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About the Ritual Abuse Panic

About Recovered Memory

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Timeline of the
Ritual Abuse Panic

1980 Michelle Remembers, a supposedly true account of a young girl's torture at the hands of a secret coven of Satanists in Victoria, BC, is published. Michelle Smith "recovered" her memories while in therapy and under hypnosis by a therapist whom she later married.
1982 "Mary Ann Barbour (a woman with a history of mental problems) believed her two young step-granddaughters were being sexually abused... eventually the children accused their father, Alvin McCuan and the girls were placed in the Barbour's care. In 1982, the girls also accused McCuan's character witness Scott Kniffen, his wife Brenda, and their mother. Relentlessly grilling her two charges, Mary Ann Barbour reported that they had been used in prostitution and pornography, tortured, made to watch snuff films, and forced to allow animals to eat pet food out of their vaginas. The McCuans and the Kniffens, were each sentenced to over 240 years' imprisonment in 1984."
   
1983  
  Dr. Roland Summit publishes an article about Child Sexual Abuse Accomodation Syndrome, which convinces many therapists and prosecutors that if a child denies that anything happened to him or her, they are hiding the truth.
August
"An alcoholic woman (later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic) named Judy Johnson calls the Los Angeles police and accuses Ray Buckey – a 25-year-old worker at the McMartin preschool in Manhattan Beach, California – of sodomizing her two-year-old pre-verbal son."
December
Michael Jackson's Thriller music video features dancing zombies and graveyard scenes. Children in at least two investigations referred to this video.
   
1984  
March
"208 counts of child abuse involving 40 children are laid against Ray Buckey, the owners of the McMartin school (Ray's mother, Peggy Buckey, and his grandmother, Virginia McMartin), and four teachers." The case draws national attention.
Spring
"Twenty-four citizens of the town of Jordan, near Minneapolis were rounded up and charged as co-conspirators in a Satanic sex ring that held intergenerational orgies, produced child pornography using their own children, and committed human sacrifice. Their children were placed in custody and rigorously prompted to "disclose" abuse.

Charges against all but three of the accused were dropped by the end of the year."

July
In West Point, New York, "an investigation of the Army's day care program began after a girl returned home bleeding in her vaginal area. During the next year, allegations grew to include several children, animal sacrifices, pornography and rituals involving people wearing masks." Prosecutors concluded there was insufficient evidence to press charges but believed some abuse had occured.
August

Preschool children in a Miami daycare accused Frank Fuster and his 17-year-old wife of abusing them. "Allegations included pornography, the drinking of urine, eating of feces," etc. Clinton attorney-General Janet Reno was involved in this case. Frank Fuster is still in prison.

A couple running a daycare in Niles, Michigan are charged with sexual abuse and animal torture.

September
Gerald Amirault is arrested in Boston for multiple child molestation at his mother's daycare.
October

Bernard Baran arrested in Pittsfield, MA, and charged with molesting children in the daycare where he works.

The McMartin daycare case makes national headlines. Police in Los Angeles County investigate abuse allegations in 63 other day care centers.

Fall
Two children in Richmond, Virginia accuse family members of killing a child and cannibalizing it during a satanic rite.
   
1985  
January
Cheryl LeFave and Violet Amirault are charged with multiple child molestation in Boston
 

According to Nathan and Snedeker's Satan's Silence, "In early 1985, the state attorney general's office issued a report placing the blame for the (Jordan, Minnesota investigation) .... on the relentless, unending interviewing of children." Veterans of this case including Bob and Lois Bentz, formed an organization, Victims of Child Abuse Laws (VOCAL), that seeks to curb state intrusion into family life.

January
Bernard Baran is convicted of multiple child abuse.
  Teachers at the Jubilation Day Care Center in Fort Bragg, California are accused of molesting young children and cutting them with long jeweled knives to suck their blood. Authorities decline to press charges because of lack of evidence.
  Daycare operator Sandra Craig is accused of assaulting children with a screwdriver and a stick, animal torture and taking nude photographs. She is sentenced to ten years in prison.
February
A daycare centre in New Braintree, Mass has its license revoked while social workers investigate charges of child torture and nude photography. A magistrate rules that the accusations are baseless. No charges laid.
April
James Rodriguez and five others are charged with sexual abuse of two young brothers in California. Accusations include infanticide. Their lawyer advises them to plead guilty to avoid a long prison sentence. They go to prison.
June
Two day care workers in El Paso are arrested for abusing nine children. One is sentenced to life plus 311 years in prison. Her conviction was later overturned.
  Gina Miller, a mother of three, pregnant with her fourth child, is accused of being a "sex ring" participant in Kern County, California. The prosecutors offered her immunity and custody of her children if she would testify against her co-defendants. "Adamantly proclaiming her innocence, Miller refused the deal and in the spring of 1985, she was tried, convicted and sentenced to 405 years in prison."
September
In Carson City, children tell investigators of the murders of adults, animal killings, drinking blood and other rituals in an unlicensed day care. The owner of the babysitting service and her nephew were charged.
   
