Borshch Bones NOT Human Sacrifice

Ancient ritual abuse legend reappears among urban "Molokans"
Scared by the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history

by Andrei Conovaloff, February 21, 2011 — DRAFT  In-Progress  Updated July 10, 2013

       News articles attached
  • 1984 Apr 13 — Neighborhood Youngsters, Two Couples Accused of Molesting Children, Los Angeles Times.
  • 1985 May 23 — Bones dug up at site of alleged ritual killings, Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution (GA)
  • 1985 May 30 — Soup Bones or Satanism? Churchyard Dug Up in Molestation Case, Los Angeles Times.
  • 1985 June 6 —  Expert's Opinion in Molestation Case: Bones in Churchyard Called Table Scraps, Los Angeles Times.
  • 1985 August 11 Satan, Kids and Sex Statewide Spate Of Abuse Cases Leaves Cops, Families Reeling, San Jose Mercury News (CA)
  • 1995 April 16 —  The Nightmare That Lingers: Law: .. $7.3-million settlement. .. Los Angeles Times.
  • 1999 November 1 — Law And Lotion: Legal News and Trends: And Now the Revenge: A Los Angeles court awards millions to former defendants accused of child molestation, Madrid Law Firm.
  • 2000 October 11 False Accusations Still Haunt Couple, Los Angeles Times. ~$18 million settlement
  • 2000 October 13 Nightmare On Planter Street, Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)
  • 2000 October 15 Pair Falsely Jailed Win $14 Million, Press-Telegram (Walnut Creek, CA)
In 1904 Russian historian Gantz reported about Russian heretics, including Skakuny (Jumpers)  :

"All these sects are accused of child-murder. They are said to wish to send children unspotted to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is to be noted that all these data are unreliable, because no stranger is admitted to the secret devotions, while the imaginations of the denouncers has just as much tendency to revel in sexual and sanguinary [bloodthirsty] ideas as that of the exalted devotees. The persecution of these sects by the Government is easy to understand. "(1)

In July 1906 the Los Angeles Express reported:
A rumor to the effect that the “Holy Rollers” contemplate making sacrifices of children, to appease the wrath of God, is in circulation, and timid women are keeping close watch over their little ones ...(2)
June 1909 the Los Angeles Herald announced:
Human Blood Sect To Be Investigated; Russian Authorities Find Body of Fanatics Which Offer Sacrifices of Persons ... Dispatches from Perm, European Russia, say ... the sect of the Crimson God, ... are accused of human sacrifices and other horrible practices. .. The Ural region, ... is a breeding ground for many fanatical cults. It is a meeting place for ...  persons who flee from Russia on account of religious persecution. .. their beliefs have developed along the most fanatical lines
In 1983, the ancient  myth of the blood libel — historically used to persecute Jews and unwanted faiths(1,2) — reappeared in urban Los Angeles.

In 1985, the myth was again falsely projected upon Russian heretics(2), this time upon a congregation of Spiritual Christian Dukh-i-zhizniki, who mislabel themselves as "Molokans" in Southern California. Not only were they in the wrong neighborhood at the wrong time, but the false label their immigrating ancestors used to hide the fact that they were originally "Holy Jumpers" (Pryguny) to avoid persecution in 1905 sounds like Molochs, people mentioned in the Bible who sacrificed kids by fire.
Animal bones discarded after their meals were imagined by delusional people with mental disorders to be human bones. Excavation for sewage was imagined to be underground caves for devil worship and human sacrifice.

The zealous accusers were on a compulsive witch hunt. After having four of their Pico Rivera neighbors wrongfully arrested for child molestation, they believed there was an epidemic of Satanism which they must stop. When they dug up bones buried by Russian "Molochs," the police were notified and a full investigation was conducted and reported in all local media.

Only one representative, Mike Treguboff, of the wrongfully accused "Moloch" congregation in Norwalk was brave enough to talk to the media. He had no choice, a reporter called him twice. He got no support from his membership or coreligionists in adjacent cities. Dukh-i-zhizniki of all faiths and status were afraid to help him, lest they be exposed.

Instead of standing up for their faiths as their ancestors did, thousands of Dukh-i-zhizniki retreated in fear for what might happen to their careers and jobs, businesses, congregations and organizations if they were found out to be associated with alleged "Molokan" Satanists, daily alleged in all news media to sexually abuse, murder kids in a dungeon, and eat them.

Mental illness of a few non-Russians impacted these Russian Spiritual Christian Dukh-i-zhizniki in Southern California with long-term needless fears and drastically reduced their ranks. Though the accusers first 4 victims were quickly proven innocent and eventually compensated ~$18 million, and no evidence was found against the Russian congregation, their co-religionists continue to hide and divide 25 years later.


Upon organizing in the 300s, Christians persecuted other faiths and perceived heretics. Beginning in the 1100s, Jews were prosecuted for the imagined blood libel.(1,2)

In the mid 1700s for 15 years, two Russian Orthodox Church investigatory commissions in Moscow documented what they believed to be the Quaker heresy(2) infecting their territory and claimed to have uncovered "orgies and bloody sacrifice" — the blood libel allegedly spread into the Russian Empire from Europe. These false reports about religion were documented for centuries as fact. The immigrating ancestors of Russian Spiritual Christians were often called "Russian Quakers" by the press during their arrival to Los Angeles.

In the 1990s after perestroika, Russian scholars were free to examine this bizarre history. In 2000, Panchenko published an overview and summary focusing on Russian schismatics and sectarians, concluding the blood libel reports were "pure fantasies"(3). No direct evidence could be found anywhere, he said.(4)

History Repeated

In the 1980s, myths of Satanism and child abuse were kindled in California by a series of unrelated events, unfortunately connected by delusional people into a flaming hysteria, sensationalized by the media and politicians, then spread across the U.S. in 2 years, and around the world in 10 years.(5)

Social scientists studied this 20-year Satanic ritual abuse (SRA) hysteria and found a high incidence of mental illness among parents making the false allegations.(6) The total social cost was enormous. The hysteria first flared in Southern California nearly destroying the Dukh-i-zhiznik society with terror.  
  • 1982 — The first known cases of day care child molestation were reported in Southern California, starting 100 miles north of Los Angeles, in Kern county.(7)
  • In 1982(?) the most zealous Dukh-i-zhiznik families started a long planned private grammar school in Hacienda Heights to shield their kids from evils in the world and teach their secret doctrine.
  • 1983 August — The infamous McMartin Preschool case erupted on Manhattan Beach Boulevard, Los Angeles County.(8)  The case dominated the news for a decade.
  • 1983 October — Los Angeles County attorney subcontracted most of the McMartin case analysis showing unethical favoritism to the incompetent Children's Institute International (CII).(9) 
  • 1984 January — The award-winning McMartin Preschool closed, after 28 years of community service.(10)
  • 1984 February — Los Angeles TV stations sensationalize McMartin news for ratings sweeps month, a competition for more viewers and advertising dollars.(11)  60 children were reported to be "sexually abused," "in pornographic films" and "forced to witness the mutilation and killing of animals."(12)
  • 1984 March — 7 McMartin owners and workers were wrongfully indicted on 115 counts of child sexual abuse, later expanded to 321 counts involving 48 children of 400 interviewed.(8, 12)
  • 1984 April — CII advertised for reports of more sexually abused kids. The ad campaign got CII more clients, government money and donations. Their annual revenue would increase in 8 years by ~7 times in 6 years to ~$27 million.(13)
Hysteria Infects Pico Rivera

In April 1984, on the short Planter Street in south Pico Rivera (map), four people were wrongfully arrested for allegations of kidnapping and child molestation solely based on stories from 11 neighborhood kids. A 10-day pre-trial hearing was held in Whittier Municipal Court, a  population center of young urban professional Americanized descendants of Russian Spiritual Christians, most affiliated with Dukh-i-zhzniki.

In May 1984, Los Angeles District Attorney Philobosian seeking reelection enhanced the McMartin indictments to 208.(11)

On Planter Street, the most vocal and hysterical of the alleged victim's mothers, Vickie Meyers, was obsessed to stop Satanists. She reached out to anyone on the Pacific Coast for clues and complained often to police.(5)

In July 1984, the County Sheriff assigned 8 full-time investigators to the Planter Street case for four months, with no results. Similar cases were extensively investigated in Whittier and Covina, also inconclusive.(5)

In March 1985 in Manhattan Beach, an expedition of about 50 McMartin Preschool parents dug for "secret underground rooms" in an adjacent vacant lot where they imagined massive sexual abuse of children occurred. None were found.(10). A few days later the District Attorney's office hired an archaeological firm began to excavate. Again, none were found. (photo, court record)

Allegations Against Dukh-i-zhizniki

In May 1985, Meyers followed a tip leading her four miles south from her house to Norwalk, to a neighborhood leveled for construction of the Century Freeway, and the vacant lot where a temporary rented Dukh-i-zhiznik meeting hall once stood.

In that neighborhood local American kids fantasized that Satanism occurred in and under the former building. The kids saw people wearing strange clothes (photo above); the men had long beards; in the building they chanted and jumped; they carried white coffins in the street; they dug a tunnel under the back of the building; and they cooked meat, ate it and buried bones in back.

Admittedly hysterical, Meyers convinced skeptical police to conduct a forensic investigation of the buried bones and excavate the underground sacrifice chambers. Crime scene investigators (CIS) reported animal soup and roast bones, no people bones and no caves.

Meyers was adamant that all the scientists were wrong, the police inadequate, the lawyers practiced Satanism, and she vowed to continue to expose these Satanists. She kept many bones for her own analysis (photo).

In January 1986, the McMartin trial began in Los Angeles Superior Court, more than 2 years after the news first erupted, and again dominated the media daily.
Many Dukh-i-zhiniki were terrified. Will they be next? Sunday school and Sunday assembly (sobranie) attendance plummeted. Some wealthy families moved to Orange County.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time

If the traditional Russian congregation stayed in their East Los Angeles sector and not chosen to hide behind the false "Molokan" label, these allegations probably would have never occurred. Meyers would likely have attacked others instead.

Due to the media hype about an epidemic of child-molestation, the police reluctantly investigated allegations by delusional people mostly to protect their jobs by following orders from media hungry district attorneys during an election year. The politics and timing was optimal for Meyers, but the place was unfortunate for these urbanized descendants of immigrant Russian peasants.

In East LA, most old-time natives personally know these non-Orthodox Russians and their fancy peasant dress on Sunday and holidays. Thousands went to school with Russians Spiritual Christians of all faiths, even shared Russian food during holidays and at homes.

The immigrating Russian Spiritual Christians were first concentrated in the Eighth Ward of Los Angeles (east of Alameda to the LA river, between Aliso and First streets). Next they dispersed east to the Ninth Ward Flat(s) (1910), Boyle Heights (1920-1960), East LA (1950-1980), and during the 1985 allegations, they clustered in and near Montebello, Downey, Whittier, Hacienda Heights (map above) with tens of thousands of descendants scattered throughout Southern California, and the west coast (map). Though Meyers lived 2.5 miles east of the Russian Spiritual Christian cemetery, 7201 E. Slauson Ave, she probably never heard of them before her allegations.

In the past 25 years, since the allegations, most of the Dukh-i-zhiznik congregations have clustered in and north of Whittier, where the Planter Street court cases were first held.

The Russian Spiritual Christian immigrants in Los Angeles were of many faiths and several nationalities. Today more than 90% of the descendants are fully Americanized, intermarried, melted, and few know much of their heritage.

Most in southern California immigrated as Pryguny and by the 1950s transformed all remaining congregations into Dukh-i-zhiniki, leaving residual Pryguny with no meeting hall of their own. The other Russian Spiritual Christians retained meeting halls, some in the Los Angeles area (Subbotniki, Evangelic Christians, Russian Baptists) while Molokane relocated in 1906 to established a large congregation in San Fransico on Potrero Hill, and the few Doukhobors moved north to the California Central Valley or Canada.

A congregation of Armenian-American Pryguny divided; most transformed into Dukh-i-zhizniki then Pentecostal; while the evangelic Shakarian family founded the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International. The FGBMFI is the only group which actively recruits new members and has grown.

In contrast, the strictest Russian-American Dukh-i-zhiniki ban members from attending other faiths, do not participate in interfaith meetings, do not evangelize, have no missionaries or tracks, often shun each other and ostracize, and have no official representative or central office. When approached for questioning, elders typically don't answer, walk away, or refer the questioner to someone else who does the same. They are a closed society who will turn away non-Russian neighbors curious to attend a meeting.

This Flatbush Ave congregation was nicknamed "605" for being along the 605 San Gabriel River Freeway. It's original nicknames were Klubnikin's after their founding prophet, then Shubin's after their presbyters; then podval (Russian for basement) for the step-down, first level half-basement of the house used at 116 S. Clarence street, next to Klubnikin's Market and Bakery. They were the last remaining congregation in the "Flat(s)." In 1915 their first building was damaged by fire and repaired. In 1975 it was completely destroyed by fire.

For 3 years the congregation met house to house until finding a vacant low-rent former church building in the path of the new Century Freeway, which they used from 1978  to 1982, when it was demolished, exact date not now known. To be "spiritual clean" the most conservative Dukh-i-zhiznik congregants insisted that their "605" Norwalk meeting hall not be registered or their names shown on any government documents, so younger member Mike Treguboff was appointed to rent the hall and manage their business affairs (temporalities) in his name, which is how a reporter got his phone number.

After meeting in homes again, a permanent building was built in 1985-1989 at 15052 Clark avenue in the City of Industry. Now nicknamed "Clarkies," this congregation is not incorporated, preferring to remain separated from the state, with __ Shubin appointed to manage their temporalities. Treguboff transferred to a different Dukh-i-zhiznik congregation in Whittier.

At least 10 other congregations had moved their prayer halls in stages from the Russian ghetto in Flat(s) to Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, Montebello, La Puente, and Hacienda Heights. Since 1985, three other congregations also moved from East LA to Whittier due to vandalism and for closer proximity to members.

2005 photo of prayer at a cemetery burial showing typical diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik dress — Westernized fancy Russian peasant-style in all white. Though their ancestors immigrated in multi-colored dark dress, it evolved to this mandatory basic white symbolizing spiritual purity. Many East Los Angeles natives are familiar with these Russos (Russian in Spanish). The men above are presbyters from two different congregations near East LA.

The orange rings below, show how the congregations, cemeteries and Sunday school (red-yellow dots) of Russian sectarians in 1985, began in a ghetto on the east side of downtown Los Angeles in 1904 and migrated eastward spreading out as many descendants moved to those new suburbs. The Flatbush prayer hall (bottom of red rectangle) was located miles south of neighborhoods familiar with these Russians.

Planter street accusers ventured 4 miles south in search of Satanists.

Bones found 4 miles south of their home were discarded after making borshcht (Russian soup) and roasting meat for communal meals. Meyers believes these are human bones. Modesto Bee, 1987

No Martyrs

Prygun and Molokan oral history is rich with legions of martyrs — brave ancestors who suffered for their faith — torn on the rack, burned, nose ripped, imprisoned, exiled, women forced to nurse pigs. During World War I, for 10 months 34 Pryguny and Maksimisty were jailed in Arizona for not registering for the draft, and 6 were imprisoned for 4 years, and during WWII about   were jailed from one to three years each — in total, more than 450,000 hours in jail.

In 1985, the martyrs vanished. No one stepped up to defend the "605" congregation or wanted to be publicly associated with their faiths or heritage.

Mike Treguboff said about May 29, 1985, he was driving home from his factory job as supervisor while listening to the radio. He heard news that police, neighbors, and reporters were watching jack hammers and a tractor digging up the foundation of a former church on Flatbush Avenue in Norwalk. They were looking for bones of dead children killed and eaten by Satanists.

Treguboff was a few miles from the scene. He turned around and got on the 605 Freeway going south to see if the news was about his former meeting hall property. He drove slowly along the right lane and the freeway fence. He was about a 100 feet or more from a crowd of "as many as 200 people" at his former sobrania. He saw TV cameras and antennae trucks, police cars flashing, a tractor, kids on bikes. He was afraid to get any closer to such a mad crowd as reported on the radio and he witnessed, and drove home in fear of what crazy thing could happen next. Will his congregation be arrested? Will they need expensive lawyers?

A journalist traced the last use of the former building to a rental agreement with Treguboff's name and phone number. Treguboff was called at home twice and politely answered the questions. He disconnected his phone.

His boss was also questioned by county investigators and let him know nothing illegal was found and he still has a job.

One man alone answered questions while thousands of coreligionists hid in nearby suburbs. No one wrote letters, signed a petition, or called police in protest. Their fear spread to all inter-group contact and impacted their Russian ethnic identity and attendance.

Though professed to be Christians, no one had compassion to pat Treguboff on the back for what he bravely did or even spoke to him about his ordeal. He suffered 2 years of anxiety.(interview)

No other Russian-American Dukh-i-zhizniki contacted any media or law enforcement in defense of their co-religionists, nor did they hold a meeting or publish any news in their organization newsletters.

An organization of business men, The Heritage Club, mostly Americanized descendants of Spiritual Christians Molokane, Pryguny and  Dukh-i-zhiniki, formed in 1979, met monthly at Downey Community Hospital, 3 miles southeast of Planter street. Most members lived nearby; are upper-middle class, educated; with expensive homes, important jobs; and many with lucrative government contracts. They were terrified to be exposed. Some moved to Orange County.

In 1985, historian Ethel Dunn appealed to the Heritage Club with Dr. Obrien-Rothe for funding to conduct research in Russia for "The Origin of Molokan Singing." Founding members of the Heritage Club first agreed to help, then refused, claiming the FBI would investigate them and they would loose their careers if they were associated with Russia or Russians.(13) In 1986, The Heritage Club ceased mailing an annual newspaper to their entire ethnic community — distribution dropped about 85%, from near 5000 to about 700.(---)

In 1980, the United Molokan Christian Association (UMCA) moved from East LA to Hacienda Heights, closer to the population center of their younger families. Average Sunday school attendance counted in the 100s in the 1960s, dropped in the 1970s for being "too far" and in the "Mexican area." At the new location attendance rose somewhat, then dropped as Dukh-i-zhiniki converted the community organization into a private elementary school while neglecting other youth programs. After 1985, average Sunday school attendance dropped to a dozen. The annual UMCA picnic attended by thousands for decades, dropped to a few hundred.

Similar cultural shocks occurred in each generation in America when Eastern Europeans were suspected of not appearing nationalistic.(---) The result is most abandoning their ethnic past, intermarrying, some changing their name or faith, some moving away, while local adherents become introverted, hiding their identity.(----)

Cost of Mental Illness

Mental illness affects about one-fourth of the population.
About 6% of the adults and 10% of children have serious mental disorders (NAMI). Less than half are diagnosed and treated (NCS). Untreated mental illness is a source of allegations of SRA.(3)

The McMartin Preschool case was started by mentally ill accusers and managed by unskilled legal workers. 208 people were wrongfully accused for over 500 crimes allegedly commuted against 40 kids, from a total of 360 wrongfully diagnosed as having been abused. In 1990, after 7 years and $15 million in legal costs, the case was dismissed.(10)  It was the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history.(11)

The Planter Street allegations were dismissed after much press. The wrongfully accused sued their neighbors and city, winning a $7.3-million settlement for false allegations and arrest 10 years later in 1995.(8) When the government appealed, the settlement inflated to ~$18 million in 2000.

The media hysteria severely impacted Dukh-i-zhiniki. 100 years after immigration, the total attendance at all diaspora congregations is less than the number that immigrated.

Attendance and donations for the new LA-UMCA Molokan Elementary School, started by Dukh-i-zhizniki in 1981 to isolate their children from the evils of the world and teach their doctrine, increased progressively during the 1980s, then declined.

  1. Ganz, Hugo. "Chapter 24: Sectarians and socialists" in  The Downfall of Russia: Behind the scenes in the realm of the csar, London, 1904,  page 239.
  2. "Young Girl Given Gift Of Tongues",  Los Angeles Express, 20 June 1906.
  3. Blood libel, Turvey, Brent E, Blood Libel in Criminal Profiling: An Introduction To Behavioral Evidence Analysis, 3rd ed., 2008, pages 3-6. For the history of the transfer of blood libel allegations from Western to Eastern Europe, see: Maciejko, Pawel, The Politics of the Blood Libel in The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755-1816, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011, pages 92-126.
  4. Though no Quakers appeared in Russia until the 1800s, sectarian opposition to the Russian Orthodoxy in the 1700s was suspected to have Quaker roots from Europe. Russian "Quakeresses" (long), The Religious Society of Friends (discussion group) (Accessed 8/25/2001).  Engelstein, Laura.  Slavophile empire: Imperial Russia's illiberal path, Cornell University Press, 2009, page 122. About 1740 the Russian Orthodoxy denounced Khlysty as a "Quaker heresy", sectarian fanatics, and a Protestant import (Reference: “The Image of the Quaker and Critique of Enthusiasm in Early Modern Russia,” Russian History / Histoire Russe (Fall 1997), pages 251-278). Engelstein, Laura. Castration and the Heavenly Kingdom: A Russian Folktale, Cornell University Press, 1999, page 24. Hayden, Donne. Friends & Universalist Christianity, Message – Cincinnati Friends Meeting, July  4, 2010. The Desecrated Quaker Maidens, The Journal of the Friends Historical Society, Vol. XXVI. No 3, November 1919, pages 106-107.
  5. Panchenko, Aleksandr. "Strange Faith and the Blood Libel" Staraya Ladoga Collection. Vol. III. Saint-Petersburg, Staraya Ladoga, 2000. Folklore and postfolklor: structure, typology, semiotics.
  6. Interview April 26, 2002, with Dr. Alekandr Panchenko, Institute of Russian Literature, St. Petersburg, Russia, conducted at Arizona State University, Tempe AZ, after he presented "Alien Faith and the Blood Libel: Russian Ecstatic Sects and the Blood Libel Legend." Interview author by Andrei Conovaloff with Jim Mike Tolmachoff, visiting from Australia.
  7. Day care sex abuse hysteria,  List of satanic ritual abuse allegations,
  8. Satanic ritual abuse: Dissociative identity disorder,
  9. Kern County child abuse cases,
  10. McMartin preschool, Chronology of  the McMartin Preschool Abuse Trials, Famous Trials: The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trials, 1987-90. School of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City.
  11. Children's Institute International, Famous Trials: The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trials, 1987-90. School of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City. The CII website (searched 8/28/2011) has no mention of their McMartin history.
  12. Earl, John. Hysteria Spreads, The Dark Truth About the "Dark Tunnels of McMartin," Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, Institute for  Psychological Therapies, Vol.7.2, Special Issue, Spring 1995.
  13. Earl, John. News Media Coverage and National Hysteria, The Dark Truth About the "Dark Tunnels of McMartin," Issues In Child Abuse Accusations, Institute for Psychological Therapies, Vol.7.2, Special Issue, Spring 1995.
  14. McMartin preschool trial,; "The Longest Trial - A Post-Mortem; Collapse of Child-Abuse Case: So Much Agony for So Little," The New York Times, January 24, 1990, pages 3,7.
  15. Following the Money, Famous Trials: The McMartin Preschool Abuse Trials, 1987-90. School of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City. The data indicates that the total CII budget multiplied consecutively since 1982, from 4 to 9 times within 8 years. At the end of the hysteria, revenue totaled ~$15.4 million for 1987 through 1990. Executive salary up 80%, to ~$153,000 in 1991. Total CII revenue for the 8 years was ~$27 million, ~7 times more than their pre-1982 level.

  16. Satanism on the rampage worldwide, The Phoenix Liberator (Vol. XVIII #1), January 21, 1992, pages 13-19; especially "Henry's Story" page 16, "The Planter Street Case" page 17, "Covina Baptist Church Case" page 18, and Mrs. Meyers" page 19.
  17. Reports Hurt Molestation Cases; Talk of ritualism affects believabilityModesto Bee, September 7, 1987, page B-4.
  18. Tales of Satanism Mark Molestation Cases : Children's Macabre Testimony Sometimes Derails Prosecutions, The Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1987|
  19. The Nightmare That Lingers : Law: Four people wrongly accused 11 years ago of child molestation have won a $7.3-million settlement. But the pain the allegations caused has not gone away. The Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1995
  20. Laqueur, Walter. The changing face of antisemitism: from ancient times to the present day. 2006, pages 55-57.
  21. Chronology of  the McMartin Preschool Abuse Trials. School of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

  22. Butler, EW; Fukurai H; Dimitrius J; Krooth R (2001). Anatomy of the McMartin child molestation case. Lanham, Md: United Press of America.
  23. Interviews with Nick Andrew Shubin, who claimed Allen Jim Korneff, CEO of Downey Community Hospital (now Downey Regional Medical Center), was equally afraid as were others. Shubin discarded most all Russian items he owned, including wooden spoons given by his mother.
  24. The decision had no explanation except they will do a better job. I wrote, published and mailed the Heritage Club News for 5 years at very low cost.
  25. The underground "tunnels" of the McMartin Preschool. Religious

Neighborhood Youngsters, Two Couples Accused of Molesting Children

Los Angeles Times, Apr 13, 1984  OC_A14  
Two couples who live on the same block in Pico Rivera were formally charged Thursday with sexually molesting four neighborhood children, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced. 461 words

Bones dug up at site of alleged ritual killings

Parents say children forced to watch mutilations

The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, May 23, 1985, page A/13
Los Angeles Times

NORWALK, Calif. - A group of parents, digging at an abandoned church site where children said they were forced to watch satanic killings of humans and animals, have uncovered 300 to 500 bones.

The bones, uncovered during three days of digging at the site in Norwalk, about 15 miles south of Los Angeles, are the latest twist in a convoluted child-molestation investigation that has involved at least 12 children.

But the parents and officials disagreed Wednesday ...
451 words

Soup Bones or Satanism?

Churchyard Dug Up in Molestation Case

May 30, 1985 — Los Angeles Times — Section: Long Beach — Page: 10-10 — By David Ferrell  — Red notes updated August 28, 2011
NORWALK — News cameras rolled as jackhammers and bulldozers took cracks at the huge slab of concrete. Dozens of bystanders watched from under shade trees cordoned off with long ribbons of police tape. Sheriff's deputies milled about near a mobile crime lab as traffic slowed to a crawl on the nearby San Gabriel River Freeway [605 Freeway].

The scene last Friday, in a former church yard on Flatbush Avenue [at Branscomb Street, southeast corner], was part of the search for evidence in a child-molestation case that has baffled investigators for more than a year and has torn apart the working-class neighborhood of Planter Street in Pico Rivera.

Beginning May 18, parents of the alleged victims dug at the site and uncovered hundreds of bones they attributed to satanic sacrifices of humans and animals. The parents said their children had reported being taken there and watching rituals in chambers beneath the church.

According to the parents and police reports, at least a dozen Planter Street children have described being molested and, in some cases, threatened with knives and guns to keep them quiet.

Last April, four residents of Planter Street were arrested and charged with 19 counts of kidnapping and child molestation. The charges against them were dismissed at a preliminary hearing in July in downtown Whittier, however, after several children recanted their stories and the judge ruled there was insufficient evidence. A fifth resident, arrested in September, has been bound over for trial on two counts of molestation and two counts of kidnapping.  All allegations were dismissed 10 years later. "The Nightmare That Lingers," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1995. $18 million in damages awarded.

Called a 'Witch Hunt'

Defense attorneys have described the case as a "witch hunt" cooked up by conspiring children, crusading parents and the recent media uproar over child molestation in general.

"This is the kind of case we all read about ... where (lives) are ruined by absolute fabrications," one attorney, Peter Gwosdof, said in an interview. "I just can't believe that such a case exists."

Former suspects have filed multimillion-dollar damage suits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the city of Pico Rivera, which contracts with the sheriff for police services. The suits charge false arrest, civil-rights violations, defamation and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Parents, meanwhile, have carried on a search for evidence while at odds with sheriff's investigators. Some parents have criticized the Sheriff's Department for taking what they said was only a cursory look at the allegations involving ritual sacrifices that surfaced last summer.

Led by Vicki Meyers, mother of three of the alleged victims, a small band of parents began digging at the former site of the Old Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan Christian Spiritual meeting hall Church in Norwalk, which they claim the children identified as the scene of the rituals. The [meeting hall] church was used by its small religious congregation for much of last year, but was razed in recent months to make way for the Century Freeway.

"The kids told us there was a basement under this church," Meyers said. "We rented a jackhammer and decided to dig up the bottom."  

Although sheriff's deputies halted the excavation on the state-owned property last week, Norwalk Mayor Marcial (Rod) Rodriguez, urged investigators, city officials and parents to begin working together to look beneath the building's concrete foundation. By Tuesday, the quest had produced a haul of about 500 bones — most or all believed to be animal remains — and conflicting conclusions about what the bones might mean.

Parents Point to Bones

To the parents, the bones helped confirmed the allegations, but a sampling of the bones examined last week by the coroner's office was determined to be nothing more than soup bones and poultry bones — perhaps left over from some long-ago meals, a coroner's spokesman said.

A member of the Dukh-i-zhiznik meeting hall Molokan Church said the 20-member congregation began burying its garbage there during the late 1970s.

"We used to throw our trash in the rubbish bin, but most of our services were on weekends and the rubbish (trucks) came toward the end of the week," church member Mike Treguboff said. "We had flies and maggots . . . so we said, 'The land's open, we might as well bury the bones.'" 

The bones were mostly the remains of meals served at weddings and other occasions, Treguboff said.

Lt. Bill Stonich, a member of the county's child-abuse detail, said more than 100 bones and bone fragments would be examined this week by both the sheriff's crime lab and a county paleontologist, to determine their age and origin.

But so far, he said, none of the bones has promised a breakthrough.

^Top of next column

"At this point, we are leaving literally no stone unturned," Stonich said Tuesday. He said investigators have done their best to check out every allegation.

"The children have told us many, many things. We have spent thousands of hours investigating .... If (we) had human bones, certainly that would be something to look at in depth.

"We don't have that. We have chicken bones, steak bones and so forth. We are no closer to prosecution (now) than we were prior to digging."

Parents disputed the coroner's findings, arguing that some of the excavated bones were not cut in the manner of soup bones. The parents said the bones supported the charges even though searchers have yet to find the underground rooms where the rituals allegedly occurred.

"My son told us where to dig ... " Meyers said. "We dug in a 6-by-8-foot area and found approximately 500 bones. The kids in the neighborhood know what's going on."

Despite medical evidence that some children were molested, investigators acknowledge they have had difficulty from the start sorting out the scores of detailed and sometimes confusing stories told by the alleged victims, whose ages range from 3 to 11. Deputies conducted a three-day investigation before arresting the four original suspects last April.

All allegations were dismissed 10 years later. "The Nightmare That Lingers," Los Angele Times, April 16, 1995. $18 million in damages awarded.

Allegations Recanted Later

After the arrests, investigators continued to gather testimony, interviewing children at the Pico Rivera sheriff's station. The children later began recanting their stories, however, and prosecutors based their case at the preliminary hearing on the testimony of two 8-year-old boys. Under questioning, one said he had lied, and another was accused of lying by Whittier Municipal Court Judge Patricia J. Hofstetter.

The impact of the case has caused at least three families to move from Planter Street and turned the once-close-knit neighborhood into a place of factions and broken friendships, residents said.

Amid widespread television and newspaper coverage last week, rumors circulated about the religious rites carried on at the Old Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan meeting hall church. One story had it that church members marched up and down Flatbush Avenue carrying coffins. Almost true. By tradition, Russians carry their coffin from the viewing, in their home, to the village cemetery. In Los Angeles, they carry the coffin from their meeting hall (or adjacent building) to a vehicle on the street, and everyone drives to a cemetery. The ritual of carrying the open casket outdoors is again preserved at the cemetery by carrying it to the grave, and closed just before burial by the members using shovels.

Meyers, who mocked her own reputation by wearing a jersey with the initials "H.A.P.P." (Hysterical and Paranoid Parent), said the word "moloch"* has religious significance: Webster's unabridged dictionary defines it as "a tyrannical power to be (appeased) by human subservience or sacrifice."

* Spelled in 9 variants: Molech, Milcom, Molek, Molokh, Melekh, Malkam, Malcham, and Milkowm.  "Moloch" has nothing to do with Molokane, nor is this congregation of the Molokan faith. This is an interesting assumption, but entirely wrong. Read much more below.

But church member Treguboff said his is a Spiritual Christian sect that separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1600s.* The Russian word "molok," which means milk, distinguished members of the sect because they used milk, rather than wine, in religious ceremonies.** Treguboff said diaspora male members wear tunics, a  high collar Russian shirt or kosovorotka, during services, and the men generally wear beards. Women wear a head shawl, (Russian: kasinka, triangle) and full-length dresses with apron.

** Molokane were named for drinking milk during fasts, especially during major fasts like Lent, when no animal products were to be consumed. (See: 1 Peter 2:2) The Russian Orthodox Church had about 200 fasting days a year. Whether they substituted milk for wine needs a citation.

"I feel for the people who went through this ordeal with their children," he said, "(but) people just jump to conclusions."

Parents criticized investigators Tuesday for halting their work at the site after they had dug only one long, sharply angled trench into the church's concrete slab. Parents said the 3-foot-deep trench was not enough to determine whether there were underground rooms.

Investigation Criticized

"They quit," complained one parent who requested anonymity. "The kids told them (the entrance to the cellar) had been filled in ... they were going to have to dig quite a ways to find anything. The kids ... felt they were getting pretty close."

Stonich, however, said children did not indicate the entrance had been filled until after the digging failed to uncover a stairway. He said workmen found no areas that appeared to have been filled in. He also said no further digging is planned unless the studies of the bones support the children's allegations.

"The children told us there was a tunnel and a basement below the foundation," he said. "There was no indication to me or to anyone else that (the basement) exists or ever existed."

Expert's Opinion in Molestation Case

Bones in Churchyard Called Table Scraps

June 6, 1985 — Los Angeles Times — Section: Long Beach  — Page: 10-3 — By David Ferrell — Red notes updated March 10, 20111
NORWALK — More than 100 bones and bone fragments unearthed at a former church site here have been determined by a county paleontologist to be commercially butchered beef and lamb bones, casting doubt on allegations that they are the remains of satanic human and animal sacrifices.

That conclusion contradicts charges made by children and parents in a yearlong child molestation case in Pico Rivera, according to Lt. Bill Stonich of the county's child abuse detail. Parents had claimed their children were sexually molested and forced to witness satanic sacrifices at the former site of the Old Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan Christian Spiritual meeting hall Church on Flatbush Avenue here. 

"We were told we would find bones of a human origin and/or bones of animals used in some type of ritualistic sacrifices," Stonich said. "We did not find any evidence of that. (We) determined that the bones were beef and lamb bones, apparently cut with a band saw, which is consistent with commercial meat-cutting practices."

Stonich said the bones were examined last week by Dr. David Whistler curator of vertebrate paleontology of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Whistler's conclusions, Stonich said, supported the earlier explanation of an Old Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan congregation Church member that the bones represent the buried remains of dinners served at the meeting hall church. Members of the congregation buried their leftover bones during several years they used the meeting hall church, until it was torn down last year to make way for the Century Freeway, congregation church member Mike Treguboff said.

Charges Still Pending

The case began in April, 1984, with the arrest of four Planter Street residents on 19 counts of molestation and kidnapping. Their charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing last July, but a fifth resident of the street was arrested in September. That suspect now faces trial on two counts of molestation and two counts of kidnapping.

Vicki Meyers, a parent who helped initiate the digging at the former meeting hall church site last month, said she found some blood in the bags in which the bones were buried. She said the bones were stripped too clean to be food bones and said children had been able to predict where the bones would be found. The bones were clean because meat on the bone was boiled for soup broth first, then the meat which is easily removed off the bone is roasted. This type of meat is so delicious that the few remaining bones are eaten until clean.

"I don't care what the bones are," Meyers said. "I want to know why my kids know where they were buried. If they're (leftover) dinners . . . where's the other garbage? There's no food with them, no paper plates . . . nothing."

Dukh-i-zhizniki don't use paper plates, cups or Styrofoam for religious meals. All their dishes were washed and stored in their meeting hall kitchen . There is little waste of food because it was  prepared kosher-like, hence not fed to non-kosher animals (dogs, cats). Most of the "other garbage" — leftover food (bread, vegetables, soup, noodles, meat, fruit, etc.) — was packaged in containers and divided, first among members to take to their elderly and sick who could not come to the service, then to younger members to take home. Little is discarded.

Investigators found no blood and saw nothing odd about the bones, according to Stonich.

