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A Pennsylvania day school ritual abuse case

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The story:

This is a situation that started as a typical MVMO (Multi-Victim, Multi-Offender) ritual abuse investigation. However, it was terminated before it could be taken to trial. Otherwise, this case would probably have resulted in a costly trial, and long jail sentences for the accused. Unfortunately, this investigation was not stopped early enough. As a result, there are many area children with implanted memories of horrendous forms of abuse that never happened. Some of these will probably be haunted by false memories for their entire life.

The accusations centered around a day school in Pennsylvania. We have been asked by the individuals who were falsely accused to not mention the name or location of the school; the memories are simply too painful.

A parent complained in early 1989 that her 4 year old daughter had been sexually abused. Her female teacher (married with children, in her mid 30's) had allegedly penetrated her vagina with "cinnamon cream." Professionals from the local child care agency interviewed students at the day school who all denied that any abuse had taken place. The interviews were repeated for months, both formally by the professionals and informally by concerned parents. Finally, two additional four-year old girls disclosed that they had also been abused with cream. Such disclosures are essentially routine -- even in instances where no abuse took place. All that is necessary is for well-meaning interviewers to use direct and repeated questioning. 1

As in other MVMO cases, the charges began to multiply quickly. They also began to involve additional people: the teacher's husband and her female aid (in her late 60's), etc. Further intensive interrogation brought a whole list of criminal activities: 2

"..beaten by the teacher and her aide, locked in cages, and made to ingest feces and urine and to watch rabbits being slaughtered while the teacher held the animals' beating hearts. They had, furthermore, been abducted to various hotels to take part in group sexual activities, and had seen the teacher cut and stab other students. They had been raped by the teacher's husband and her two children, been photographed nude by the teacher's husband and been forced to set fires and to bury animals.
Children said they had been put in "locked cages" at school.

The prosecution of this case had been transferred from the local police to the county District Attorney. He ordered a one year, full, intensive police investigation of all of the complaints, in an effort to obtain hard evidence of criminal activity that he could bring to court. Some results were:
bullet The DA investigators were unable to identify a secret room where some demonic ritual abuse allegedly occurred. The children described the large fireplace in the room. But no fireplace was found in any of the school's rooms. Parents suggested that the fireplace had been removed, but no sign of remodelling was found.

bullet No remains of mutilated animals were found,

bullet Every child in the school was questioned; none could corroborate the charges.

bullet According to one child accuser, the teacher had identifying marks on her body that were not visible when she was clothed. None were found during a medical examination. The parent suggested that the marks had been surgically removed; but marks that were surgically removed would have left marks; no evidence of the removal existed.

bullet The children were given medical exams to determined if they had been raped or stabbed. No evidence was found that they had.


The cages turned out to be the metal jungle gym apparatus in the school yard. The children used to play a game in which the boys "locked up" girls in the gym.

James Stilwell, who headed the National Agency Against the Organized Exploitation of Children Inc., studied the evidence. He concluded that a pedophile was indeed abusing children at the day school. His credibility was severely compromised when his expertise was found to be unrelated to child abuse; he was an unemployed plumber.

Lack of physical evidence did not deter other DAs from laying charges in previous cases, including the Fells Acre case of Malden, MA involving the Amirault Family or the McMartin cases of Manhattan Beach, CA involving Peggy & Ray Buckey and Virginia McMartin. There was no physical evidence at the school that would support the children's accusations. If their stories were accurate, then certain evidence would be have to be present - and it was not.

However, unlike so many other ritual abuse cases, the local DA did the right thing in this case. He announced that the charges were baseless and that no charges would be laid. He said in a 1997-APR interview, years later, that :

"I wanted to try the case myself...I was convinced it would be the greatest case in the history of my commonwealth. But there was no evidence at all, as in this [Amirault - Felles Acre] case. I was instead convinced this was the greatest hoax in the history of my Commonwealth...The parents thought I was some victim of Witchcraft...But it was all the product of a shared hysteria." He was quoted in a newspaper article:

"We proved that none of this ever happened...This wasn't a question of maybe it happened and we just can't prove it. This was conjured up by the hysteria of the parents who bought into this. It never happened."

In a subsequent civil defamation suit, the accusers paid the teacher and school an undisclosed sum.

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References used:

  1. S.J. Ceci & M. Bruck, "Jeopardy in the Courtroom: A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony", American Psychological Association, Washington DC (1995)
  2. Deleted to preserve anonymity.
  3. Deleted to preserve anonymity.
  4. Deleted to preserve anonymity.
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