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


  • Burgess’s seminar paved way for Little Rascals prosecution

    Ann Wolbert Burgess

    Ann Wolbert Burgess

    Aug. 23, 2016

    “Connell School of Nursing Professor Ann Wolbert Burgess, a pioneer in the field of forensic nursing and an internationally recognized leader in the treatment of victims of trauma and abuse, has been designated a ‘Living Legend’ by the American Academy of Nursing, the academy’s highest honor.

    “Burgess is being recognized this year for multiple contributions to the nursing profession and society. [Her] research and books cover topics such as serial killers and rapists, kidnapping, sexual victimization and exploitation of children, cyber crimes, sexual abuse, and elder abuse….”

    – From “A ‘Living Legend’ ” by Kathleeen Sullivan in the BC [Boston College] News (Aug. 23)

    Yet again, a key fomenter of the “satanic ritual abuse” day care panic takes a career achievement bow, plowing unapologetically past the wrecked lives of the wrongfully prosecuted.

    Here’s how Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker described Burgess in 2001 in “Satan’s Silence: Ritual Abuse and the Making of a  Modern American Witch Hunt”: “promoter of the use of children’s drawings to diagnose sexual abuse, developer of the idea of the sex ring, participant in developing the case that imprisoned the Amirault family and currently a researcher into the traumatic aftereffects of ritual abuse.”

    Most grievous for the Little Rascals defendants, it was Ann Wolbert Burgess who led a three-day conference in Kill Devil Hills  just months before Bob Kelly’s arrest. The agenda: learning how to spot child molesters operating day-care facilities.

    I’ve asked Professor Burgess to look back at her role in Little Rascals. No response – maybe she intends to bring it up in her acceptance speech.


  • Kelly’s jury was rife with problems not visible at beginning

    Dennis T. Ray

    Dennis T. Ray

    Aug. 19, 2016

    The jury is empaneled in Farmville, N.C., where Bob Kelly’s trial has been moved because of pretrial publicity in Edenton.

    Dennis T. Ray would turn out to be a major mischief-maker both inside and outside the jury room. Ray read aloud from a contraband Redbook article on how to identify child molesters,  disobeyed the court’s instruction not to visit the alleged crime scenes, reported that a jailhouse snitch had shared personal knowledge of Kelly’s guilt and displayed a supposed “magic key” referred to by several child witnesses.

    140120TwentyFiveUnfortunately, Judge Marsh McLelland told defense attorneys he didn’t consider Ray’s rogue behavior – or that of a second juror, who dramatically revealed during deliberations that he himself had been abused as a child – to be a “tremendous problem.”

    At least three jurors would later express deep doubts about the guilty verdict.

    Roswell Streeter, at 28 the youngest juror, would write:

    “I’ll say this to the last day of my life, that the evidence that came through the courtroom did not prove that Bob Kelly committed any kind of sex abuse.” He told “Frontline” he had felt intimidated and confused.

    Mary Nichols was suffering from advanced leukemia,  and Marvin Shackelford had suffered two heart attacks. Both acknowledged afterward that worries about their health had moved them to vote guilty simply to cut short deliberations and go home. It had been nine months since the trial began.


  • California taking seriously the misconduct of its prosecutors

    Assemblywoman Patty López with the Dalai Lama in June.

    Assemblywoman Patty López with the Dalai Lama in June.

    Aug. 13, 2016

    “A bill to increase criminal penalties for prosecutors who intentionally withhold or falsify evidence is headed to the [California] state Senate after being approved in committee.

    “The measure by Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, would upgrade the violation from a misdemeanor to a felony for offending prosecutors. It’s already a felony for police officers to withhold or falsify evidence. The proposal provides for sentences of 16 months, two years and three years.

    “The bill received the go-ahead from the Senate Appropriations Committee despite opposition from prosecution groups that say it is redundant and potentially costly.

    “Opponents say that boosting the penalty for prosecutors would bog down the courts and that prosecutors already are subject to sanctions by the state Bar Association when they commit misconduct.

    “Supporters argue that judges and the Bar rarely take action against offenders.”

    – From “Bill boosting penalty for prosecutor misconduct gets OK” by Tony Saavedra in the Orange County Register (Aug. 11)

    Is it possible that other states, such as California, aren’t as timid in disciplining prosecutors as is North Carolina?


  • Assistant attorney general complains: ‘Innocence is in vogue now’

    Jess Mekeel

    Jess Mekeel

    Aug. 11, 2016

    “[North Carolina] Assistant Attorney General Jess Mekeel said [Johnny] Small’s motion should be dismissed.

    “ ‘Innocence is in vogue now,’ he told the judge, the Associated Press reported.

    “Exonerations are certainly on the rise. Last year, about 150 people were exonerated, a record number, according to the National Registry of Exonerations….

    “Mekeel [said] he considers reopening cases based on recanted testimony to be a threat to the American legal system.

    “ ‘This is an attempt to retry a 28-year-old case. Twelve jurors made that determination already. They heard the evidence. They concluded the defendant was guilty,’ Mekeel said, according to WRAL. ‘They jeopardize the stability and reliability of our justice system.’ 

    – From “Man spent 28 years in prison after his friend accused him of murder. Now, the friend said he lied” by Travis M. Andrews in the Washington Post (Aug. 9)

    “Innocence is in vogue now” – what a revealing glimpse of the inner prosecutor! As if exonerations were a fad, an unwarranted threat to “the stability and reliability of our justice system.”

    Is it any wonder that district attorneys such as Jon David so eagerly pursue innocence advocates such as Chris Mumma?



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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.