Religious Tolerance logo

News items, from the year 2003


horizontal rule

Sponsored link.

horizontal rule

News items:

bullet 2003-JAN-21: CO: Woman accuses father of infanticide based on recovered memory: Julie Connachan, 40, of Fort Collins CO, had suffered from alcoholism. She underwent hypnosis and recovered memory therapy under the direction of an unlicensed therapist and his wife in 1995. She recovered "memories" of childhood abuse during that therapy. She subsequently accused her father of abusing her and her baby brother more than 30 years ago. She believes that he killed her brother and buried his body in the back yard. Her parents deny that the brother existed. Three other siblings and an older woman, who came to live with the family as a foster child at about the time that she thinks the murder happened, believe that Connachan's memories are false. Connachan's mother, Barbara Mitchell, said: "We agreed to do whatever is necessary to bring closure. That's just a horrible stigma on somebody's name, that there is an open homicide investigation...We can't go on living this way, without some finality. We'll do what we can to stop this craziness." The father volunteered to take a polygraph test, which he passed. Such tests are generally regarded as being accurate 85% of the time. The police have interviewed several people but have found no physical evidence supporting the murder allegation. Connachan is currently serving a jail sentence because she refused to allow her son to visit his father. She fears for her son's safety, because her ex-husband allows her parents to visit their grand children. Barbara Mitchell said: "When it comes to false memory syndrome, it's often a no-win situation. No amount of proof can convince the person they are wrong." 1,2
bullet 2003-MAY-23: CA: Rumors of SRA arises in Laci Peterson case: Laci Peterson disappeared on 2002-DEC-24, and was apparently murdered. She was pregnant at the time. Her body and that of her fetus was found separately. Scott Peterson, her husband, has been charged with committing two murders. His defense team publicly raised the possibility that a Satanic group abducted her in a brown van and murdered her as part of a Satanic ritual.  Defense attorney Mark Geragos suggested a link between Laci's disappearance and the unsolved case of another pregnant woman Evelyn Hernandez, who went missing on 2002-MAY-1 and also later washed up in San Francisco bay. He said that both dates mark holy days on the Satanic calendar. But Richard Ofshe, author of Making Monsters: False Memories, Psychotherapy, and Sexual Hysteria, says organized Satanic cults are a  complete myth. He told ABC News that: "I think you'd be better off suggesting Saddam Hussein really did it." He said that police forces had investigated Satanic ritual abuse back in the late 1980's but had found no evidence that abusive Satanic cults existed. 3
bullet 2003-JUN: North America: "The Hulk" movie centered around repressed memories: The story line centers around the hero, Bruce Banner, whose father experimented on Bruce's genetic structure and then tried to kill him. In the movie, Bruce repressed these memories, and became a very strong, green, bad-tempered hulk. Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation viewed the movie and reported that "It is all so silly that it is exactly the proper setting for repressed memories. There is not a whit of reality as laws of science are defied in almost every scene. It is pure fantasy. It seems...likely that movie-goers will associate repressed memories with non-reality. Well, that is our optimistic hope." 4
bullet 2003-JUL-17: South Africa: Judge denies funding for expert witness: Robin Classen has been charged with ten counts relating to the alleged Satanic Ritual Abuse of three siblings ranging in age from seven to 11. The children have disclosed stories of child murders, body parts kept in cupboards and various depraved Satanist rituals. Classen denies that he is a Satanist. His defense is based on the assertion that the children's stories were implanted by others or invented by the children, and are unrelated to real events. The Legal Aid Board refused to hire an expert witness to testify in Classen's behalf. "The board maintained that psychological evidence about the credibility of the three young child victims and their mother and about Classen's psychological profile was not necessary. The expert would evaluate the three children and their mother to establish their credibility and to investigate if Classen had the profile of a pedophile....Classen's advocate, Deon Hugo, said his client would be denied a fair trial if a psychologist did not testify."
The cost would have been R40,000 (about 5,300 US dollars). Acting Judge Lettie Malopa has refused to overrule the board.
bullet 2003-JUL: CA: Conference still features ritual abuse: The 8th annual International Conference on Family Violence San Diego, CA, will again feature workshops on repressed memories and ritual abuse. One is titled: "The Masks of Ritual Abuse Trauma." Another is called "Psychotherapy with Ritual Abuse Survivors: Obstacles and Solutions." The latter session will involve three individuals who believe themselves to be ritual abuse survivors. 6
bullet 2003-SEP-4: USA: SMART conference discusses ritual abuse: Stop Mind Control and Ritual Torture (SMART) is a support group for persons who believe that they were abused as children by Satanic groups, individual Priests, Freemasons, the Illuminati, or the CIA. The Illuminati is allegedly a secret, world wide society whose goal is world domination. The CIA involvement involves alleged mind control programs. They held a conference in Windsor Locks, CT in late August.
bullet Conference speaker Jeanette Westbrook said that she was a sex slave for the Masonic order: "My father handed me over to the cult; I was like his gift. When they realized that I was a gifted split -- split-personality -- the CIA got hold of me for sexual blackmail missions."
bullet "Juliane" recognized a wavy steel dagger displayed by Westbrook. She said: "Oh, I recognize that. That's what we killed the babies with. We were brainwashed by the cult and made to kill firstborn children." When asked where the sacrificed babies came from, she replied: "The baby farm."
bullet Neil Brick also believes himself to be a survivor of ritual abuse. He said: "My whole life was very dysfunctional. I was always tense, always holding my emotions in very tightly. I had a lot of life issues -- could not hold a job, had a failed marriage, drinking." He said that the government stunted his growth: "The government kept me small so that I could easily fit through ducts and crawlspaces when I was on missions." After attending therapy, he recovered "memories" of having engaged in assassination missions behind the Iron Curtain. He said: "I have not been in touch with my family for quite a while. My belief is that my family is still in the group, possibly for financial reasons."

