Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

Authors Reveal Story Behind The Notorious McMartin Case

Authors Reveal Story Behind The Notorious McMartin Case
Authors Story Behind Notorious McMartin Case GUEST: Matthew LeRoy, author, "They Must Be Monsters"

the McMartin preschool case in Los Angeles was the longest and costliest criminal case in American history. In the late 1980s seven defendants were charged with 321 counts of sexually abusing children. The criminal trials went on for six years. McMartin was the first in a series of alleged child care abuse cases across the country including one here in San Diego. Virtually all of them turned out to be baseless accusations. Now a San Diego is co-author of a book about McMartin. He joins Mark soure host of the PBS roundtable. Matthew Le Roy welcome to midday edition. Well the McMartin case got an incredible amount of media attention 30 years ago which is a worn out phrase now. But it truly was one in this case. How did McMartin start and how did it grow to such a monstrosity. Literally the McMartin case started 35 years ago on August 12th of 83. Judy Johnson went in and made the allegation. This is a mom in Manhattan because her mom in Manhattan Beach and accused rate Buckie of molesting her two and a half year old son at the McMartin price to make Martin preschool. And from that point on it it just took off. Then they issued a letter to the parents informing them of what had occurred and 200 parents received this letter. And then on February 2nd Wayne Satz of 84 Waits says broke the story that his ABC affiliate there KBC TV on Tuesday. It was in fact and it came on the air. It was nothing like it. I mean the sensationalism and especially the topic itself. Let me let me note here that we're not saying child abuse isn't real and tragic in our society. But this case really wasn't about child abuse it was about a thing that happened back then in San Diego with the deal a Kiku case McMartin of course and many other cases across the country of satanic ritual abuse which turned out to be. And it was exposed as a hoax in this case especially now what guards you and your co-author Derek Haddad interested in this case. Derek and I were fraternity brothers living together and he walks in and says hey I want you to read this article is a California magazine article. And it was about Glenn Stevens who was a D.A. that had some misgivings about the case and later left the case later and says Oh my parents are experts in child sex abuse and they've actually been hired by the defendants. So he had a drug connection to that direct connection and they said hey there's issues here. We spent a year gathering every newspaper article we could just go fast and it got it became fascinated and then actually meeting his parents and going over the case and they were the ones that really set the tone. And three years we started investigating and it took you three decades later you finally from here we are. Now let's talk about that a story you mentioned early on. There was a letter that the Manhattan Beach Police Department sent to these parents. Tell us how that so yeah that. Well first of all it's sort of a setup. I mean they had already been making contact and you've got to go back to the beginnings and that's why they must be monsters is probably an important is that no one has really gone back to the beginning and shown why this happened. Everyone sort of starts to wants to start the case at this letter. But obviously there's some issues prior to that and the parents are talking in the community as you have one lady. Her name is Judy Johnson and she is the key to this and that was the one thing that Derek's parents said hey you want to know the truth. Get down in there. Talk to both sides. And I think because we were college students they did. They were all willing to talk to us. So as we as we started seeing this tapestry and that letter obviously ignited it because come on you have a three point nine three square mile city called Manhattan Beach. You've got 30 1500 people living there. They end up interviewing 200 kids and they're trying to say 198 were molested. And so we started saying hey wait a minute what's going on. That's when the satanic ritual started coming out. That's when they were saying they were being you know sent to different schools seven preschools are shut down. But the thing that really was always missed was that they didn't want to talk about this conspiracy theory and that was always the one count within this whole 15 you know 15 million 7 year thing. And after two mistrials because they really didn't want to venture into that what is a conspiracy. Well they went from Ray Buckey and ended up expanding it. Now I should don't let me do a little housekeeping here. This was a long established school had been in that community for a long time the McMartin preschool the new mom grandmama in Virginia. MARTIN And her and her daughter Rannoch Ray Buckey worked there for a relatively short time and several other women had worked there had stellar reputation and all of a sudden it becomes the hotbed of Satanism. Exactly. And