the wave of child sexual abuse cases in day care settings that seemed to sweep across the country during the 1980's and early '90's.

Edenton, North Carolina, a small, rural community nestled on Albemarle Sound, was settled in the late 17th century. Once the unofficial state capital, it is filled with historic markers and lovely colonial homes. Approximately 6000 people live in the town. It's a tightly-knit community, made up of families who have known each other all of their lives and whose grandparents knew each other.

Betsy Kelly was born and grew up there. Her father, Warren Twiddy, was a successful local businessman in Edenton, who prided himself on being able to provide whatever was needed for his two daughters. In 1988 he bought and renovated an old bottling plant for Betsy and her husband, Robert (Bob) Kelly, so they could relocate their business, the Little Rascals day care center.

Betsy and Bob had been running the day care out of a rundown, rambling house that had become too small. In late September 1988, Betsy and Bob, their employees, and the children moved in. It was the most prestigious day care in town, filled with the children of Edenton's most established families.

The beginnings of the Little Rascals case......

The case started in the winter of 1988-89, just months after the new day care had opened. According to the prosecution, one of the mothers, Audrey Stever, told local police investigator Brenda Toppin that she was concerned about her three year-old son, Kyle. Evidently, several months earlier, while Audrey was giving the boy a bath, Kyle had said to her "Stick your finger in my butt, mommy." Around the same time, she had discovered him masturbating, and when she asked about where he had learned this, he told her he had "played doctor" with an older neighborhood boy. "Playing doctor," according to the child, meant "sticking something in your butt." The boy had also been very unhappy at Little Rascals, and did not want to be left there.

After conferring with police investigator Toppin, Audrey Stever questioned the child again. This time, she said, he told her that "Mr. Bob" (Bob Kelly) had "played doctor" at the daycare, and that other little boys had been involved. At that point, the county Department of Social Services and police investigator Toppin began to interview Kyle as well as some of the other children who attended the daycare, and an investigation was launched.

Betsy Kelly's family and the defense, have a more complex version of the origins of the case - one that is rooted in the tangled friendship between Betsy and her very close friend, Jane Mabry.

In September of 1988, just days after the new day care opened, there was an incident involving Jane's four year-old son, who attended the day care. The child complained that Bob Kelly had slapped him. Jane, for some reason, went to pieces saying, "my world has just crumbled...I just knew that life as I knew it would never be the same." Crying and furious, she demanded an apology. Betsy Kelly claimed she did apologize. Jane claimed whatever apology she did get, was not adequate. Bob Kelly claimed the slap had been an accident, but did not deny that it had happened.

Furious, Jane pulled her son out of the day care, waiting for him to be called back by the Kellys. He wasn't. As weeks turned into months, Jane told FRONTLINE that she started asking parents discreet questions about how their children liked Little Rascals. As it happened, Audrey Stever, the first parent to officially complain about abuse at the daycare, had a conversation with Jane Mabry on the very day that she had spoken with the police investigator Brenda Toppin. It is also known that Brenda Toppin had attended not too long before these events, a seminar on child sexual abuse-- as did district attorney H.P. WIlliams. After the conversation with Toppin, Audrey Stever went home to question her child about Little Rascals, as she had been advised to do by Toppin.

Jane Mabry maintains that she had very little, if anything, to do with the development of the case against Little Rascals. Betsy's family believes that she had everything to do with it; it was Jane who directed Audrey Stever to "the proper legal channels that would blow this thing sky high."

However it happened, in January of 1989, Bob Kelly was informed that someone had gone to local officials with a complaint of sexual abuse at the day care. The next morning, Kelly met every parent at the door of Little Rascals and informed them of the charge personally. Most of the parents told FRONTLINE that their first reaction was shock and disbelief. "Who could be doing this to Bob and Betsy? was my first thought" said parent Lynne Layton. "These wonderful people." Other parents said they assumed the charge was the result of a grudge, perhaps from Jane Mabry. And according to Betsy Kelly's sister Nancy Smith, most people reacted with an outpouring of support, sending food and flowers to the daycare and defending the Kellys.

But gradually things changed. As the investigation continued, there were two or three sets of parents that became suspicious - and then convinced - that their children had been molested by Bob Kelly. These parents began to confer together, and later testified that they felt ostracized by the majority of the others who still supported the Kellys. Several of their children were sent to therapists at the recommendation of the prosecution and the police. One of these therapists, Judy Abbott, had a group meeting with four sets of parents in Edenton in February of 1989.

