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McMartin Family Trials: SEVEN teachers from prestigious private school were charged with molestation

A new documentary film will seek to shed fresh light on one the US’ most expensive and heavily contested criminal cases of all time, The McMartin family trials, which rocked a small California community to its core in more than three decades ago.

In Manhattan Beach during the 1980s, The McMartin Preschool, which had been founded by matriarch Virginia Martin, was one of the most sought after schools in the district.

So much so school officials were forced to put applicants on a waiting list because they simply didn’t have the means to meet the overwhelming demand.

However, the McMartin’s reverie came to a shattering halt in the summer of 1983, when a stunning accusation made by mother-of-two Judy Johnson claimed that her two-year-old son had been sodomized by teacher Ray Buckey at the school.

‘My 2-year-old son has been molested at the McMartin Preschool,’ explained Johnson in an audio tape airing on the documentary special ‘Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials,’ premiering Saturday, July 27 at 7/6c on Oxygen.

In Manhattan Beach during the 1980s, The McMartin Preschool, which had been founded by matriarch Virginia Martin, was one of the most sought after schools in the district. But in 1983, everything changed

Defense Attorney Forrest Latiner

Defense Attorney Danny Davis

Oxygen’s documentary, airing Saturday at 7pm ET/PT seeks to shed new light on one the US’ most expensive and heavily contested criminal cases of all time, The McMartin family trials, which rocked a small California community to its core in more than three decades ago (pictured: Defense Attorneys Forrest Latiner, left, and Danny Davis, right, discussing how victim’s testimonies were coerced by investigators)

Johnson’s accusations would later go on to spur a media hysteria, with more than 360 children coming forward making claims of sexual abuse, giving birth to one of the most infamous criminal trials in American history.

As its name would suggest, the McMartin Preschool was run by several members of the McMartin family, including founder Virginia, her daughter, Peggy McMartin Buckey, and her grandchildren Raymond ‘Ray’ Buckey and Peggy Ann Buckey.

Johnson told police that her son had some home from the school one afternoon and she noticed he’d developed a rash on his backside and was suffering from rectal bleeding. He also had painful bowel movements, she claimed.

She said she took her son to a pediatrician through fears he had been sexually abused. The doctor ‘found something consistent with molestation’ and Johnson immediately alerted police.

Interviewed by Detective Jane Hoag, the child identified Buckey as his attacker and the teacher, who had been employed at the school for little over two years, was arrested.

A stunning accusation made by mother-of-two Judy Johnson (above) claimed that one of the school’s teachers, Ray Buckley, had sodomized her two-year-old son. Johnson’s accusations would later go on to spur a media hysteria, with more than 360 children coming forward making claims of sexual abuse, giving birth to one of the most infamous criminal trials in American history

A stunning accusation made by mother-of-two Judy Johnson (above) claimed that one of the school’s teachers, Ray Buckley, had sodomized her two-year-old son. Johnson’s accusations would later go on to spur a media hysteria, with more than 360 children coming forward making claims of sexual abuse, giving birth to one of the most infamous criminal trials in American history

Interviewed by Detective Jane Hoag, the child identified Ray Buckey (above) as his attacker and the teacher, who had been employed at the school for little over two years was arrested

Interviewed by Detective Jane Hoag, the child identified Ray Buckey (above) as his attacker and the teacher, who had been employed at the school for little over two years was arrested

Johnson told police that her son had some home from the school one afternoon and she noticed he’d developed a rash on his backside and was suffering from rectal bleeding. He also had painful bowel movements, she claimed. She said she took her son to a pediatrician through fears he had been sexually abused. The doctor ‘found something consistent with molestation’ and Johnson immediately alerted police

Johnson told police that her son had some home from the school one afternoon and she noticed he’d developed a rash on his backside and was suffering from rectal bleeding. He also had painful bowel movements, she claimed. She said she took her son to a pediatrician through fears he had been sexually abused. The doctor ‘found something consistent with molestation’ and Johnson immediately alerted police

Due to a lack of evidence he was released the same day. But his freedom was met with a letter from Johnson, addressed to the district attorney, claiming her son had taken part in satanic ritual practices at the school.

Written at the height of America’s ‘Satanic Panic’, Johnson’s letter went on to claim that her son had been taken to a secret church where ‘Ray flew in the air’ and ‘Peggy drilled a child under the arm’.

Johnson also claimed that her son admitted two other children in his class had also been abused by Buckey, as well as a number of people at the daycare enjoying sexual relations with animals.

As a result, the local PD sent a letter to around 200 parents of students at McMartin, stating that they were investigating claims of sexual abuse and asked parents to question their children.

‘Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim,’ an excerpt of the letter read.

‘Our investigation indicates that possible criminal acts include: oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttock or chest area, and sodomy, possibly committed under the pretense of ‘taking the child’s temperature.’

Crucially, the letter mentioned the suspect: ‘Also photos may have been taken of children without their clothing. Any information from your child regarding having ever observed Ray Buckey to leave a classroom alone with a child during any nap period, or if they have ever observed Ray Buckey tie up a child, is important.’