A Hartford Advocate reporter interviewed an expert in ritual abuse and a specialist in human memory:
bullet Elizabeth Loftus, a professor of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine, has worked for decades in the field of human memory. She said: "Everything that one might call a 'repressed memory' could have been the result of suggestion and an active imagination. The things these people say are just not credible."  When asked why people are motivated to attempt to recover memories, Loftus said: "The benefit is that people have an explanation for everything wrong in their lives. If you were so traumatized and forced to commit such awful acts, nothing is your fault. You get a free pass....They get together in these groups, reinforce each other, ooze sympathy and empathy, give each other a sense of importance. In the end, they stay unwell and never get help."
bullet Consultant Kenneth Lanning, a former FBI agent with the Behavioral Science Unit and expert on child ritual abuse said in a telephone interview: "For me it started about 20 years ago when I got calls about children being tortured by satanic cults. The calls were coming from all over the country and my first instinct was to help local law enforcement find out how to catch these people. But no matter how much we investigated these cases they were just impossible to substantiate with any physical evidence." 7

This essay continues below.

horizontal rule


Sponsored link:

horizontal rule

bullet 2003-SEP-15: UK: Conference on RMT: The Royal Society of Medicine in London, UK, sponsored a conference: "Remembering Trauma." It dealt with such topics as repressed memories, Satanic Ritual Abuse, and the therapeutic use of hypnosis and regression therapy to recover memories. The New Statesman magazine, in a review of the conference, suggests that:
bullet "Most doctors in the mental health field now accept that some so-called recovered memories can be false memories unwittingly induced in therapy by leading questions and suggestions. Now some researchers go further, arguing that it is impossible to have forgotten a truly traumatic event. All recovered memories are therefore necessarily false in the same way as memories of alien abduction."

Some quotations from the papers delivered at the conference:
bullet Richard McNally, professor of psychology at Harvard University, says: "The notion that the mind protects itself by repressing or dissociating memories of trauma, rendering them inaccessible to awareness, is a piece of psychiatric folklore devoid of convincing empirical evidence."
bullet Janet Boakes, head of psychotherapy services at St George's Hospital, London, told the conference: "Most clinicians now accept the reality of the 'false memory syndrome', but few recognize that they could themselves be responsible for creating or fostering false memories." She recommends that therapists: "Avoid any treatment aimed at facilitating or recovering memory. If the patient gets worse, review the case from the beginning. Consider whether you could have got it wrong. There is good evidence that the mental health of patients treated for sexual abuse that did not happen may deteriorate alarmingly as their view of themselves and their world is rewritten. Some of them never recover." 8