Bob Kelly, who had been barred from working at the daycare, hired a lawyer, Chris Bean. Bean was the most prestigious lawyer in town, who also happened to have a child attending the day care. He told FRONTLINE that when he took Bob's case "I believed completely that he was innocent and that this was a terrible charge that had been made against him."

But after Bean took the case, he and his wife told FRONTLINE they began losing their friends. "People who had known us for years would not look at us, would not speak to us," Bean told FRONTLINE. And then, just before the first preliminary motion hearing in the case, in late April of 1989, the prosecutor, H.P. Williams, told Bean that his son had been named by other children as having been sexually abused by Kelly.

Bean and his wife had already questioned their son about the day care, but he had insisted that nothing had happened, and they had believed him. Now, the news from the district attorney, combined with the talk of other parents, decided the issue. Bean withdrew from representing Kelly, and became one of the accusing parents.

Chris Bean's change of heart had an impact on other Little Rascals parents. Bean was not only a leader in the community, and a respected lawyer, he was also Kelly's defense lawyer who now had left his client. After he withdrew from the case, many began to wonder if something might have actually happened at the daycare.

Bob Kelly was charged and arrested in April of 1989 and his bond was set at $1.5 million dollars. The day care closed on April 28th. By May, the steady stream of children entering therapy had become a flood. Children named other children, who in turn named more children. Eventually, ninety children-- almost every child who had attended the daycare-- had been sent to therapists. The vast majority of them saw one of four therapists recommended by the police and the prosecution, and who were being paid for by the state. It was in therapy, according to later testimony in the trial of Bob Kelly, that most of the children made their first allegations of abuse, and began naming people other than Kelly as having been involved.

In the end, close to 30 people would be named by the children, even though the children initially denied any abuse at the day care when first asked by the police or their parents.

On September Ist, 1989, Betsy Kelly, 34, was arrested and sent to prison to await trial. Betsy's bond started at $1 million and would eventually reach $1.8 million. Betsy and Bob's five year old daughter, Laura, was sent to live with Betsy's sister Nancy.

More arrests followed, beginning with Scott Privott the former president of the Edenton country club, and a friend of Bob's and the owner of a local video store. Then Shelley Stone, mother of two, who taught four and five year-olds at the day care; Kathryn Dawn Wilson, (23) a single mother who cooked the food at the day care and also helped with the children; and, Robin Byrum, (19), who taught three and four year-olds and who herself had a small infant. The last arrested was Darlene Harris, who, like Scott Privott, had no previous connection to the day care. (Her ex-husband, a police officer, had accused her boyfriend of molesting their young son and had won custody of the son. Then, apparently, the police showed her picture to some of the Little Rascals children, who identified her as a woman who was taking pictures of the abuse.)

As fall of 1990 turned to winter, there was an atmosphere of panic in the town that seemed to engulf everyone even remotely connected to the daycare. Those few day care employees who had not been arrested (most of whom had had their own small children enrolled at Little Rascals) lived in fear that they too might be next.

Brenda Ambrose worked at the day care and also had a child there. She told FRONTLINE she trusted Bob, Betsy and the others, and that all the time she worked at the day care, she never saw anything suspicious."I still lie awake at night thinking how could they have done it. How could they have done it with me in the room right across the hall?" Even after Brenda sent her own child to therapy and came to believe that she, too, had been abused there, she felt she, as a day care employee, was under suspicion. In her interview with FRONTLINE, she described a meeting of all the parents at which one parent got up and said that everyone who worked at the day care should be in jail.

Another worker, Betty Ann Phillips, had an even harder time. Betty Ann had a son, Daniel, at the day care. At first, she believed the charges, and sent Daniel to one of the recommended therapists, Judy Abbott, to be evaluated. But soon, she and her husband John began to have serious doubts about the case. Betty Ann overheard a therapy session in which she felt the therapist was leading her child. She began to wonder if in fact all the questioning by the police, the therapist, and herself had caused her son to begin to believe things had happened to him that hadn't-- to say "yes" because he was being pushed so hard by adults to "admit" what had gone wrong at the daycare.

Around the same time, Betty Ann found out that the prosecution had filed a series of indictments against Bob Kelly in her child's name, without having consulted her. Deeply upset, Betty Ann went to talk to the district attorney, H.P. Williams, who was prosecuting the case. She told FRONTLINE that when she told Williams how upset she was about the indictments, he warned her not to make her doubts public, because many of the children had told their therapists that Betty Ann herself had been the "lookout" for the Kellys while the abuse was going on. "It was a threat," Phillips told FRONTLINE.

