On March 22, 1984, seven teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California were indicted on molestation charges by the Los Angeles County grand jury after hearing testimony from 18 children. Included among the charged are Peggy McMartin Buckey, the head of the school and her son Ray Buckey.
The McMartin school fiasco began on August 12, 1983 when Judy Johnson reported to the police that she believed her son had been molested at the McMartin Preschool. The first major blunder occurred less than a month into the investigation. On September 8, the Manhattan Beach Police Department sent out a form letter to more than 200 families, alerting them of an investigation into the allegations of child molestation and named Ray Buckey as a suspect. The letter set off a wave of hysteria in the community. Compounding the problem, virtually every child who attended the school was sent to the Children's Institute International, an organization that claimed it could get children to reveal abuse even when they didn't want to talk about it. Unfortunately, the CII was also capable of getting easily manipulated children to reveal abuse when it had never actually happened. The CII produced allegation of satanic abuse that grew more bizarre every day, but there wasn't any corroboration of the claims from any witnesses although the school often had visitors and guests. The validity of the allegations mattered little to the community at large. The McMartin School was burned down in an arson attack and seven other local preschools closed down as people who worked with children began to fear that they too would be accused. In 1990, after six years of persecution, a jury found the defendants not guilty.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of numerous books that include the award winning, Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949 (2012, Schiffer Publishing). The WINNER of the 2012 International Book Awards and a FINALIST in the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards for True Crime. Visit the authors website for more information: www.michaelthomasbarry.com
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