Ritual abuse cases in day care centers
The "Little Rascals" ritual abuse case in Edenton, NC
"In the Little Rascals day-care-abuse case in North Carolina, one
mother told reporters that it took 10 months before her child was able to
"reveal" the molestation. No one at the time considered the idea that the
child might have been remarkably courageous to persist in telling the
truth for so long." Carol Tavris 1
In excess of 90 children accused a total of 20 adults with 429 instances of child sexual abuse
in a day care center in Edenton NC. Among the alleged perpetrators were the sheriff and mayor.
Allegations included a baby killed with a hand gun, a child being hung upside down from a tree
and being set on fire. Nobody in town noticed a baby missing. Needless to say, charges
were never laid against the mayor or sheriff.
Robin Byrum, Darlene Harris, Elizabeth "Betsy" Kelly, Robert "Bob" Kelly, Scott Willard
Shelly Stone, and Dawn Wilson were charged with engaging in various sexual activities with
children in the Kellys' day care in 1989. Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson were found guilty of
multiple charges of child sex abuse and given long sentences. Betsy Kelly and Willard Privott
pleaded "no contest" and were released. The charges against the other three were dropped.
Convictions were overturned on appeal and new trials ordered. The cases were
finally settled in 1999 when all charges were dropped against Kelley.
These charges relate to the Little Rascal's Day Care in Edenton. It is perhaps the second
most famous day care ritual abuse case in North America (after the McMartin Preschool in CA.) The PBS program Frontline has
produced a series of three powerful documentary episodes on this case, called Innocence
Lost. 2 It showed that the various ingredients of a typical MVMO abuse case were present in
||no physical evidence that any actual abuse or killing happened.
||hysteria by the parents, investigators and general public.
||lack of evidence which would have been present if the children had actually been abused.
||the alleged abuse happened even as parents were coming to and fro during the day; nobody
noticed anything strange at the day care center.
||the children initially denied that anything "funny" happened at the day care; but the
interviewers did not believe the children.
||after months of extensive interviewing, using what are now known to be manipulative,
suggestive techniques, children started to disclose abuse events. This was assisted by
communications among parents who also grilled their children.
||all of the documentation and tapes of the children's initial interviews were lost or
||testimony described a long string of physically impossible or highly improbable events.
||nobody seems to have asked the logical question: how could 7 to 20 adults form a
conspiracy and abuse children hundreds of times, without any child complaining or without any
parent noticing something amiss?
Some of the children's disclosures included:
||being taken to the back room of a store and sexually abused. There is
a very wide opening between the back room and the rest of the store, so that
any sexual abuse would have been perpetrated in the full view of customers.
||being taken on board a space ship and flown into outer space where they
||seeing a large fish tank where sharks were trained.
||being taken on board a ship into the ocean and abused while trained sharks
swam around the boat.
During the winter of 1988-1989, Edenton police attended a Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) seminar.
The first allegation of abuse followed shortly afterwards. One theory is that the first mention
of abuse followed the accidental hitting of a child at the day care; another story has the first
allegation following intensive questioning of a child by his mother under the guidance of a SRA
As in other MVMO cases, the children initially denied abuse at the school. However, after
repeated interrogations, they started to reveal sexual and then ritual abuse. Children were
criticized or rewarded in accordance with the abuse content of their stories.
Cases against 13 of the adults that were accused by the children were not
pursued; the remaining 7 were arrested.
Two workers at the school, Dawn Wilson and Robin Byrum spent time in jail. Dawn was separated
from her 19 month old infant; Robin was separated from her 3 month old infant. They were offered
immunity from prosecution if they would testify against the main defendants, Bob and Betsy Kelly.
Both refused to accept the prosecution's deal, apparently because neither had observed any abuse.
If they had seen any abuse, it is very highly probable that both would have jumped at the offer
of immunity. Otherwise, they could expected to be tried as co-conspirators in hundreds of
Little Rascals' abuse cases and never see the light of day again.
Bob Kelly was tried on 100 charges and found guilty on 99, and given 12 consecutive life
sentences. Dawn Wilson was then tried on 5 counts and given one life sentence with no possibility
of parole for 20 years. The third trial was to be of Betsy Kelly. Involved were 30 charges
involving 16 children. She accepted a "no contest" plea which allowed her to go free. She gave
a speech to the court indicating her innocence. Willard Privott, a local merchant who claimed to have never
been in the day care building, was held in jail for 30 months. He was unable to raise the 1
million dollar bail. He was interrogated only once, and initially given a plea bargain involving
"only" a 50 year jail term. Eventually, he was offered and accepted a "no contest" plea bargain
which would enable him to leave jail with time served. He also read a statement in court
maintaining his innocence.
We will not describe the various proofs that ritual and sexual abuse did not happen in Edenton.