Manhattan Beach PD sent a letter to around 200 parents of students at McMartin, stating that they were investigating claims of sexual abuse and asked parents to question their children

Manhattan Beach PD sent a letter to around 200 parents of students at McMartin, stating that they were investigating claims of sexual abuse and asked parents to question their children

In the letter’s wake, outrage swept through the local community and spilled out across the rest of the country. Town Hall meetings were held. Panic-stricken parents vented to authorities. Rumors of secret tunnels beneath the school; unauthorized field trips away; orgies at carwashes and carparks; and the existence of secret abuse rooms continued to persist.

By spring 1984, more than 360 children were claimed to have been abused at the school; a moral panic took hold.

The majority of those children had been interviewed by Children’s Institute International, a LA-based abuse therapy clinic run my Kee MacFarlane.

The claims later indicted seven employees of the McMartin school on March 22, including the aforementioned McMartin family, along with employees Mary Ann Jackson, Babette Spitler, and Betty Raidor.

As a collective, the cohort were first charged with 115 counts of molestation, which rose to 321 charges soon after, involving 48 different children.

After a 20-month preliminary hearing, charges were dropped against Virginia, Peggy Ann, Jackson, Spitler, and Raidor, with prosecutors determining there was insufficient evidence to take the case to trial.

One prosecutor branded the purported evidence ‘incredibly weak’. However, 65 counts of molestation remained against Buckey and Peggy McMartin.

After a 20-month preliminary hearing, charges were dropped against Virginia, Peggy Ann, Jackson, Spitler, and Raidor, with prosecutors determining there was insufficient evidence to take the case to trial. However, 65 counts of molestation remained against Buckey and Peggy McMartin

In the letter’s wake, outrage swept through the local community and spilled out across the rest of the country. Town Hall meetings were held. Panic-stricken parents vented to authorities. Rumors of secret tunnels beneath the school; secret field trips away; orgies at carwashes and carparks; and the existence of secret abuse rooms continued to persist (pictured: a pentagram found at the McMartin PreSchool on the 900 block of Manhattan Beach Boulevard)

In the letter’s wake, outrage swept through the local community and spilled out across the rest of the country. Town Hall meetings were held. Panic-stricken parents vented to authorities. Rumors of secret tunnels beneath the school; secret field trips away; orgies at carwashes and carparks; and the existence of secret abuse rooms continued to persist (pictured: a pentagram found at the McMartin PreSchool on the 900 block of Manhattan Beach Boulevard)

Private investigator Ted Gunderson shows hole dug by parents who are searching for an alleged secret room used for molestation at the McMartin

Private investigator Ted Gunderson shows hole dug by parents who are searching for an alleged secret room used for molestation at the McMartin

Peggy’s bail was set at $1 million and Buckey was denied the motion all together.

By 1990, after three years of testimony and nine weeks of jury deliberation, Peggy McMartin was acquitted on all counts.

Meanwhile, Buckey was cleared of 52 of 65 counts and was finally released on bail after more than five years in prison.

Buckey was re-tried on the remaining 13 counts, but once again the jury remained deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. He was later cleared of all counts.

Johnson, the woman responsible for the first allegation, would never appear or speak at the hearing. An alcoholic and schizophrenic, she was found dead in her apartment on December 19, 1986 from a ‘metamorphosis of the liver’.

Her mental stability and the subsequent impact it may have had on her perceptions remained a central theme throughout much of the seven year probe – which cost the government around $15 million, becoming the longest and most expensive legal case of all time.

It was later revealed that she had claimed that her dog had been sodomized by the McMartin family and that her estranged husband had also raped one of their children.

By 1990, after three years of testimony and nine weeks of jury deliberation, Peggy McMartin was acquitted on all counts

Parents react to Bucky and Peggy's acquittal

Parents react to Bucky and Peggy's acquittal

Meanwhile, Buckey was cleared of 52 of 65 counts and was finally released on bail after more than five years in prison. Buckey was re-tried on the remaining 13 counts, but once again the jury remained deadlocked and a mistrial was declared. He was later cleared of all counts (pictured: parents react to Bucky and Peggy’s acquittal)

But in the years after the trial, as highlighted in Oxygen’s new documentary, it’s the interviewing techniques employed by Children’s Institute International and Kee MacFarlane that often draw the most controversy, with many believing the testimonies of the supposed victims were actually coerced.

MacFarlane’s practices have since been deemed highly-suggestive, where children were invited to pretend or speculate about supposed events.

Such instance led to a series of bizarre allegations, where children claimed to have seen witches flying through the air and traveled in a hot air balloon. One boy even pointed to a photograph of action star Chuck Norris and identified him as his abuser.

The McMartin preschool was closed and the building was dismantled in 1990; several of the accused have since died.

In 2005, one of the accusers retracted their allegations of abuse.

‘Never did anyone do anything to me, and I never saw them doing anything. I said a lot of things that didn’t happen. I lied,’ he said.

‘Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn’t like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. … I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do.’

Oxygen’s ‘Uncovered: The McMartin Family Trials’ casts a previously unseen eye to how the allegations brought against the McMartin Preschool teachers were elicited.

The two-hour special will air on Saturday July 27, at 7pm ET/PT.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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