Betsy Kelly would spend over two years in prison before her bond was reduced and she was released pending trial. Scott Privott would spend three and a half years in jail, Dawn Wilson almost a year and half, and Robin Byrum a year.

Most of the defendants had court-appointed attorneys, except for Betsy Kelly and Shelley Stone. The defense asked that all seven defendants be tried together, but the court ruled that they be tried separately. Bob Kelly would be the first one.

Bob Kelly's Trial

The trial was held in Farmville, North Carolina, sixty miles from Edenton. It lasted eight months. There were twelve children who testified in the trial, selected out of the 29 involved in the original indictments.

The day care workers, neighbors, and townspeople testified, but there were no eyewitnesses to any sexual abuse. No one had seen anything and it became clear as the trial progressed that none of the children had said anything about abuse at the day care before the investigation began in 1989 and they were directly questioned about it by parents, police, and therapists.

There were medical experts for both sides. The prosecution's experts testified they had found evidence consistent with sexual abuse on some of the children, and evidence they deemed "definite" for sexual abuse on a few of the little girls. However, the defense's medical experts, who examined slides of the children taken from their examinations, disagreed. They testified that the results the state's experts had found were far too subtle and that they showed no evidence whatsoever of sexual abuse.

The children's therapists themselves did not take the stand. Their notes were analyzed by experts for the defense, who testified about leading and suggestive questioning techniques. Brenda Toppin, the police investigator who led the investigation and was the first person to interview most of the children, testified that she had not kept her original handwritten notes from the interviews, and had lost or misplaced every single audiotape of every interview with the children. Therefore, there were no audio or visual records of the first statements the children had made, two years earlier, about abuse at the day care. Many of the therapists notes were not verbatim transcripts of their interviews with the children, but brief summaries of the interviews, recorded after the fact.

The children's parents testified. All spoke of changes in the children's behavior around the time of the alleged abuse: nightmares and bedwetting, babytalking, resistance to going to the bathroom alone, and much more. However, the defense challenged most of these recollections because at the time the abuse was allegedly going on, none of the parents had mentioned any changes in their children's behavior to their children's doctors (who they saw routinely) or,to anyone else.

Ultimately, the children's testimony would be the centerpiece of the case against Kelly. But their testimony, too, was problematic. Although all the children testified to the acts alleged, many also testified to many other things bordering on the fantastic: babies killed at the daycare, children taken out on boats and thrown overboard, sharks in the water, and children being taken to outerspace in a hot air balloon. In addition, though all of the children had been to "court school" and were well-prepared for the questioning process, many had to be led very carefully by the prosecution before they recounted the acts involved in the actual indictments.

The jury deliberated for over three weeks. They finally came in with a verdict. They found Bob Kelly guilty of 99 out of the 100 indictments against him, and sentenced him to twelve consecutive life terms in prison. The case was said to be the longest and most expensive criminal trial in the history of North Carolina.

After the verdict, Ofra Bikel interviewed five of the twelve jurors (and included these interviews in her second report about the case, a four-hour special called "Innocence Lost: The Verdict.") Of the five jurors interviewed, only two were fully comfortable with the verdict they had issued. In both cases, it was the children's testimony that had convinced them.

The other three jurors were troubled and said they regretted their verdict and had serious doubts about Bob Kelly's guilt. Two jurors, Mary Nichols and Marvin Shackelford, said that worries about their personal health (Shackelford had had two heart attacks, and Mary Nichols was very ill with leukemia) had driven them to vote guilty just to resolve the endless deliberations and go home. Roswell Streeter, who at 28 was the youngest member of the jury, said he felt intimidated and confused, and finally lost all sense of perspective.

The jurors also revealed several serious instances of jury misconduct to FRONTLINE. One juror had confessed to the others while in deliberations that he had been sexually abused as a child and had never told anyone. This same juror had denied knowing anyone who had been sexually abused when asked the question in jury selection.

In another instance, jurors said that a Redbook magazine article listing attributes of pedophiles was brought into the deliberation room, and according to one juror, the items in the article were listed on a blackboard and compared to the personality traits of Bob Kelly. This violated the judge's orders that no outside material was to be brought into the jury room or used in the deliberations. Finally, juror Dennis Ray told FRONTLINE that although the judge had forbidden the jurors to conduct their own research and visit the day care, he had driven twice to Edenton to check out the location for himself.

In November 1993, four months after the broadcast of FRONTLINE's "Innocence Lost: The Verdict," Kelly's defense attorneys filed a motion for dismissal of the case based on these and other instances of alleged jury misconduct. The motion was denied.

