How hysterical parents, incompetent therapists and malicious prosecutors destroyed the lives of seven innocent
North Carolinians – and have yet to admit they were wrong

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family

“And When Did You Last See Your Father?” by William Frederick Yeames, 1878, depicting English Puritan inquisitors grilling the child of a Royalist family


  • APSAC to victims of its ‘misguided ideas’: Drop dead

    Dr. Janet Rosenzweig

    Dr. Janet Rosenzweig

    Oct. 26, 2016

    Janet Rosenzweig, executive director of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, wasted no time kissing off my request that APSAC take responsibility for the damage done by its advocacy of the “satanic ritual abuse” day-care myth:

    “On behalf of the Board of Directors  of APSAC, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.  APSAC does not have a position on this issue, and has no plans to take one at this time.”

    In reality, APSAC has taken a position on the issue ever since its founding.

    As noted in “Advances in Social and Organizational Psychology” by Donald A. Hantula (2006):

    “APSAC was founded in 1985 as a professional group of therapists concerned that some people were skeptical regarding claims in the McMartin day care satanic abuse case. At the same meeting at which APSAC was formed for professionals, ‘Believe the Children’ was formed for parents of McMartin children…. Thus, from the start, APSAC has been an advocate of the reality of satanic and sexual abuse in day care….”

    As stingingly acknowledged by prosecutor Paul J. Stern, the shared history of APSAC and the day-care panic is indisputable. Only one question remains: What now? Does APSAC really want its professionalism forever compromised by clinging to its perverse origin story?

    Are its members in 2016 still wedded to the discredited concepts first promoted 30 years ago by Jon Conte,  Kathleen Coulborn Faller, Kee MacFarlane, Ann Wolbert Burgess, Susan J. Kelley, Roland Summit, Mark Everson and Little Rascals prosecutor Nancy Lamb?  Would Dr. Rosenzweig dare to ask the membership at large if it shares the board’s resistance to making amends?


  • ….Is APSAC finally ready to apologize to wrongfully prosecuted victims?

    Dr. Janet Rosenzweig

    Dr. Janet Rosenzweig

    Oct. 22, 2016

    “At APSAC’s June Colloquium, Paul J. Stern gave a presentation that clearly acknowledged your organization’s role in fostering the ‘satanic ritual abuse’ day-care panic of  the 1980s and early ’90s.

    “Mr. Stern, a prosecutor and longtime APSAC official, was only illuminating from the inside a reality long recognized among virtually all respected professionals and academics.

    “I am writing today to request that the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children formally renounce its advocacy of the ‘satanic ritual abuse’ myth and apologize to its victims.  The ‘misguided ideas’ cited by Mr. Stern not only supported wrongful prosecutions and incarcerations, but also profoundly misled children, parents and the public.

    “The reputation of APSAC will remain tainted as long as it fails to make amends for this seminal part of its history.  If the International Association of Chiefs of Police can apologize for  ‘the actions of the past and the role that our profession has played in society’s historical mistreatment of communities of color,’ then surely APSAC can similarly mitigate the damages caused by its own actions.”

    – From a letter I sent to Dr. Janet Rosenzweig, executive director, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children


  • When Betsy Kelly was released from jail, much persecution still lay ahead

    Oct. 9, 2016

    Five days after her bond was reduced from $1.8 million to $400,000, Betsy Kelly is released from jail.

    140120TwentyFiveIn January 1994 Kelly would accept a plea of “no contest” and a sentence of seven years in prison. Since she had already served two years and two weeks in jail, she became eligible for parole almost immediately. But Assistant Attorney General Bill Hart, angry over her unwavering insistence that she was innocent, reneged on a plea agreement not to contest her release, and the Parole Commission kept her imprisoned another 10 months.

    The prosecution used excessive bail as a sledgehammer on the lives and freedom of Betsy Kelly and the other Little Rascals defendants:

    • Bob Kelly, $1.5 million (later reduced to $200,000 – after his conviction was overturned – then $50,000 )
    • Scott Privott, $1 million (reduced to $50,000)
    • Shelley Stone, $375,000
    • Dawn Wilson, $880,000 (reduced to $200,000)
    • Robin Byrum, $500,000 (reduced to $200,000)
    • Darlene Harris, $350,000

    What outrageous conditions! Did Hart, H. P. Williams Jr. and Nancy Lamb fear that the defendants would flee to Argentina? That they would prowl the town’s playgrounds in search of new victims? No, these obviously out-of-reach amounts surely had no purpose but to coerce confessions. How shocked and disappointed prosecutors must have been that not one of the defendants, though crushed financially, succumbed.