Congregation Church member Treguboff said Monday that the congregation often used beef and lamb meat for soup and discarded the raw bones, which may account for some blood. The bones were buried to prevent flies and maggots, but other trash was thrown in a rubbish bin, he said. 

"I think they're getting down to nit-picking," Treguboff said angrily, denouncing the accusations.

Stonich said investigators unearthed more than 100 bones in the most recent dig, May 24, before turning them over for scientific study.

Parents, who began digging at the site May 18, had previously uncovered 300 to 500 bones, Meyers estimated. She said she turned over only a sampling of those bones to sheriff's deputies. Meyers said she intends to take some of the remaining bones to an independent cult specialist to determine whether they were used as part of satanic rituals

Satan, Kids and Sex Statewide Spate Of Abuse Cases Leaves Cops, Families Reeling

San Jose Mercury News (CA), August 11, 1985, page 1A
If 10-year-old David Tackett is correct, six satanic neighbors ran a thriving den of iniquity and murder in a modest beige house covered with ivy.

''I know the devil is there," said Tackett, who claims that he and eight playmates were sexually abused during cult-like rituals at the house on Planter Street.

Sitting at his kitchen table recently, Tackett matter-of- factly described baby sacrifices, orgies, cremations, cannibalism, blood letting,...
1925 words

The Nightmare That Lingers

Law: Four people wrongly accused 11 years ago of child molestation have won a $7.3-million settlement. But the pain the allegations caused has not gone away.

April 16, 1995 — Los Angeles Times — Section: Long Beach  — Page: _ — By J.Michael Kennedy and John Pope — Red notes updated March 10, 2011
The pain and the tears welled up in Helen O'Keefe when she thought of what it had been like all these years—the good name lost and the fight to get it back. The court battles, one after another, for her and her husband, Tim.

And for their onetime neighbors, Jose Valentin and Myrna Malave, as well.

Eleven years ago, a group of young children on Planter Street in Pico Rivera accused the four adults of sexual molestation, relating tales of "dancing knives" and baby killings. All the accused were marched off in handcuffs by sheriff's deputies as their neighbors watched.

They were subjected to the sneering curses and threats that convicts reserve for child molesters, the lowest of the low in jailhouse hierarchies. Old friends wondered aloud if they had really done it. To this day, Valentin will not take his grandchildren out alone for fear of a knowing look from someone who recognizes him.

Although the original charges were quickly dismissed as bogus, none of the accused have ever returned to the two small homes on Planter where they lived for so many years.

"No matter how many years go by, it doesn't get any better," Helen O'Keefe said. "The stigma is still there."

Last week was a victory of sorts for all four. A jury in Norwalk said they deserved to receive a settlement totaling $7.3 million from Los Angeles County for what they have endured, the pain of having their reputations soiled, perhaps beyond repair. One juror said she found it bizarre that even after all these years, two children who once lived on Planter still testified that they had taken part in satanic rituals long ago.

But now comes the wait, the one to see if they must undergo yet another round of courtroom appeals before the long journey can be finished.

So how could this happen? How could Tim O'Keefe the law student and Helen O'Keefe the bank employee, Jose Valentin the bakery worker and Myrna Malave the nurse fall into this morass? It seems unlikely that any of this would have occurred were it not for the now-infamous McMartin child molestation case, which had splashed across the news for the first time only a month before the four Pico Rivera residents were arrested.

In that case, seven people were indicted on 115 counts of child molestation and conspiracy stemming from allegations at the family-run McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach. Suddenly molestation became a hot topic, a subject that was being discussed everywhere.

The McMartin case ended—six years and $15 million after it started—with a mistrial in the case of two defendants. Charges against the other five were dropped.

Tim O'Keefe calls it "riding the McMartin wave" that got them all arrested in the first place. He blames what happened, at least in part, for his not being able to pass his California Bar exam.

Malave says the ordeal is why she can no longer be a nurse and doesn't like to leave her house. Interacting with people has become difficult, she said. "There's always someone who's going to doubt."

It all began April 3, 1984—a Tuesday—when a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy responded to a call from a woman on Planter, according to an appellate brief in the case. The O'Keefes, Valentin and Malave lived on that street as well, but the two couples did not know each other.

According to the brief, the woman told the deputy that two of her children were acting strangely. Among other things, her 3-year-old son had been complaining that there were large spiders under his bed, making her suspect that he had been abused in some fashion. Further, her 8-year-old son told the deputy how, sometime earlier, he had been taken to a house down the street by a Latino teen-ager and locked in a closet.

Neither story set off alarm bells. The deputy said at the time that he was uncertain whether either boy was telling the truth.

But by Thursday, the neighborhood was in an uproar as word of more possible child molestations spread along the street. Deputies were called again to the street, this time because there were more than a dozen angry parents who had been told by their children that they, too, had been abused.

The swirl of activity was lost on the O'Keefes, Valentin and Malave. (The latter two were married but used different last names.) What they did not know was that their two houses were being pointed out by some of the children as the places where child molesters lived. Beginning the next day, a Friday, their lives would be changed unalterably.

Helen O'Keefe was the first to be confronted. A 26-year-old real estate appraiser for Great Western Savings Bank, she had come home for lunch and to finish a report she had been working on. She knew the small house well because she had lived there since she was 3 years old.

There was a loud rapping at the door. When she opened it, she saw two sheriff's deputies, one with his gun drawn, the other with a shotgun. One of the deputies pulled her outside and forced her to the ground.

"I felt like such a criminal," she said. "I kept saying, 'What's happening? What's happening?' "

Down the street, Valentin, then 48, was at home watching television when he heard a noise in the back yard. When he went to investigate, he saw a group of deputies with their guns drawn. Then there was a knock at the front door. More deputies. They told him he was being detained until a search warrant arrived. Three hours later, Valentin was led off in handcuffs.

"I wanted to die right there," he said. "I was in a state of shock."

Through it all, he said, no one told him why he was being arrested.

At the O'Keefe house, Helen was finally allowed to call her husband, who was working as a clerk in an Anaheim law firm while he attended law school. He rushed home, only to be arrested.

Malave, then 42, was not home either when the deputies arrived. She was visiting her daughter when a friend phoned to say that something very strange was going on at her house. There was a crowd of people and police cars out front. When she reached the house, she too was arrested. Valentin had already been taken away.

"I heard the words child abuse and right away said, 'You've got the wrong house,' " she recalled. " 'There's been a mistake. Child abuse to who?' "

The arrest of the two couples was all over the news. They were charged with 17 crimes, including conspiracy, child molesting, sodomy, oral copulation, kidnapping and false imprisonment. Their bail was set at $100,000 each. And inside the jail, Tim O'Keefe, also then 26, said he understood the true meaning of fear the first time he was marched to the shower.

"I had to strip and then walk down to the shower," he said. "There was just a barrage. Every thing was thrown at me—food and urine. People were spitting at me."

They were calling him "baby raper."

For Helen, it was equally demeaning, feeling as if she were on display at the jail and sickened by her own stench after six days with no shower.

On the weekend after the O'Keefes were arrested, one of Helen's sisters, Roseann Ruvolo, called their parents in New Mexico. The parents drove nonstop through the night to get to Los Angeles the next day. Each day after that, until the O'Keefes were released after 22 days, someone from the family was at the jail to make sure all was well. Valentin and Malave posted bail earlier and were released before the O'Keefes.

Ironically, relatives of defendants in the McMartin case often would be standing in line to visit at the jail as well. Ruvolo said they did not talk to them for fear of being associated with the more famous case.

Getting out of jail did not diminish the anguish of being treated badly. Valentin found himself a pariah at the bakery, a total outcast.