Dawn Wilson's Trial

The second defendant to go to trial was Kathryn Dawn Wilson, known as Dawn, who had spent seventeen months in prison before being released on bond in December 1990. Soon before her trial, the prosecution offered Dawn a plea bargain: if she pleaded guilty to several of the charges against her, she would receive a vastly reduced sentence: no more than a year or two in prison. (She was facing multiple life terms if convicted.) She turned it down. She was offered a second plea while her jury was being selected. This one offered her months, instead of years in jail, but she turned it down as well.

Dawn's trial was similar to Bob Kelly's, but much shorter, and involving only four children. The other principal difference was that in Dawn's trial, the therapy reports were introduced into evidence and shown to the jury. But the outcome was the same. Dawn was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The Other Defendants.....

Betsy Kelly would be next. Before her trial, she too was offered a plea bargain. But her perspective on the offer was different. Betsy had spent over two years in prison, and seen the first two defendants to be tried in the case convicted and sentenced to life terms - one of whom was her husband. She had an eight year- old daughter - who was living with her sister - to think about. In January, 1994, Betsy accepted a plea of "no contest" meaning she would not have to officially admit guilt. She accepted a sentence of seven years in prison, which, with two years and two weeks credit for time served, meant she was eligible for probation almost immediately. She served one additional year in the North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women, and then returned home to be with her daughter, who was now ten years-old.

Six months after Betsy was released, Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson's convictions were overturned by the Appellate Court of North Carolina because of a series of legal errors by the prosecution.

By the end of 1995, Bob Kelly was home. Not long after that, Bob and Betsy Kelly separated. Years of separation, prison, and the agony of trial had finally done too much damage.

Charges were eventually dropped against Shelly Stone, Darlene Harris and Robin Byrum. Scott Privott, after serving over three years in jail, had his bond reduced from $1 million to $50,000, and he was released. After a year of freedom, Scott Privott was offered a "no contest" plea which, he told FRONTLINE, he reluctantly took.

In April 1996, the state indicted Bob Kelly on new charges - accusations of sexual abuse that had happened ten years earlier (1987), were not related to Little Rascals and involved, at the time, a nine a half year-old girl.

On May 23, 1997, state prosecutors dropped all charges against Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson in the Little Rascals case, but anounced they will proceed against Kelly on the 1987 (Overtone case) accusations. If convicted on these charges, Kelly could receive several life sentences.

The McMartin Preschool

The McMartin Preschool case was one of the earliest and largest child sexual abuse cases in this country. Although none of those charged were ever convicted, the 28-month trial was the longest and costliest criminal prosecution in U.S. history. This case is often cited as triggering the wave of pre-school sexual abuse cases during the mid-1980s.

The case began in August 1983 when the mother of a 2 1/2 year-old boy reported to police that her son had been abused by Raymond Buckey at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California, an affluent community on Santa Monica Bay. The school had been founded by Ray's grandmother, Virginia McMartin, in the mid-sixties. His mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, was an administrator, and his sister, Peggy Ann Buckey was a public school teacher who helped out at the pre-school during school vacations. Ray was the only male teacher at the preschool.

After the initial accusation, Ray was arrested, but released due to lack of evidence. The mother continued her allegations, claiming that her son returned home from pre-school with his anus red and sore and surmising from that that he had been sodomized, and claiming that he had witnessed bizarre satanic rituals at the school. At the beginning of the investigation, police wrote letters to 200 parents of current and former students telling them that the pre-school was being investigated and questioning them about possible molestation of their children.

After the letters went out, parents began questioning their children and the children began telling stories of abuse at the preschool; that they had been touched inappropriately, that their pictures had been taken, that they had had been forced to engage in anal and oral sex, and forced to play a game called "Naked Movie Star."

Dozens of the children were interviewed and examined by therapists specializing in diagnosing sexual abuse. They implicated Peggy Ann Buckey and other teachers as well as Ray. As time went on, the accusations mushroomed from sexual abuse to include stories of bizarre satanic rituals, where the McMartins mutilated animals and forced the children to touch corpses, in hidden underground passageways beneath the school. No such passageways were ever found. Some of the children's interviews were videotaped and shown to jurors at trial.

In March 1984, police rearrested Ray along with his sister Peggy Ann, his mother, Peggy, and grandmother Virginia, as well as three other teachers. Charges against Virginia, Peggy, and the other teachers were dropped in 1986 for lack of evidence.