  • APSAC official acknowledges ‘granddaddy of our “oops!”’

    Paul J. Stern

    Paul J. Stern

    Oct. 9, 2016

    Paul J. Stern, recently retired prosecutor in Snohomish County, Wash., has long served the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children as a board member and as an instructor on forensic interviewing.

    At the least his June presentation to a large audience of APSAC conventioneers promised to be provocative: “What Practices Are We Engaging in Now That 15 Years From Now We’re Going to Look Back on and Think ‘What in the World Were We Thinking?’ ”

    But the title paled in comparison with what Stern went on to say about the rap sheet of this ostensibly professional organization – its serial gullibility about “satanic ritual abuse,” “multiple personality disorder” and various other “misguided ideas.”

    Click below to watch a video of Paul J. Stern’s entire talk.

    He rambles, and the video suffers from not showing his accompanying PowerPoint. But the case he makes is powerful, unmistakable and surely discomfiting to audience members such as President Emeritus for Life Jon Conte and Board Member at Large Kathleen Coulborn Faller.

    “I may irritate a few of you from time to time,” he noted as he began.

    Some excerpts, edited for clarity:

    • “I want to start by going back to the ’60s, the ’80s, the things we cared about then…. Some of the things we’ve grown up from in this field…. What were we thinking back then?… Oy! (clutches head, steps away from lectern)….What the hell were we thinking?….”
    • “Let’s get the granddaddy of our ‘Oops!’ out of the way: ‘satanic ritual abuse.’ Individuals and agencies that weren’t skeptical failed to recognize that all of the iceberg that existed was the tip….And that melted pretty quickly…”
    • “This matters [because] prosecutors sentenced people to prison based on good, scientific evidence that turned out not to be accurate.”
    • “Why does all this happen? Child abuse is both an advocacy field and a political field. We’ve got to energize the base, energize the policymakers, get their attention…. Easy answers manage anxiety, and they get attention. ‘Kids never lie!’ ‘Believe the children!’ Great slogans, great bumper stickers,  but it’s a little more complicated than that….”

    Prosecutor Stern continued with a call for APSAC to focus on “evidence-based decision-making,” but I remained stunned by his acknowledgement of decades of APSAC’s cocky, costly wrongheadedness. Yes, innocent defendants such as Bob Kelly did indeed go to prison based on unfounded theories and corrupt interview practices.

    Thank you, Mr. Stern, for your candor. Will this moment turn out to be an aberration – or is APSAC finally ready to make amends to the real victims of its “satanic ritual abuse” mythology?



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The Little Rascals Day Care Case in brief

In the beginning, in 1989, more than 90 children at the Little Rascals Day Care Center in Edenton, North Carolina, accused a total of 20 adults with 429 instances of sexual abuse over a three-year period. It may have all begun with one parent’s complaint about punishment given her child. Among the alleged perpetrators: the sheriff and mayor. But prosecutors would charge only Robin Byrum, Darlene Harris, Elizabeth “Betsy” Kelly, Robert “Bob” Kelly, Willard Scott Privott, Shelley Stone and Dawn Wilson – the Edenton 7.

Along with sodomy and beatings, allegations included a baby killed with a handgun, a child being hung upside down from a tree and being set on fire and countless other fantastic incidents involving spaceships, hot air balloons, pirate ships and trained sharks. By the time prosecutors dropped the last charges in 1997, Little Rascals had become North Carolina’s longest and most costly criminal trial. Prosecutors kept defendants jailed in hopes at least one would turn against their supposed co-conspirators. Remarkably, none did. Another shameful record: Five defendants had to wait longer to face their accusers in court than anyone else in North Carolina history.

Between 1991 and 1997, Ofra Bikel produced three extraordinary episodes on the Little Rascals case for the PBS series “Frontline.” Although “Innocence Lost” did not deter prosecutors, it exposed their tactics and fostered nationwide skepticism and dismay. With each passing year, the absurdity of the Little Rascals charges has become more obvious. But no admission of error has ever come from prosecutors, police, interviewers or parents. This site is devoted to the issues raised by this case.