"People would swear at me. Someone spit on me," he said. "I had to sit there and take it. A guy said under his breath, 'I'll kill the son of a bitch.' When I'd sit down at a table in the cafeteria, everyone would get up and walk away.

"A petition was circulated to get rid of me. I worked nights, and people followed me into the parking lot after work. People asked me if I really did these things. It went on for a long time."

When Tim O'Keefe returned to law school for the first time, one of his classmates—a man he had known since childhood—asked him if he had really done all those things. Tim said he exploded in front of the class.

"It was like going to the guillotine," he said. "You know the press has already been there asking about me."

For her part, Helen O'Keefe returned to work at the bank, but only after enduring an initial threat to take her job away until her innocence was proved. She takes pride in the fact that she has stayed with the bank and been promoted, through economic downsizing and her own problems.

Malave was supposed to start a new job the Monday after her arrest and lost it because she was in jail. She lost another job because of the time required in later civil suits. After several unsuccessful tries at a return to nursing, she is now on permanent disability.

"I don't know if I could face a new job again," she said, citing the stress of the work now.

In the wake of the arrest of the two couples, a talk show got into the act.

One of the children on Planter Street appeared on the Oprah Winfrey program for a segment on victims of satanic rituals. There, he talked of being coerced into witnessing animal sacrifices, drinking animal blood from walnut shells and being put into coffins. Almost in passing, he also said he had witnessed a Latino baby being murdered and baked in an oven. Winfrey, at least on the air, appeared to accept it all as gospel. In the course of the interview, the boy's mother said the four people responsible had been arrested.

The criminal case against the four never made it to trial. Instead, it was dismissed only three months after the charges were filed.

Eight of the 11 children who made initial claims later admitted they had lied, according to a lawyer for the O'Keefes. Another of them recanted on the witness stand at the preliminary hearing. Whittier Municipal Judge Patricia Hofstetter, in dismissing the case, said inconsistencies in the children's testimony led her to conclude that they were lying.

Peter Gwosdof, Helen O'Keefe's lawyer, speculated last week that the children of Planter Street who eventually recanted may have initially merely wanted to get in on the act, to be a part of the excitement going on at the time.

In January, 1985, all four of the accused filed suit, charging false imprisonment, civil rights violations, defamation and the negligent infliction of emotional distress. But the weirdness of the case continued.

Nine months after the four were freed, parents began digging around the former grounds of a Norwalk building church that had been razed to make way for the Century Freeway. The purpose of the search was to look for human and animal bones that were supposedly the remains of the satanic sacrifices children claimed to have witnessed. Nothing was ever found but chicken and beef bones that had been buried after church barbecues. Sometimes they barbecued meat outside, but more often boiled meat for broth for borshch (soup) and roasted meat in their kitchen oven.

Meanwhile, the two couples pressed forward with their civil suit, which did not reach a courtroom until 1990. A Superior Court judge concluded that the four should be awarded $3.7 million in damages. The county appealed and a jury trial was ordered.

This most recent trial lasted six weeks. During it, one of the Planter Street children—now a teen-ager—took the stand and told essentially the same story that he had on the Oprah Winfrey show all those years ago. He declined to be interviewed, but said he stood by his testimony.

Another witness took the stand and said he had been molested 150 times by 15 different couples in the neighborhood when he was a child. He also said "dancing knives" would come up out of the floor of the meeting hall church and that babies were baked and eaten.

Throughout both trials, sheriff's deputies maintained that they did not act improperly when they arrested the two couples.

"It is still the feeling of the county counsel that the officers acted legally," said Peter Glick, the lawyer for the county. He added that the options of what to do next are still being considered.

One juror, Helen McDowell, said the sentiment during deliberations was that the deputies did what they thought was right in light of a group of angry parents trying to protect their children. But they also felt that those arrested had suffered unjustly.

"There was an atmosphere at the moment (the deputies) were really caught up with," McDowell said.

Another juror, Margarita Hernandez, said the jurors were also amazed at the testimony of the two witnesses who are now teen-agers.

"We just thought it was bizarre," she said. "Most of us have children and they do not speak that way. We really thought the kids had a problem."

So both couples wait to see what will happen next. Valentin and Malave were in the process of separating when they were arrested in 1984 and have since done so. None of the four will say where they now live, although all still live in Southern California.

All of the accused said last week that their lives had changed dramatically because of the arrests 11 years ago. They talk of headaches, anger, paranoia, insomnia and more.

Malave said the arrest and subsequent events made her a different person.

"I used to be outgoing. I was a happy-go-lucky person. I organized parties. I liked music and meeting people," she said. "I was very social, and now I'm the exact opposite.

"I don't visit anybody and I don't go out much. I don't go to social gatherings, especially anywhere I know there are going to be children. I know it's wrong, but I'm afraid to touch them or hug them or say, 'Oh, you're so cute.' So I just stay away."

Law And Motion: Legal News and Trends:

And Now the Revenge

A Los Angeles court awards millions to former defendants accused of child molestation

Posted on by Madrid Law Firm, 1 November 1999.
The first wave of child sex abuse prosecutions appears to have run its course with Raymond Buckey's second mistrial in the McMartin Preschool case. Now come the revenge. In suing the county, the former district attorney and even a news reporter, Buckey is following the lead of other exonerated accused seeking compensation for having their lives destroyed by unproven charges.

Most of the suits like Buckey's have been thrown out before trial. But earlier this year, in apparently the first case of its kind, a Los Angeles judge awarded more than $3 million to four people who had been arrested for allegedly molesting neighborhood children. The charges were dismissed after a preliminary hearing. Valentin v. County of Los Angeles, LA Superior Court, No. C529739.

The judgment holding the county liable for false arrest, false imprisonment and civil rights violations seems to have surprised everyone except the plaintiff's lawyers, who were also the defense lawyers in the criminal action. "Everyone told us we didn't have a case," says Eduardo M. Madrid of the City of Industry, who represented one of the plaintiffs. Madrid says one lawyer for the county told him when he first filed the suit, "We're bulletproof, we have immunity, you have no case, go home."

"It's the first inroad that is likely to have a psychological impact on other cases," says Jim Quinn, one of the lawyers representing former McMartin Preschool defendants Peggy Buckey, Virginia McMartin and Peggy Ann Buckey. "Its significance is in signaling police departments to be more careful in not jumping the gun and ruining the lives of people unmercifully."

The Valentin judgment is being appealed, and recent rulings indicate that the courts give great leeway to prosecutors and witnesses in child sex abuse cases. But the lawyers for the Valentin plaintiffs have overcome the odds before. "It was such a long haul," says Madrid.

The long haul began in 1984 when 11 children living on Planter Street in Pico Rivera told their parents they had been sexually molested by some neighbors. The children, ages three to nine, said they were tied down, photographed nude, sodomized and orally copulated. They said all this took place in the home of Jose Valentin, a sanitation worker at Oroweat Bakery, and his wife, Myrna Malave, a nurse; and in the home of law student Tim O'Keefe and his wife, Helen, a real estate appraiser.

Scared and outraged parents called authorities, who came out to Planter Street to investigate. "There was a lot of hot talk," Lieutenant Jim Moss of the sheriff's department told a reporter at the time. At least one of the parents had threatened to go after the suspects with a shotgun. "Once people realized law enforcement was taking over," said Moss, "they calmed down a lot."