The first trial of Ray and his mother began in April 1987 and ended in April 1989 with acquittals on some counts and a deadlocked jury on others. Ray was tried a second time, and in 1990 another jury was deadlocked on all counts. The prosecutors chose not to retry him. Ray had spent five years in jail and Peggy had spent two.

The lengthy and sensational McMartin case drew attention from the national media, and is still cited today as a symbol of the dangers and difficulty of using children's testimony. Some jurors in the first trial, when interviewed after the verdict, said that it was the videotapes of the interviews with the children that had prevented them from finding the McMartins guilty. They said that they believed that some of the children had been abused, but that the interviewing techniques had been so suggestive that they had not been able to discern what really happened.

Fells Acres Day School Malden, Massachusetts,1986-7

Violet Amirault had been running the Fells Acres Day care center for almost 20 years with her children and five other teachers when her son Gerald Amirault was accused of abusing children in their care. Gerald was not a teacher, but helped out at the school as a handy man and bus driver.

The incident that prompted a large scale investigation and two trials with multiple appeals occurred in 1984, when a 5 1/2 year old boy told his uncle that Gerald had touched his private parts. According to Gerald, the boy had wet his pants, and in order to help out the boy's teacher, who was busy, Gerald took the boy into the bathroom, dried him off and gave him a fresh change of clothes.

The boy's mother claims that soon after the incident, he began displaying disturbing behavior, wetting his bed, baby-talk, chronic masturbation and acting out sexually with his younger brother. She became concerned and asked her brother, who had been sexually abused as a child, to talk to her son. During a walk in the park, the boy told his uncle that while he was at school, Gerald had pulled down his pants and touched his penis.

The mother started questioning the boy about what happened to him at day care. Eventually, he told her that Gerald often took him to a "secret room" with a bed in it, or to the park, where he would undress the boy and fondle his penis. He also said that Gerald put his penis into the boy's mouth and rectum and indicated that other children were abused.

The boy's mother called the state's child abuse hot line, and Gerald was arrested a few days later, accused of raping a child. The school was closed three days later.

On September 12, 1984, a meeting was held at the town police headquarters. About 65 parents gathered with police and representatives of the state investigative agencies to discuss the situation at Fells Acres. Police encouraged the parents to question their children about what happened at Fells Acres, and to be persistent if the children did not initially disclose abuse. They asked parents to question their children about the existence of a "magic room" and a clown, and advised them of behavioral symptoms beleived to be consistent with sexual abuse.

After this meeting, more children began to disclose stories similar to the first boy's. Parents, even some who had not been present at the controversial meeting, began noticing emotional and physical disturbances and sexualized play among many of the children who had been at Fells Acres. Children started to tell stories of abuse in a "magic room" by a clown or a robot. One girl said Gerald had penetrated her anus with a twelve inch knife. Other children claimed that they had been raped by a clown, tied to trees while naked, photographed, and forced to watch animals being killed. Eventually, 41 children aged three to six years old made accusations of abuse against the Amiraults. Gerald was charged with molesting 19 children, Violet and Cheryl, his sister, with abusing 10.

The Amiraults were tried in two separate proceedings; Gerald in 1986 and the two women in 1987. The testimony of nine children was used in Gerald's case; four children testified against Cheryl and Violet. In both trials, the children testified in an unprecedented seating arrangement. They sat in special child-sized chairs and desks directly in front of the jury. The defendants were placed off to the side, so that the jury could see them but they could not make eye contact with the children. The unusual arrangment was devised to reduce the trauma of testifying for the children. Later, members of both juries said that the children's testimony was a major influence in their decisions to convict the Amiraults.

In addition to the testimony of the children, prosecutors also pointed to physical evidence of abuse on five of the 10 children, citing vulvitis, vaginitis, a small scar on one girl's hymen and "well-healed anal fissures" on some children.

All of the Amiraults were convicted; Violet and Cheryl were sentenced to 8-20 years in prison, Gerald to 30-40.

In 1995, after 8 years in prison, Cheryl and Violet were released when the State Superior Court overturned their conviction and granted them a right to a new trial based on the unusual seating arrangement of the children, finding that the arrangement had violated their right to confront their accusers face to face. A different judge, the one who had initially approved of the seating arrangement in the 1986 trial, rejected a similar argument in Gerald's appeal.

However, in March 1997, two years after their release, the State Supreme Court vacated the order for a new trial, and reinstated Cheryl and Violet's convictions, citing the need for finality in criminal proceedings and finding that the defendants did not sufficiently prove that there had been a miscarriage of justice. The court did note that some of the original investigatory practices were unsatisfactory and that the original seating arrangement violated the Amiraults' constitutional rights, but said that since the Amiraults did not raise the constitutional issue in the first trial, "the mere fact that, if the processes were redone, there might be a differing outcome, or that some lingering doubt about the first outcome may remain, cannot be a sufficient reason to reopen what society has a right to consider closed."

