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


  • As Indiana governor, future VP let request gather dust

    Christy Gutowski

    Feb. 12, 2017

    “One day after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb pardoned him for a 1996 armed robbery he did not commit, [Keith] Cooper, 49, said he was grateful to the new governor for doing something his predecessor, Vice President Mike Pence, long had refused to do….

    “Cooper spent nearly a decade of a 40-year sentence behind bars before he was released in 2006. Nearly three years ago, after the victims who had identified him as the shooter recanted and DNA evidence pointed to another man, the Indiana Parole Board unanimously recommended Cooper be pardoned. His request, though, sat unsigned on Pence’s desk….

    “In response to a request for comment, the vice president’s spokesman did not address the Cooper pardon but said Pence ‘is proud of his record’ as Indiana’s governor.”

    – From “Wrongly accused of armed robbery, he says Pence ‘abandoned me‘ ” by Christy Gutowski in the Chicago Tribune (Feb. 11)

    It wasn’t easy, but Pence made North Carolina’s former governor seem absolutely eager to rectify a wrongful prosecution.


  • ‘Satanic ritual abuse’: A product of its era’s mythology

    Feb. 3, 2017

    “Recall that after the 1970s there ensued a decade of moral panic over child sex abuse – including so-called satanic ritual abuse. Off-camera in The Exorcist [1973], the possessed Regan performed a Black Mass. In a film shot in the 1980s, her role in such satanic proceedings would have been quite opposite. In the mythology of that decade, the child is never a demon; the child is a victim of demons (i.e., pedophiles, satan-worshiping or not).

    “Importantly, the tales of satanic ritual abuse that roiled the 1980s were nonsense, since discredited – as fantastical as any account of demonic possession. Yet they were believed, often beyond a reasonable doubt….”

    – From “Fear of Children: What ‘The Exorcist’ Makes Us Confront” by Julia Yost at First Matters (Oct. 31, 2014)


  • When the people we trust can’t be trusted

    Lawrence Wright

    Jan. 25, 2017

    “Why is there such a cultural bias toward stories of abuse – and especially toward grotesque and absurd tales, even when there is no reliable evidence that any crime occurred in the first place?

    “The very people we count on to protect our society – prosecutors, police, social workers, jurors, even parents – are eliciting fantasies from children that express our worst collective fears. ….

    “The libel that our society has imposed on child-care workers is a kind of projection of guilt for the damage that we ourselves have done, as parents and as a society. We have given our children to strangers to rear, and it makes us uneasy and fearful. Is it any wonder we have a bad conscience?…. ”

    – From “Child-care Demons” by Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker (Oct. 3, 1994)


  • For child witnesses, life was changed forever

    Jan. 4, 2017

    “[Richard Beck’s ‘Believe the Children’] is perhaps most poignant on the subject of the damage to the young people who acted as witnesses. ‘Children as young as three and almost never older than nine or ten,’ Beck writes, ‘children who previously understood their time in day care as essentially normal, whether happy or not, had their lives reorganized around the idea that they were deeply and irrevocably traumatized.’ ”

    – From “Our Panics, Ourselves” by Rebecca Onion in Boston Review (Sept. 22, 2015)



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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.