Rascals 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.


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Today’s random selection from the Little Rascals Day Care archives….


‘What may be the largest child sexual abuse trial this country has ever seen’

July 22, 2016

“FARMVILLE, N.C. – Farmville’s only courtroom has never played host to a felony trial. This week, the town’s 4,000 residents will watch a parade of jurors, lawyers, psychologists, parents and children converge on that courtroom. There, they will unfold what may be the largest child sexual abuse trial this country has ever seen: the trial of Robert F. Kelly Jr. of Edenton.

140120TwentyFive“The trial was moved to this one-blink community in Pitt County, 65 miles west of Edenton in Eastern North Carolina, because of pretrial publicity.

“But the spotlight will find Farmville, if not for the unprecedented number of sexual abuse indictments, then for the sordid nature of the charges. And if not for that, then for the impact the trial – expected to last three to four months – could have on future large-scale child-abuse prosecutions.

“Jury selection is scheduled to start today….”

– From “Witnesses, jurors, lawyers mass for sexual-abuse trial” by Knight-Ridder News Service in the Baltimore Sun (July 22, 1991)

In fact, the trial would last nine months, not three or four.  Although prosecutors won initial convictions of both Kelly and Dawn Wilson, for whatever reasons – surely including the eye-opening effects of Ofra Bikel’s “Innocence Lost” trilogy – the nation was spared “future large-scale child-abuse prosecutions.”


Anxieties about children still make us crazy

Aug. 16, 2013

“Ritual abuse may now seem an almost quaint aberration, a temporary fad that seized the popular imagination, as outdated as hula-hoops or disco fever. But our anxieties about children continue to affect our judgment. When a meta-analysis of research published in Psychological Bulletin (1998) suggested that not all children under the age of 18 were traumatized by having sexual experiences before adulthood, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning the association. Not surprisingly, the popular outcry that led to the Congressional resolution was sparked by talk show celebrity Laura Schlessinger.

“More recently, a book that explored whether overzealous response to fears about children and sexuality are harmful to the youth we seek to protect was published by the University of Minnesota press after trade publishers deemed it too controversial for their lists; Tim Pawlenty, then a state legislator, but who was elected governor of Minnesota in 2002, quickly moved to condemn the publication and the University for publishing it.”

– From “The Devil in the Details: Media Representation of ‘Ritual Abuse’ and Evaluation of Sources” by Barbara Fister in Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education (May 2003)

‘Little Rascals case is a study of female/maternal vengeance’


Brian Lambert

Dec. 12, 2017

“Sadly, we’ve grown accustomed to gross miscarriages of justice in cases involving minorities and the indigent. Appalled as we are by such legal travesties we rationalize it as the consequences of traditional bigotry.

“But there is no racial component to the Little Rascals case. There isn’t even much of a class component, since the defendants and their accusers were for the most part, equals. With the exception of a couple jurors, all the characters are white and comfortably middle-class.

“Neither is there any effect of drug abuse or any other kind of aberrant psychology.

“If anything, the Little Rascals case is a study of female/maternal vengeance, since the Kellys’ foremost accusers were Betsy Kelly’s friends, the mothers of the children entrusted to her care. Likewise the vast majority of court-appointed therapists and counselors were female, as was the most prominent of the three prosecutors.

“The story is a riveting study of mass psychosis, of the willingness, ability and need of well- educated, civilized people to believe something in the face of a near total absence of logic and extraordinary cruelty to friends and neighbors….”

– From “A ‘Frontline’ documentary on child abuse hysteria shows how good TV can be” by Brian Lambert in the Saint Paul Pioneer Press (May 27, 1997)



Calling all members of ‘secretive organizations’….

Aug. 12, 2013

“To maintain their belief in networks of satanic ritual abuse, the people involved in (the 16th Annual Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, to be held in Windsor Locks, Conn.) have built up a labyrinth of contorted mental passageways….

“According to the organizers…  when people recant their belief that they were the victims of satanic ritual abuse, the recanting is itself evidence of satanic ritual abuse. They assert that satanic cults insert neurological programs into the minds of their victims. Among these programs, they say, is one that makes therapists who push their patients to talk about ‘repressed memories’ of satanic ritual abuse look stupid….

“Standard academic conferences are open to anyone interested, so that ideas can be challenged. That’s not how things work at the Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, which excludes members of “unsympathetic organizations” or “secret organizations.”

“How exactly would a conference exclude members of secret organizations?… The instant a member of a secret organization was revealed as a member of a secret organization, the secret organization wouldn’t be a secret any longer, and the person accused of being a member would then become eligible to attend.

“Are there any members of secret organizations that would be willing to attend the Ritual Abuse, Secretive Organizations and Mind Control Conference, and report back to me what happens there?

“Wait… don’t tell me. That would just ruin the plan. Do it in secret.”

– Adapted from “How Can A Conference Exclude Member Of Secret Organizations?” by F.G. Fitzer at Irregular Times (July 2, 2013)

Not surprisingly, the weekend conference was a project of S.M.A.R.T., and the top-billed speaker was Judy “Twenty-two Faces” Byington.