The investigation began on a Tuesday; by Friday, after hearing the children's stories, sheriff's deputies had obtained search warrants. While waiting for the warrants to arrive, the deputies called Deputy District Attorney Robert Z. Corrado, who came to the street to advise them. The O'Keefes later testified that Corrado told them, "If you don't start talking I'm going to fuck up your lives without mercy."

The suspects were arrested solely on the basis of the children's statements.

While testifying at the preliminary hearing two months later, the prosecution's key witness, an eight-year-old boy, started crying and admitted he "had made it all up" about Jose Valentin. "That often happens to young children on the stand," says Kevin C. Brazile, the deputy county counsel who represented Los Angeles County in the civil suit. "These kids still stand by their stories today that they were molested."

With the children's testimony discredited, Municipal Court Judge Patricia J. Hofstetter said she was "left with the choice only of dismissing the case."

At a lunch following the dismissal, the defense lawyers and their clients toasted a bittersweet victory. Both couples had sold their homes and borrowed money to pay bail. Collectively the defendants had spent more than three months in jail.

Helen O'Keefe was fired from her job, although she got it back after the preliminary hearing. All four former defendants continue to suffer psychologically. Myrna Malave is on psychiatric disability, says her attorney, Robert Roman of Norwalk. "She doesn't drive the streets because she's afraid of the police," Roman says. "She's afraid this could happen again."

"To say they were humiliated is an understatement," adds Peter M. Gwosdof of Anaheim, Helen O'Keefe's attorney. "Most of them had never even had a traffic ticket, let alone seen the inside of a jail."

Although none of the attorneys had any experience in civil rights litigation and all were sole practitioners, they decided to sue. Their complaint named 60 defendants, including the county, sheriff's deputies, the alleged victims and their parents, Corrado and Deputy DA Brain Wooldrige, who prosecuted the case. The parents' insurers settled before trial for their policy limits, but the government defendants were confident they were immune.

"The county kept telling us that they were going to beat us on a summary judgment and that we didn't have a case," says Madrid.

The lawyers, who were awarded about $2 million in attorneys fees, credit tactical decisions for their success. The first was waiving a jury. In child molestation cases, jurors "might think where there's smoke, there's fire," said Morton Minikes of Los Angeles, who represented Tim O'Keefe. Minikes says a judge is less likely to be swayed by the emotional nature of the charges.

Although Judge J. Kimball Walker quickly dismissed the claims for malicious prosecution, citing the nearly absolute immunity afforded prosecutors, he was open to many of the plaintiff's novel arguments. For example, he did not recognize Corrado's claim of immunity for the civil rights and false arrest causes of action. The plaintiffs argued that Corrado's conduct was outside his normal prosecutorial duties. "He acted more as a police officer than an advocate for the state by going out to the houses, interviewing the kids and directing traffic for the officers," says Minikes. "Therefore he was no longer protected by absolute immunity."

The U. S. Supreme Court during the upcoming term will consider the scope of prosecutorial immunity. One issue before the court is whether a prosecutor is immune for legal advice given to police officers during an investigation. Burns v. Reed, No. 89-1715.

Corrado, now in private practice in Fullerton, insists he never ordered the arrests of the suspects and denies threatening to destroy the O'Keefs' lives. "I'm not a bad guy. I never said that," he maintains. "They have it confused with another time when Pete Gwosdof and I yelled at each other." In his 1985 deposition, however, Corrado admitted, "I might have uttered it under my breath." Judge Walker called the threat "oppressive conduct" and ordered Corrado to pay $60,000 in punitive damages.

To impose liability for the arresting officers conduct the plaintiffs needed to show the arrests and been made without probable cause. Rather than discuss the statements of the children or the legal advice provided by Corrado, the plaintiffs' attorneys say they decided to stick with the criteria established by the leading case in the area. According to People v. Ramey (1976) 16 C3d 263, an officer can enter a home to make a warrantless arrest only under exigent [pressing; demanding] circumstances. The plaintiff's case was based on proving there were no exigent circumstances.

They called all the sheriff's deputy defendants as adverse witnesses. "We took the teeth out of the lion's mouth by examining their witnesses first," says Madrid. "That's one thing they weren't expecting."

Each deputy was asked if he or she was familiar with Ramey, explains Madrid, and all said yes. "Since each deputy admitted no one was trying to flee and no evidence or property was in danger of being destroyed, we established that these guys knew the law but still didn't follow it," Madrid says. "That's how we got them on illegal entry."

Despite the verdict, county counsel Brazile says, "The judge doesn't know the law on probable cause, which is why I think we have a very good shot on the appeal." He is relying in part on the citizen-victim informant doctrine, which says that statements from an alleged victim that a crime has occurred provide probable cause for an arrest. "It may not be enough for a conviction, but it sure is sufficient for an arrest," Brazile says. In a recent molestation case, the Fourth District Court of Appeal said the uncorroborated testimony of a four-year-old is enough for a conviction. People v. Harlan, 90 Daily Journal DAR 8359.

Other cases indicate that the California judiciary is sympathetic to the prosecution in child molestation cases. The state Supreme Court recently upheld some child sex abuse convictions even though no specific dates were given for the offenses. People v. Jones, 90 Daily Journal DAR 7663. And the Second District Court of Appeal applied a prosecutor's absolute immunity to a social worker investigating alleged child molestation. Alicia T. v. County of Los Angeles, 90 Daily Journal DAR 8303.

But Madrid, who has met with the lawyers handling the McMartin civil suits and others, remains optimistic. "Sure, immunity isn't easy to get around, but I see it as a hurdle that can be overcome," he says. "It's like the unpopular guy who wants to take out the prom queen and everybody says, 'Forget it'. He'll never find out if he doesn't ask."

False Accusations Still Haunt Couple

Courts: Sexual abuse case collapsed in 1985 as children recanted. Juries awarded the pair millions in damages, but county appealed twice and may do so again.

Los Angeles Times, Oct 11, 2000, page B-1 
The charges were quickly dismissed as false. In January 1985, Tim O'Keefe, a law student, Helen O'Keefe, a bank employee, Jose Valentin, a bakery worker, and Myrna Malave, a nurse, filed suit against Los Angeles County, charging false imprisonment, civil rights violations, defamation and the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

About two months ago, Valentin and Malave, who did not know the O'Keefes, settled for about $2 million each. On Friday, a Norwalk jury awarded the O'Keefes about $14 million. $18 million total.

The O'Keefes spent 22 days in jail, where guards and prisoners jeered, spit and threw urine on them, they said. Valentin and Malave were jailed for about a week.

748 words

Nightmare On Planter Street

Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA), October 13, 2000
Sixteen years have passed since Tim and Helen O'Keefe and their onetime neighbors Jose Valentin and Myrna Malave became embroiled in a nightmare so horrendous that most of us could not even begin to imagine it.

In the spring of 1984, just as the infamous McMartin Pre-School child molestation case was causing a national sensation, a group of children on Planter Street in Pico Rivera accused these four adults of similar crimes.

The children told their parents tales of ...

Pair Falsely Jailed Win $14 Million 

Neighborhood children accused Tim and Helen O'keefe of sex crimes in L.A. County, which appealed 2 previous verdicts  

Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek), October 15, 2000, page A26
The nightmare began 16 years ago, when a group of children on Planter Street in Pico Rivera accused four adults of child bondage and molestation and of threatening that spiders would attack if the children told. Then came the sheriff's deputies with guns drawn, who took the two couples from their homes in handcuffs to jail.

The charges were quickly dismissed as false. In January 1985, Tim O'Keefe, a law student, Helen O'Keefe, a bank employee, ...
725 words