In April, 1997, the Amiraults' lawyers filed a motion for a rehearing, asking the State Supreme Court to reconsider its decision. The following month a lower court judge ordered a new trial for Violet and Cheryl Amirault. They were released on bail, and Violet died of cancer months later.

Wee Care Nursery SchoolMaplewood, New Jersey1988

In 1988, 23 year-old Kelly Michaels was convicted of 115 counts of sexual abuse against 20 children in her care at the Wee Care Nursery School in Maplewood, New Jersey.

The case began in April 1985, when a four year-old boy was being examined at a pediatrician's office. The nurse rubbed his back and took his temperature with a rectal thermometer. He did not seem upset, but remarked to her "that's what my teacher does to me at nap time at school." The nurse suspected that he was being abused at the day care center, and immediately reported her suspicions to authorities.

Police and social work investigators began interviewing Wee Care children. After a two-month investigation, they concluded that Kelly had abused all 51 students in her care. The accusations included Kelly forcing the children to have sex with her and lick peanut butter off her genitals, penetrating their rectums and vaginas with knives and forks, and forcing them to eat feces and urine.

In May, 1985, police questioned Kelly about the alleged abuse for nine hours, after she had waived her Miranda rights. She denied all the accusations and passed a polygraph test. The investigation continued, however.

Kelly was convicted in August, 1988, after an 11-month trial. She was sentenced to 47 years in prison and served five of those years before a successful appeal in 1993. The appellate court ruled that she did not receive a fair trial, in part because of the way the children were questioned, both by the judge and the initial investigators. During the trial, the judge questioned the children in his chambers while the jury watched on closed circuit TV. He played ball with them and held them on his lap; sometimes he whispered in their ears and asked them to whisper answers back to him.

Kelly was set free on $75,000 bail after her conviction was overturned to await the prosecutors' decision on whether to retry her. After a year and a half, charges were dropped and prosecutors declined to retry her.

Country Walk, Florida 1985

In 1984, Frank Fuster, 36 year old Cuban immigrant, ran an unlicensed day care service out of his home in Country Walk, an affluent Miami suburb, with his 17 year-old Honduran wife, Ileana. He had previously been convicted of manslaughter and fondling a nine year-old child.

The abuse case started when a 3 year-old boy asked his mother to "kiss my body" when she was giving him a bath. He said, "Ileana kisses all the babies' bodies." The mother became concerned, and reported the comments to the Dade County child protection authorities. The county prosecutor at the time was Janet Reno, and she became deeply involved in the controversial investigation.

Reno brought in Joseph and Laurie Braga, a husband and wife child-development team, to evalute more than three dozen children who had been in the Fusters' care. At first, none of the children came forward to implicate the Fusters, but after repeated questioning, the children accused the Fusters of a number of abuses, including anal and oral sex, production of child pornography, forcing the children to take drugs, mutilation of animals and satanic rituals. The children's testimony was the primary evidence against the Fusters; the only child who showed physical evidence of abuse was Frank Fuster's son, who tested positive for gonorrhea of the throat.

Both the Fusters maintained their innocence. When the case was brought to trial, the Fusters' attorney decided to sever their cases, and tried to convince Ileana to testify against her husband. Reno's office offered her a reduced sentence in exchange for a confession that implicated her husband. Ileana at first refused, and was subjected to what many critics would later condemn as questionable interviewing techniques in an attempt to elicit a statement of guilt from her. She was kept in solitary confinement for weeks, and visited by a series of psychologists and therapists who tried various methods including "quasi-hypnosis" and conditioned response techniques. After months of this treatment, Ileana pleaded guilty, but stated to the court,"I am pleading guilty not because I feel guilty, but because I think it's the best interest ... for the children and for the court and for all the people that are working on the case. I am innocent of all these charges. I wouldn't have done anything to harm any children.'"

Based on her testimony and on videotaped interviews with the children, Frank Fuster was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Ileana served three years of a 10-year sentence and was then deported to Honduras.

While in Honduras, however, Ileana recanted her confession. She made a statement 10 years later in 1994, claiming that she was brainwashed by prosecutors to confess her guilt and implicate her husband. Frank filed a motion for a new trial based on her recantation. She later retracted this recantation, however, saying she would not change the story she had testified to at trial. Frank's motion for a new trial was denied.

