Jan. 2, 2012

Next to “Why are you doing this?” the question I’m most often asked about Little Rascals is, “Since the trial, what has happened with the kids?”

For those alleged child-victims who testified in day-care abuse cases, the need to forget, to deny and to stay silent must be strong indeed. Who wants to believe they were so misused by their parents, not to mention by therapists and prosecutors? Who can look unblinkingly at the grotesque truth and take it public? For many, given the well-documented power of suggestibility, it may simply be impossible.

One exception was Kyle Zirpolo, who came forward in 2005 to apologize for his role in the McMartin pre-school case.

Last week, on the chance that an Edenton child might be ready to break ranks, I took out classified ads in the daily Elizabeth City Advance and the weekly Chowan Herald with this message:

“If you were a child or parent involved in the Little Rascals Day Care case of the early 1990s, I’d like to hear from you….”

Thursday night I received a call from a woman who credibly identified herself as one of those children. She wouldn’t give her name. She is 26 now, no longer living in Edenton, and she was not happy to see the ad. I felt obliged to tell her at the outset that I considered the defendants wrongly accused. Here’s an edited version of her response:

“It’s sad that you and others believe that. Here it is almost 2012, and I’m still opening up the paper and seeing crap like this (ad). It’s either that, or another bullshit book about our ‘witch hunt.’ And I know they study us and McMartin and Fells Acres in different colleges.

“I’m haunted every single day, and I always will be, so long as those bastards are out there, getting to go about their business. I have a lot of emotions – hypervigilance, anger that I had to go through all that badgering (by the defense). My husband put away my files on the case because it bothered me so much.

“I remember vividly what happened, and I’ve told therapists. You believe a dozen little kids just got together and made up lies? There was physical evidence, things they couldn’t put on TV.  The whole situation was just crap.”

Before we hung up, she said she would consider sending me case materials that I would find persuasive. I appreciate her call and hope to hear from her again.