1986

April
James Watt, 31, goes on trial charged with multiple counts of child abuse as a private daycare. 18 children testified to various acts of abuse. Defense lawyers said that children initially denied abuse but told "bizarre" stories after repeated interviews. Watt is sentenced to 165 years (sentence later reduced, but he is still in prison today.)
September
Daycare workers in Carson City are accused of abusing 14 children. "Children told of the murders of adults, animal killings, drinking blood and other rituals."
  "Five men, including Nathaniel Grady, a 47 year-old Methodist minister, were convicted of sexually abusing children in day care centers throughout the Bronx.
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." (PBS Frontline: "Innocence Lost")

November
The McMartin-Buckey defendants appear on 60 Minutes
  Marilynn Malcom, of Vancouver, Washington, is convicted of mass abuse of children at the Rainbow Christian Daycare. As with many cases of this sort, the prosecutor didn't tell the jury about some of the far out allegations, such as children being blown up, and presented the more straightforward abuse allegations.
   
1987  
September
Journalist Debbie Nathan publishes "The Making of a Modern Witch Trial," in The Village Voice about a daycare case in El Paso, Texas. Nathan is the first prominent journalist to raise the national alarm about the injustices resulting from the daycare witch hunts.
  "Seven families of children enrolled in the Country Walk babysitting service in Miami reached a $5 million out-of-court settlement." "In Maplewood, N.J. parents of children allegedly abused at Wee Care Day Care Center have filed 1.4 billion in lawsuits against the school and the defendant, Margaret Kelly Michaels."
November
Geraldo Rivera's special, "Satanic Cults and Children," airs on television
December
Frances Ballard, a 57-year-old grandmother, is convicted of molesting children at the day care where she worked. Investigators accused her of being part of a satanic cult. Ballard is so naive about sexual terminology that the lawyers have to explain to her what she is accused of doing.
   
1988  
January
Journalists Tom Charlier and Shirley Downing write a series of articles for the Memphis Commercial-Appeal, documenting over 100 ritual abuse cases across the country.
March
James Toward, owner of a Montessori school in Florida, is arrested and accused of molesting preschoolers.
April
Kelly Michaels, a preschool teacher, is convicted of 115 counts of sexual abuse and uttering terroristic threats.
October
Geraldo Rivera's special, "Devil Worship: Exploring Satan's Underground", airs on television
  Paul Ingram of Washington is accused by his two daughters of satanic ritual abuse. Devoutly religious, he believes he must have been influenced by Satan and repressed the memories of what he'd done. He pleads guilty, then retracts his confession when he begins to doubt the truth of the accusations.
  350,000 reports of child sexual abuse are made in 1988, compared to 6,000 in 1976 (source: Time Magazine)
   
1989  
Debbie Nathan's article: "False Evidence: How Bad Science Fueled the Hysteria Over Child Abuse," appears in LA Weekly
  James Toward takes a plea deal and goes to prison, in exchange for promises by prosecutors that they will not also charge his wife with sexually abusing young children.
   
1990  
January
After three years of testimony and nine weeks of deliberation (the longest and most expensive criminal trial in US history, costing California taxpayers 15 million dollars) the jury in the McMartin case acquits Peggy Buckey and her son Ray. The prosecution decides to retry Ray Buckey.
  District Attorney Alan Rubenstein, conducting an independent investigation of ritual abuse allegations against the staff of Breezy Point Day Care in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, concludes that "none of this ever happened," and drops all charges. "This wasn't a question of maybe it happened and we just can't prove," he said. "This was conjured up by the hysteria of the parents who bought into this. It never happened."
  Ritual abuse convictions in California and Texas are overturned on appeal.
August
The second McMartin trial ends with a hung jury
   
1991
 
  Bobby Fijnje, a 14-year-old boy falsely accused of sexually abusing Sunday School children in Florida, is acquitted of all charges. The primary moving force behind his prosecution was Janet Reno.
February
Tennessee state appeals court overturned the 1987 child sex-abuse conviction of Frances Ballard on the grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.
   
1992  
March
60 Minutes segment on false abuse allegations against Bill and Kathy Swan
March
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation is formed to help families who have been torn about by therapy-induced incest accusations.
April
Police patrol the streets of Martensville, Saskatchewan, Canada, with assault rifles because of rumors that Satanists are coming to attack the town.
April

Bob Kelly convicted on 99 of 100 counts of child abuse in the North Carolina "Little Rascals" Daycare case. He is sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences.

  Frances and Daniel Keller, operators of Fran's Day Care Center, convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a 3-year-old girl. The Kellers were sentenced to 48 years in prison and are still in prison today.

