Updated Oct. 16, 2006
Mary and Robert Halsey
The courtroom testimony of twin 8-year-old boys – a concoction of fantasy and fear – led to a life sentence for Robert Halsey in 1993. In 2004 the National Center for Reason and Justice took up his case, but all of its appeals have been denied and the Massachusetts Supreme Court has denied Halsey's Application for Further Appellate Review. Now in his 70s and in failing health, the former bus driver will most likely die in prison, a victim of the child sexual-abuse hysteria that put him there.
by Lona Manning
Robert Halsey is in prison in Massachusetts. He's in his 70s, in poor health and he's been behind bars since 1993. Officially, he was convicted of sexual assault on children, but in another sense, he was convicted of being the bogeyman. His trial transcript makes for chilling reading -- and not for the reason you might expect. It raises the frightening possibility that an innocent person was accused and convicted of a childish concoction of fantasy and fear.
Halsey lived with his wife Mary in a modest house in the town of Lanesboro, in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He was an uncomplicated man. When he was younger and in better shape he enjoyed hunting and fishing. But as he entered his 60s, he was more likely to settle down in front of the television after a day of driving the school bus. His wife was more likely to be bustling around in the evening as Halsey, like many men of his generation, neither cooked nor cleaned. Mary Halsey relates how one evening, when she was working late in her craft room, her husband brought her a bowl of fruit cocktail. She was amazed that her husband had managed to find the can opener -- and that it had even occurred to him to be so thoughtful. It wasn't that he was a selfish man, but he was a man of limited imagination.
The Halseys had a grown daughter, but no grandchildren. "Children were very precious beings to both of us," says Mrs. Halsey. Her husband talked about the kids on his bus route "all the time," she recalled. "He enjoyed the kids, we always talked about them -- the things they said, if they did something funny."
In the fall of 1990, Beverly Walker arranged for bus service for her twin sons, who were entering a half-day kindergarten program at the local elementary school. The family lived on a winding, steep, dirt road, where no regular school bus could go, so the bus company (after some reluctance), bought a four-wheel-drive passenger van. Robert Halsey was the children's bus driver. Although Halsey picked up other children who lived on the outskirts of town, for a portion of his route, the twins were his only passengers.
He grew particularly fond of them. When the gas station was giving away Matchbox cars with every fill up, Halsey saved them to give to the boys, Jason and Justin Walker (all children's names and other identifying details concerning them have been changed). The Walker twins are teenagers now, but when they were 8 years old, they played a key role in sending Robert Halsey to prison, where he will most probably die.
How did Robert Halsey become the bogeyman of Lanesboro?