A Note: When in 1993 Janet Reno was nominated for Attorney General by President Bill Clinton, many commentators criticized her handling of the case, especially the methods employed to elicit a confession from Ileana. Critics claimed she used the sensational case to boost her chance for reelection. Others celebrated Reno as a heroine, however. The case became the subject of a book, Unspeakable Acts, which was later made into an ABC television movie.

Wenatchee, Washington 1995

One of the biggest, and most recent, child sexual abuse cases occurred in Wenatchee, Washington, in 1995. Unlike most of the other cases reviewed here, it did not center around a full-time day care center. However, the case shares many characteristics with the day care cases.

Wenatchee is a town of 55,000 and is 150 miles east of Seattle. Pastor Robert Roberson, a lay minister, ran the East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church of God House of Prayer. He and his wife Connie were arrested on 22 counts of allegedly raping and molesting children at their house and at during Bible classes at the Church.

The arrests were part of the prosecution of what police and district attorneys believed to be a huge sex ring in Wenatchee comprising dozens of pedophiles who preyed on innocent children, forcing them to participate in group sex with adults and each other, and in exchanging their own children for sex. In addition to the Robersons, 26 others were charged, including the bus driver for the church.

By the end of a series of trials, nineteen were sent to prison: the 14 who pleaded guilty and five who were convicted. Three others were acquitted, and charges were dropped or greatly reduced against five more.

It started in the spring of 1994 when a 9 year-old girl was placed in foster care with Luci and Bob Perez. Bob was the city's chief sex-crimes investigator. He was currently investigating a series of sexual abuse cases which he initially thought were unrelated. The Perez's foster girl had come from a poor household; her father was illiterate, and her mother had an IQ of 58. She had previously testified in a trial resulting in the conviction of a friend of the family who had molested her.

In the fall of 1995, she told Perez that her parents had molested her and her siblings. The story was confirmed by some of the siblings, and the mother confessed. She and her husband pled guilty and were sentenced to prison. Soon after they were imprisoned, the girl made further accusations about other members of the community. She told Perez of child swapping orgies where adults had abused children in various locations around Wenatchee, including the Robersons' church, from 1988 to 1994. She said adults would take children six at a time to a room and took turns having sex with them.

Investigators and the media began to refer to the sex ring as 'The Circle." It allegedly consisted of two dozen adults who routinely abused 50 children. Eventually, as the charges mounted, The Circle was said to have over 100 members, who were accused of literally thousands of counts of abuse.

At trial, the case against the Robersons was based on the testimony of Bob Perez's foster daughter, a 13 year-old friend of hers, and a 35 year-old woman who had been a member of the Robersons church. The woman told prosecutors that she had participated in the sex ring activities at the church, but later recanted, telling a Spokane television station that she had been pressured into the confession by Perez and his investigative team.

On December 11, 1995, the Robersons were acquitted on all 14 counts of abuse. They had been in jail for nine months. Nineteen of the other defendants remained in jail, however.

The town, which had been deeply shaken, attempted to recover. However, in June 1996, Perez's foster daughter, by then 13, recanted her testimony. She ran away from her current foster home to her grandmother's house, where she called Pastor Roberson and apologized for the accusations she had made against him. She then called a local TV station and in a 1 1/2 hour videotaped statement officially recanted her earlier stories of abuse, saying that she had been pressured by Perez. She denied ever having been sexually abused or witnessing any buse of anyone else.

Some of the defendants filed appeals based on her recantation. Many of those acquitted or with charges dismissed filed civil suits for wrongful prosecution against Perez and other investigative officials.

Rev. Nathaniel Grady and The Bronx FiveNew York1985-6

In a series of trials in the Bronx led by prosecutor Mario Merola, five men, including Nathaniel Grady, a 47 year-old Methodist minister, were convicted of sexually abusing children in day care centers throughout the Bronx.

Grady was accused of sexually molesting 6 three year-olds at nap time at the Westchester-Tremont Day Care Center run by his church. He was convicted after a 13-week trial. The primary witness against Grady was a three year-old boy. There were no notes or videotapes recording the hours of interviews with the boy. 26 character witnesses testified at his trial, including a bishop, a judge, and the Yonkers police commissioner. Nonetheless, he was convicted on January 20, 1986, and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

In addition to the case against Grady, Merola pursued investigations against three men who had worked at the PRACA Day Care Center: Albert Algerin, 21; Jesus Torres, 29, and Franklin Beauchamp, 27. and Alberto Ramos worked at the Concourse Day Care Center. In August 1984, a mother approached the DA's office, claiming that her four year-old daughter had been abused at the center. In interviews with the police, the little girl named the three men as her abusers. Based on her testimony as well as that of other children, all three men were convicted and imprisoned with maximum sentences.