For more information, see an essay by Dr. Jonathan G. Harris. 3
Little Rascal's is a most important case, because it demonstrates how
the mind set of the interviewers can be transmitted to the
children and persuade them to disclose events that never happened. A San
Diego grand jury which investigated child abuse observed:
In effect, the Edenton MVMO case was a real-life replication of the type of laboratory experiment
that could never be done for ethical reasons:
"Of particular interest is the information the Jury received about
the Little Rascals pre-school case in North Carolina. Eighty-five
percent of the percent of the children received therapy with
three therapists in the town; all of these children eventually
reported satanic abuse. Fifteen percent of the children were
treated by different therapists in a neighboring city; none of ... [these] children reported abuse of any kind after the same period of
time in therapy." 3
(emphasis added by us).
||Select a town or city in any area of the U.S. or Canada.
||Take 90 children, and divide them into two equally sized test and control group.
||Have the test group interrogated by therapists who believe in ritual abuse,
using direct and repeated questions.
||Have the control group independently interrogated by therapists who are skeptical of ritual
abuse using general questioning.
||Compare the rates of disclosures of ritual abuse from the two groups.
The probable result would be that close to 100% of the test group and
about 0% of the control group would reveal ritual abuse.
Bob Kelly's and Dawn Wilson's guilty verdicts were overturned by an appeals court because of
massive errors during their trials. The trial judge refused to review transcripts of the
children's interrogation. The judge allowed parents to testify as expert witnesses, even though
they were not qualified to do so. There was gross misconduct by the prosecutors. The prosecutor,
Nancy Lamb, decided in 1997-MAY to not proceed with retrials; she said that the parents
did not want their children to experience the stress of another trial. A new trial would have
been clearly impossible. The reliability of the children's' testimony would be destroyed by
experts in child interview techniques. 5 There is no hard physical or medical evidence that
anything "funny" happened at Edenton. All charges were dropped.
Bob Kelly was later charged with 8 child abuse indictments involving a girl who was
10 years old at the time of her alleged abuse in 1987. (Some sources say 9
years). These charges are unrelated to the Little
Rascals cases, and were also dropped.
It would appear that in this case, the memories of abuse were accidentally implanted by sincere
Edenton therapists who believed in the reality of Satanic ritual abuse. The out-of-town
therapists, who had no such belief system, found no abuse at all: Satanic or otherwise. Any
group of young children anywhere in North America, if exposed to the same questioning procedures by believers in Satanic ritual abuse,
would probably eventually accuse dozens of local adults with hundreds of crimes - some provably
As with other cases in North America and elsewhere where ritual abuse has been alleged, we
suspect that no ritual abuse occurred in Edenton. Probably no other abuse happened either,
other than the apparently accidental slapping of one boy. As in other cases, the children will
be scarred for life by the memories inadvertently planted by the interviewers. There is probably
little difference between a child actually being abused and a child having had false memories of
abuse implanted their mind. Both will be partly disabled for life. At least two of the defendants
have gone through divorces; all have been profoundly stressed and financially impoverished by
Lew Powell, a retired newspaperman in Charlotte, NC, has created a web site on the Little Rascals case. He writes:
"My motivation is simple outrage and shame over how North Carolina prosecutors maliciously denied justice – and continue to deny exoneration – to seven innocent defendants." 7
Carol Tavris: "Mind Games: Psychological Warfare Between
Therapists and Scientists," The Chronicle of Higher Education,
Section: The Chronicle Review, Vol. 49, Issue 25, Page B7, 2003-FEB-28.
A series of three PBS Frontline TV shows produced by Ofra Bikel deals with the Little
Further information on the Little Rascals case can be found at the PBS web site at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/innocence/ Transcripts are available from
Journal Graphics at 1-303-831-9000. They may also be viewed, starting two weeks after broadcast, on the
above WWW site. Video tapes are available from PBS video at 1-800-424-7963. Ofra
Bikel won a Champion of Justice award in the Journalism category from the National
Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers early in 2001 for the Edenton
series and for two other programs which dealt with the misuse of jailhouse
informants and the unwillingness of the legal system to release inmates
cleared of their crimes with DNA evidence. Her media awards include an Emmy,
two DuPont-Columbia Silver Batons, and both Grand Prize and Best of Category
at the prestigious Banff International Television Festival.
"Innocence Lost" (July 1993).
Innocence Lost: The Verdict".
Innocence Lost: The Plea".
"SBFAQ (Should Be Frequently Asked Questions) about Little Rascals, the
Ritual Sexual Abuse Hoax and its costs" was written by Dr. Jonathan
G. Harris, a MIT Professor of chemical engineering. See: http://www.vix.com/pub/men/falsereport/satanic/
1991-92 San Diego County Grand Jury, Report #8 "CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE,
ASSAULT, AND MOLEST ISSUES" (San Diego County, CA). See: http://www.vix.com/pub/men/falsereport/satanic/
S.J. Ceci & M. Bruck, "Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific
Analysis of Children's Testimony", American Psychological Association,
Washington DC (1995) Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
The Little Rascals' case is described in:
Debbie Nathan & Michael Snendeker, "Satan's Silence",
New York NY (1995). This
book is out of print, but Amazon.com might be able to obtain a used copy for
Mark Pendergrast, "Victims of Memory", 2nd Edition, Upper Access
Books, Hinesburg VT (1996), P. 366. Review/order
Lew Powell, "The Little Rascals Day Care Case," at: http://littlerascalsdaycarecase.org/
Copyright 1998 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2012-APR-17
Author: B.A. Robinson