The McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach
On March 22, 1984, seven teachers at the McMartin Preschool in Manhattan Beach, California are indicted on child molestation charges by a Los Angeles County grand jury after hearing testimony from 18 children. Among the charged are Peggy McMartin Buckey, the head of the school and her son Ray Buckey.
Seven years and millions of dollars later, the case against the teachers came to a close with no reputable evidence of wrongdoing and no convictions. The McMartin school saga began on August 12, 1983 when Judy Johnson reported to the police that she believed her 2-1/2-year-old son had been molested at the McMartin Preschool. The first mistake occurred less than a month into the investigation. On September 8th, 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 naming Ray Buckey as a suspect.
The letter set off a wave of hysteria in the community, which only compounded the problem. Virtually every child who attended the school was sent to the Children's Institute International (CII), 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 allegations that CII produced grew more bizarre every day. There wasn't any corroboration of these wild allegations from any witnesses although the school often had visitors and guests. The truth 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 would be the next accused. After six years of criminal trials, no convictions were obtained, and all charges were dropped in 1990. When the trial ended in 1990 it had been the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: