Feb. 15, 2013

From a letter that the police chief in Manhattan Beach, Calif., sent to parents of children attending McMartin Preschool after the arrest of Ray Buckey on Sept. 7, 1983:

“This Department is conducting a criminal investigation involving child molestation…. The following procedure is obviously an unpleasant one, but to protect the rights of your children as well as the rights of the accused, this inquiry is necessary….

“Please question your child to see if he or she has been a witness to any crime or if he or she has been a victim.  Our investigation indicates that possible criminal acts include: oral sex, fondling of genitals, buttock or chest area, and sodomy, possibly committed under the pretense of ‘taking the child’s temperature.’  Also photos may have been taken of children without their clothing.  Any information from your child regarding having ever observed Ray Buckey to leave a classroom alone with a child during any nap period, or if they have ever observed Ray Buckey tie up a child, is important.

“Please complete the enclosed information form and return it to this Department in the enclosed stamped return envelope as soon as possible….”

“Please question your child….”

As would be demonstrated in McMartin, Little Rascals and dozens of other day-care ritual abuse cases, these four words ensured that anxious parents interrogated their children until they at last “revealed” stories of sharks, witches and murdered babies.

The chief’s letter showed his naïvete not only about the allegations of  “possible criminal acts” at McMartin, but also about the inevitable hysteria they would produce. “….Please keep this investigation strictly confidential,” he advised parents, “because of the nature of the charges and the highly emotional effect it could have on our community.”