bullet 2003-SEP-19: TX & CA: Christian Ritual Abuse case proceeds: A Fort Worth newspaper reported that an indictment has been returned which accuses Michael La Brecque, 44, and his wife Juliette, 45, former residents of Fort Worth, TX, of transporting and aiding in the transportation of two minor children from Texas to California between 1999 and 2001 with the intent that they engage in illegal sexual acts. The newspaper reported that: "The ritualistic sexual abuse of children is a tenet of the religion of self-styled Mormon sect leader Allen Harrod, 56, of Folsom, Calif., according to a federal criminal complaint...Harrod promotes sex with children as an educational rite of passage from childhood to adulthood, an affidavit filed with the complaint said....Michael La Brecque was a bishop in Harrod's sect." Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel White in Sacramento said "It's a fairly unique case, it's a pretty horrendous conduct alleged here...I don't know of any of other cases here involving the underlying religion (the defendants) professed to believe in." The Mormon sect referred to is reported to promote polygyny. There are many small Mormon sects which practice polygyny in the U.S. All have been excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the largest Mormon denomination. The LDS suspended polygyny late in the 19th century, at least temporarily. 9
bullet 2003-OCT-31: France: Baby murders blamed on Satanists: Four dead newborns were found in Galfingue, in Eastern France. It appears that they were born alive, strangled, and then abandoned.  Suzanne, a waitress, speculated that  "There are many young women from the east [of Europe] who are working there now. We know that they are beaten and raped by their pimps. It could be a pimp who put the babies there." Other villages blamed the murders on Satanists. Still others blamed Roma (Gypsies); they are typically "accused when anything goes amiss in rural
" Needless to say, the article headline screamed "Satanists." 10

2003-NOV-5: Holland: Exorcism ends in a death: "D.P." was sentenced in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to 18 months in jail for assaulting a five-year-old girl during a religious exorcism. Both "D.P." and the victim's mother were convinced that the child had been possessed by the devil. The intent of the ritual was to drive the devil from the child's body with a brua-ritual -- a version of Vodun which is practiced in the Netherlands. The assault was so intense that the child died. Since she has been in custody for 18 months, the perpetrator was released. Earlier in 2003, the same court sentenced the girl's mother to a three-year jail term and conditional psychiatric treatment. One or two Christian exorcism rituals which have ended in the death of the victim are reported each year. This is the first non-Christian exorcism-murder that we have seen in the media. 11


2003-NOV-29: MN: Ralph Underwager died. He died unexpectedly Saturday morning of necrotic ischemic -- tissue death caused by the obstruction of a blood vessel.  He died only a few hours after exploratory surgery, surrounded by his family. Underwager and his partner Hollida Wakefield promoted innovative and pioneering research into true and false accusations of child sexual abuse. Lesley Wimberly of recalls meeting him in 1984 at the first conference of Victims of Child Abuse Legislation (VOCAL). She writes: "I was not only impressed with his incredible knowledge of how children are so easily influenced into making false statements of abuse while under inquisition by a well-meaning and determined investigator, but for his compassion for all people, of all walks of life. I was fortunate to have known Holly and Ralph for many years, since. In taking the stand as a professional in the defense of those falsely accused of the most heinous of crimes, child abuse, he was viciously attacked, libeled, slandered, and ridiculed. Still, he held a steady hand on the helm of the truth ... he never backed down or hid away, but boldly faced his accusers. He faced them with facts, science, research, and demonstrated how children in false positive cases were being abused by the very system that was using them for the prosecution of an alleged abuser. He never swayed from this course ... even to the end." 12

horizontal rule


  1. Sarah Huntley, "Murder story leaves family battered," Rocky Mountain News, Denver CO, 2003-JAN-21, Page 4A
  2. "Prosecutors to review woman's accusations that father killed her younger brother," Associated Press, 2003-JAN-21.
  3. "Satanic cult theory arises in Laci Peterson case," Eyewitness News, 2003-MAY-23, at:
  4. FMS Foundation newsletter, Vol 2, #4, 2003-JUL/AUG.
  5. "Satanist abuse case: Row over expert continues," South African Press Association, 2003-JUL-17.
  6. "8th International Conference on Family Violence," at: You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  7. Patrick Rucker, "Speak of the Devil. Victimized by satanic cults and the CIA or just plain crazy? A look at the recent SMART conference at Windsor Locks," Hartford Advocate, 2003-SEP-4, at:
  8. Rosie Waterhouse, "When the mind plays tricks; Observations on sexual abuse," New Statesman, 2003-SEP-15.
  9. Toni Heinzl, "Former Fort Worth couple indicted in child sex case," Star-Telegram, Fort Worth TX, 2003-SEP-19, at:
  10. John Lichfield, "French baby killings lead to rumours of Satanic Ritual Abuse," The Independent - London, UK, 2003-OCT-31, Page 13.
  11. "Jail term cut in voodoo death appeal," Expatica, 2003-NOV-5, at:
  12. Email from Lesley and George Wimberly, forwarded on 2003-DEC-1.

horizontal rule

Copyright 2003 & 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Latest update: 2004-APR-10
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)

horizontal rule

Go to the previous page, or go to the "recent developments in SRA, RMT, MPD, etc" menu, or choose:


Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.