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The McMartin Preschool trial was one of the first trials against individuals for multiple child sexual abuses. It is the longest and most expensive criminal trial in US history, stretching six years and costing fifteen million dollars. The case accused Peggy McMartin Buckey and Ray Buckey of kidnapping and forcing at first one, and later in the case over 350 children to perform sexual acts and participate in Satanic rituals.

On August 12th, 1983, Judy Johnson reported to police that her two and a half year old son had been molested by Ray Buckey, the son of owner Peggy Buckey. When the boy was interviewed, he was unable to point out Ray in photographs from the school, and of twelve other contacted parents, none had concerns that their children could have been abused. When the boy was medically examined, no signs sexual abuse could be found. Searches of the home of Ray Buckey resulted in the confiscation of a rubber duck, a graduation gown, and photos from Playboy magazine, among other normal items. Buckey was arrested in September of 1983 but on too little evidence to merit a trial. Judy Johnson died in her home of liver disease related to alcoholism before the trial ended, after having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, after having learned of her older son's incurable brain cancer. Along with the complaint filed against Buckey, she stated that her son and dog had been sodomized by her ex-husband, that her son had been injured by an elephant and a lion on a field trip, that her son had had staples pushed through his tongue, nipples, and ears, and that scissors had been put in his eyes. There was no physical evidence of this, and all mention of her mental illness was kept from the defense.

To gather more evidence against Buckey, the chief of police in Manhattan Beach sent a letter to 200 parents of children that had or did attend the school alerting them of the situation and asking them to question their children, with specific things to look for, such as oral sex, touching of genitals, the buttocks, the chest, and sodomy, with the possibility of pictures having been taken of the children and of the children having been tied up. The note ended by asking the parents to keep the matter confidential.

Naturally, the parents panicked and shared the information with everyone they knew; in other words, the parents were inclined to believe Buckey was guilty and thus this sentiment spread through the community.

When the case was being rebuilt, the star of the trial, Kee MacFarlane, came to take the majority of the investigative work. She immediately began making taped interviews of children, asking leading and suggestive questions of the children and rewarding them for saying they were abused.

Many children who were interviewed had stated clearly that they had not been molested. Parents who feared the worst or believed that their children were simply lying or denying that it had happened agreed to allow MacFarlane to interview the children. One child in particular who had denied being molested was interviewed by MacFarlane who used both leading questions and peer pressure in the videotaped interview, such as "You may not be smart enough to remember, but if you are, you can help." MacFarlane, after showing portions of the tape to the boy's parents told them that they must believe in and be prideful of their child's disclosure if they want him to remain confident.

Two months after being initially interviewed, the boy stated that he had been held at gun and knifepoint and that he had taken a plane ride with other children. In March of 1985 the boy helped his father dig for hidden tunnels underneath the school. Prior to this, the boy had never claimed the existence of tunnels, and when questioned about the locations of the tunnels, he denied their existence. During the pretrial hearing, the boy finally testified that Ray Buckey had opened a trap door, and that inside was a secret room that held lions that would "run around and roar."

The prosecution's case claimed that the McMartin preschool had been the center for a massive child pornography and Satan worshipping ring. The children were drugged, molested, and taken to various places for molestation, where they saw goat men, space mutants, a giraffe, a sexually abusive elephant, child pornography, were forced into child pornography, the killing and mutilation of animals, the sodomization of animals, Satanic rituals involving the murder of infants and the drinking of blood, dead babies, flying witches, movie stars, local politicians, and the forced burial of children in coffins, all by admission of the children during their interviews. Answers such as this would elicit rewards both emotionally and physically; the children could receive candy for these answers. The molestations at the school were said to take place in secret rooms beneath the school accessible by tunnels. These tunnels were how the children left the school to be taken elsewhere by car, train, airplane, and hot air balloon. In describing the locations of the tunnels and trapdoors and where they led, no two children ever mentioned the same locations. Among other things stated by the children, they claimed that they had been flushed down toilets to waiting adults, molested, then cleaned and sent back to the school, and that they had been thrown off of cliffs.

It took eighteen months for the prosecution's case to begin to fall apart as both members of the prosecution realized that the children's testimony was false and when charges against five defendants were dropped.

The first trial verdict, in January 1990, six and a half years after Judy Johnson's complaint, acquitted Peggy Buckey on all 13 counts against her for the molestation of four children. Ray Buckey, facing 52 counts and being accused of molesting only fourteen children out of three hundred sixty, was acquitted completely on 39 counts with a large majority for the remaining 13. Five of the twelve jurors stated that they believed no children had been molested. The remaining seven believed children may have been molested, but that the prosecution's case in no way illustrated that the molestation took place at McMartin preschool.

The interviews spear-headed by Kee MacFarlane were called "leading, suggestive, and worthless."

Despite the overwhelming lack of evidence that failed to convince a jury, community pressure caused a retrial against Ray Buckey. Initially facing 8 counts of molesting three girls, 5 counts were dropped as the trial began. The basis of the trial would only be the ability of the girls to better remember what had transpired. Six months after the original verdict, the second jury was hung but with a majority wanting to acquit Buckey. The judge declared a mistrial. The jurors' comments about the prosecution's case mirrored the first jury's. The district attorney refused to allow the case to be retried.

There were four searches for tunnels between 1985 and 1990. In March of 1985, one sixty foot trench and six thirty foot trenches were dug with a backhoe on the McMartin property. No tunnels were found. A few days later an archaeological team scanned the ground using a utility similar to ground penetrating radar that detected two trash dumps and nothing else. Another team dug a hole fifteen feet deep in 1990 in a room that had similar claims by children for trapdoors and tunnels. Nothing was found.

The final excavation, a 38 day affair, was conducted by Ted Gunderson, a former FBI agent, and Dr. E.G. Stickel, famous for claiming 40,000 year old human artifacts had been found in northern California (that's 31,000 years before humans lived there). The team refused to release their findings because they felt the prosecution was not listening to them. No proof of any tunnel was found, nor was any shoring for the existence of the tunnels. A geologist at the dig stated that no existence of tunnels was apparent. Ground penetrating radar did not show the existence of any tunnels. A 186 page report eventually filed showed no conclusive or convincing evidence of tunnels or hidden rooms beneath the property.

Ray and Peggy Buckey spent nearly seven years in prison for crimes they never committed.

Many thanks to my wonderful human sexuality professor Dr. Gordon, and the following websites:


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