what was really bizarre about is if they've probably kept it just within Ray it would have been at least manageable. I'm not going to go as a criminal as a criminal case. But then they had to because of all these children were coming out saying they were being taken to all these other preschools. Well then they had to sit there and go wait a minute you have to have a conspiracy right. And that's when they brought in seven of the seven people four of the family members three of the other teachers. I mean Virginia was 77 years old at the time. She had been running the school for 30 years. No one had ever seen a thang. And suddenly they were being told that they've been doing this for the last 10 to 20 years and we should say that Judy Johnson the original mom here she didn't even last through the preliminary hearing which lasted five years in California's California history. And she unfortunately had mental issues and then a terrible drinking problem that killed her in the. Yeah. So the check and balance of the the police and the prosecutor really fell down because they let some of these experts really take the day mentioned in the book of course Keith McFarlane who ran a child the institute where so many hundreds of these children were evaluated with anatomically correct dolls and puppets and a lot of that stuff as with Kiki case here in San Diego has been exposed to this isn't the way we investigate child abuse because of the McMartin right. Man the one I guess the one core detail that I think everyone should understand because a lot of people said hey believe the child and the children don't lie you know what they were talking about was a therapeutic evaluation. But what they were supposed to be doing was a criminal examination a criminal investigation. And that's where the evidence really felt. You're talking about adults committing sexual acts on children. And there was no evidence. And when you sit down with the child the way they conducted the interviews was hey they're there. They have to come out and tell you what they know because they have been abused. It was kind of a brainwashing process. It was you know relatively that they know what they were doing at the time. No they didn't. They were trying to do the right thing. But now as we sit today they don't do that anymore. It's time for them to come clean. One of the things we've learned a little bit of time left. I want to talk about the media fell down on this as well because as you mentioned noin sites the ABC reported the Los Angeles Times the big paper in the in the area ran with this story and it became a huge national story till 60 Minutes kind of blew the whistle on it years down the road and said Hey folks this is really probably a hoax. Yes. You mentioned Wayne Satz and KBC but what really had the bearing was he was literally doing these exclusive interviews based on information he was not supposed to expose. And if it wasn't for Wayne said this doesn't hit the D.A. and they don't make indictments so quickly. Around With so much pressure. And I should note the Los Angeles Times actually won a Pulitzer Prize for a four part series that expose their poor coverage of this on the entire hoax itself which was another remarkable thing. Couple of seconds left here. What happened ultimately in McMartin that ended up in two mistrials. Ray Buckey spent five years in jail. His mother spent two years in jail and even though he was found literally not guilty it was a hung jury. And so a lot of people don't even realize what was the outcome. I mean we're getting asked that. But what happened and their lives were ruined as were lies were definitely ruined and really they were ruined without you know from the very beginning we said we're going. It's our duty our obligation to make sure that history tells the truth and if we can get that from this book and if people read it and say wow I learned something because it touched everybody. Everybody was touched by this case. Well mathlete Matthew Leroy thanks so much for joining us on Monday edition. Well thank you sir. After two hung juries all charges were dropped in 1993 against Ray Buckey ending the McMartin Preschool saga. He and his family were unsuccessful in attempting to sue authorities. Hey PBS roundtable host Mark soure spoke with Matthew Le Roy author of They must be monsters. The Untold Story of the McMartin preschool.

Matthew LeRoy and Derric Haddad were fraternity brothers at San Diego State University when the first reports of possible child abuse at a pre-school in Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles cropped up.

Both LeRoy and Haddad left school and began to look deeply into McMartin and its increasingly alarming allegations of satanic ritual child sexual abuse and hundreds of victims. The investigation ran from 1983 to 1987. The preliminary hearing lasted five years. The trials consumed six years in various courtrooms.

The results: two mistrials and several ruined lives.

Matthew LeRoy talks with Mark Sauer on Midday Edition about their book, "The Must Be Monsters" and what he and his writing partner, Haddad, discovered.