Three children made allegations of abuse that included references to being buried alive with animals, painting pictures with bones dipped in blood, being shot and resurrected, digging up a body in a cemetary and nailing it together, having giant germs implanted in their bodies, and making pornographic movies at gunpoint. (Watch YouTube video about this case)

   
1993  
March
New Jersey Supreme Court overturns Kelly Michaels conviction, rules the way the children were questioned has tainted the evidence in the case.
May
48 Hours program about Kelly Michaels case
May-June
Lawrence Wright New Yorker article about Paul Ingram case.
July
PBS Frontline program by journalist Ofra Bikel about Little Rascals case in Edenton, North Carolina
August
Robert Halsey is convicted of molesting children on his bus route, sent to prison for life.
October
20/20 show on suggestibility of children in accepting and believing stories
November
Time magazine story on "Lies of the Mind"
November
Dale Akiki is acquitted in California of charges he molested children at a Sunday School
November
Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen are arrested and charged with molesting children who attend the Head Start school in Lorain, Ohio
   
1994  
April
60 Minutes looks at false/recovered memories
May
A jury awards damages to Gary Ramona, who sued his daughter's therapists, accusing them of implanting false memories of sexual abuse in her when she went to them for counselling for her eating disorder.
June
San Diego grand jury reports on prosecutorial error in Dale Akiki case
June
Redbook article on ritual abuse cases
August
Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen are convicted of multiple child abuse and sentenced to lengthy prison terms
   
1995  
  PBS Frontline "Divided Memories" program, showing how families are torn apart over false memories invented in therapy
May
"Indictment," a movie about the McMartin case which is sympathetic to the defendants, airs on HBO.
  Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker's book, Satan's Silence, is published.
December
Geraldo Rivera apologizes for promoting the satanic ritual abuse and recovered memory panics.
   
1996  
  Drs. Stephen Ceci and Maggie Bruck publish Jeopardy in the Courtroom, presenting their findings on the suggestibility of children as witnesses.
McCuan and Kniffen convictions are overturned. The Kniffen's two sons, now grown, tell a judge that when they were children they were coerced by a prosecutor to accuse their parents. The justice system that supposedly "saved" them from their parents then sent them to over a dozen foster homes.
  Methodist minister Nathaniel Grady and four other men imprisoned in 1984 for abusing children in day care centers in the Bronx, are released from prison after successful appeals.
  George Franklin, convicted on the basis of his daughter Eileen's recovered memories of witnessing him murder an eight year old girl, is released on appeal after serving six years in prison.
   
1997

January
Advocates for the victims of the ritual abuse witch hunts, including some of those released from prison, gather at Salem, Massachusetts, on the 300th anniversary of the day the Governor of Massachusetts apologized for the Salem Witch Trials.
May
Prosecutors drop charges against Robert Kelly and Dawn Wilson in the Little Rascals case.
  A long-buried tape recording of a child's interview with social worker Velda Murillo, in which Murillo pressures the little girl to accuse her relatives of molesting her, is turned over to the defense team for Jeff Modahl, in Bakersfield, California. The tape establishes what the defense said all along -- that children had been coerced into making accusations.
November
Dr Bennett Braun, once considered a foremost authority on satanic ritual abuse, is sued by a former patient, who believed that she was a satanic high priestess and regularly ate human flesh. He also surrenders his medical license for a period of two years.
   
1998  
  James Rodriguez finishes his sentence for child abuse but is kept in custody as a dangerous sexual offender.
March
A federal court frees Grant Snowden (another Janet Reno case) after 12 years in prison. The court finds that the children's testimony is not trustworthy because of the leading and suggestive questioning they were subjected to.
December
Marilynn Malcom's appeal from her 1986 conviction is denied. The Washington appeals court judges rule that too much time had elapsed since her conviction for her to introduce new legal arguments.
 
1999  
  James Toward is scheduled for release, but Florida authorities hold him indefinitely as a serious sexual offender. (He remains in prison to this day).
  Californian Jeff Modahl is freed after spending 15 years in prison.
   
2000  
September
In Ohio, a judge rules that Jenny Wilcox and Robert Aldridge cannot sue for wrongful imprisonment for the 11 years they spent behind bars on multiple assault charges before their conviction was overturned in 1996.
November
Harvard Law School sponsors a conference on the "The Day Care Child Sex Abuse Phenomenon."

2001  
March
Parents of a woman who had accused them of physical and sexual abuse sued her therapists. The jury awarded them over five million dollars.
   
2003 .
  Canadian Richard Klassen wins civil lawsuit for malicious prosecution against therapist, police officer and prosecutor who accused him and others of ritually abusing three foster children
   
2004  
  The two boys whose accusations sent James Rodriguez and five others to prison recant their testimony, saying they were forced to make false accusations by their aunt.
   
2005  
October
Kyle Zirpolo, one of the children in the infamous McMartin Preschool case, comes forward (as an adult) and says that his testimony was a lie. Zirpolo told journalist Debbie Nathan in the Los Angeles Times that he was pressured to make false accusations of ritual abuse.
   
2006  
May
Massachusetts Appeals court dismisses Robert Halsey's appeal from his conviction.
June
Bernard Baran released from prison after judge overturns his conviction. Prosecutor vows to re-try the case.
 
2009  

June

Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen's convictions are overturned.
   

This timeline adapted timelines by Bob Chattelle's timeline at www.freebaran.org and Dr. Phillip Jenkins. Thanks also to the OCRT website, Debbie Nathan, Edward Humes, and Shirley Downing and Tom Charlier, who wrote a ground-breaking series in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

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