Alberto Ramos was a 21 year-old college student working at the Concourse Day Care Center. He was accused and convicted of raping a five year-old girl. Critics of the prosecutors noted that during his trial, prosecutors did not reveal potentially exonerating evidence to the defense: the fact that in her first interview, the girl denied that he had raped her, that she often masturbated at the day care center which could have explained her vaginal irritation, and the fact that she was often exposed to adult movies on television, which could have expalined her inappropriate sexual knowledge.

All five men were imprisoned during the summer of 1986, when the family of one of them - Franklin Beauchamp - brought his case to the attention of attorney Joel Rudin. Rudin considered his conviction an unfair "product of a very ambitious prosecutor who saw a good story and jumped on a national bandwagon." Rudin submitted an appeal for Beauchamp in which he claimed, among other things, that the indictment had been so vague that it was impossible to prepare an adequate defense. In May 1989, the State Supreme Court overturned the conviction, asserting in the opinion that the original indictment had been "duplicitous."

The four remaining defendants eventually had their convictions overturned as well. Grady was the last to be freed, in the fall of 1996, after spending more than 10 years in prison. In 1987, the prosecutor Mario Merola died, and his successor, Robert Johnson, declined to re-prosecute any of the cases.

Dale Akiki Spring Valley, California 1993

Dale Akiki was found innocent of 35 counts of child abuse and kidnapping in 1993. The highly publicized acquittal was viewed by some commentators as symbolic of the move away from a national wave of hysteria about satanic and ritual abuse. Ten years after the McMartin case, the public, and jurors, seem to be more skeptical of cases based primarily on children's testimony.

Akiki, 36, was recently married when he was arrested in May 1991. He and his wife acted as volunteer baby-sitters at the Faith Chapel in Spring Valley, California. On Sundays, they watched the children while their parents were attending services next door.

Akiki suffered from a rare genetic disorder -- Noonan's syndrome -- which left him physically deformed. He had droopy eyelids, club feet, a concave chest and wide, sagging ears. Some of the children were afraid of his appearance, and parents reportedly had complained that he was an inappropriate choice for a baby-sitter.

He was charged with multiple counts of abuse and kidnapping. The accusations started when a young girl complained to her mother that Akiki, his wife, and another volunteer sitter had put her in a timeout chair for calling another girl names. Later, she told her mother that "He [Akiki] showed me him's penis." The mother reported this comment to the police, and an investigation was launched.

After numerous interviews, nine other children came forth with accusations that Akiki had killed animals and drunk their blood in front of the children, and engaged in other satanic and sexual rituals. During the course of the investigation, there was a meeting of all the parents at the church arranged by one of the pastors. One parent handed out information about other ritual abuse cases to other parents.

Akiki's trial began in the spring of 1993. 11 children testified; no physical evidence was presented. As the seven-month trial went on, a pastor in the church whose son was supposed to testify, began to get suspicious of the escalation of allegations, starting with Akiki's supposed exposure of himself to the young girl and ending with him raping and sodomizing children and killing animals and babies. He withdrew his son from the case.

The pastor's skepticism was echoed in the publicity surrounding the case. The sensational trial began to get local and national attention, mostly sympathetic to Akiki. During the trial, on Aikiki's 35th birthday, hundreds of citizens gathered outside the courthouse to hold a candlelight vigil.

The jury deliberated less than seven hours before acqutting him on all counts. Some jurors interviewed after the trial said that they did not believe the child witnesses were credible. Some parents remain convinced that he is guilty, however.

The acquittal prompted a grand jury inquiry into the investigatory methods employed in the case. The panel issued a report denouncing the investigator's methods and chastising the district attorney for providing too little supervision for his overzealous staff.

After the acquittal, the District Attorney in charge of the prosecution admitted in a press conference that "something clearly went awry" in the investigation and prosecution of Akiki. He instigated a four-month inquiry and issued a set of guidelines setting out protocols for investigators to follow in future sexual abuse cases. The guidelines included admonitions not to hold group meetings with parents or therapists, in order to avoid creating hysteria, and insisted that therapy sessions be videotaped or otherwise documented.

In September 1994 , Akiki filed suit against prosecutors, therapists and the church. He claimed emotional distress, slander, libel, false imprisonment, professional negligence and civil rights violations. The county and other defendants eventually settled the suit and Akiki received over $2 million.

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