Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

By Donna Westfall  – January 17, 2017 – Let’s begin with the McMartin Preschool Abuse Trial that took place during the mid 1980’s.  One woman, Judy Johnson, with a 2-1/2 year old son, leveled charges against her estranged husband and against teacher, Ray Buckey.

Allegations involving sexual abuse of her son were called in to Manhattan Beach Police Department in 1983 by Johnson. When it was all said and done, it was the longest and most expensive criminal trial in American history, and should serve as a cautionary tale. When it was all over, the government had spent seven years and $15 million dollars investigating and prosecuting a case that led to no convictions.

Today we can compare it to the Salem Witch Trials of old.  It changed forever the way children are treated in preschools.  It made and broke careers and lives.

It ruined the lives of those accused and probably added to their early death. Founder, Virginia McMartin died in 1995. Her daughter and McMartin Preschool administrator, Peggy McMartin Buckey died in 2000. Ray Buckley, spent five years in jail.  He was brought to trial 3 times and never convicted. He lost everything. His home, his savings, his job.

In 2005, one of the children (as an adult) retracted the allegations of abuse.


  • Did anyone ever check out that Judy Johnson was an alcoholic or diagnosed with and hospitalized for acute paranoid schizophrenia?  She was found dead in her home in 1986.  The cause:  acute alcoholism.

There are several points to make here:

  1.  The misplaced zeal of six people: Judy Johnson, seriously mentally ill mother who died of alcoholism; Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney who was in a losing battle for re-election; Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.
  2. The coersive, suggestive techniques used by social workers and child services including some law enforcement forever tainted the way children are to be questioned regarding abuse.
  3. The law changed.  Closed circuit TV’s are now used as a result so that children testifying don’t have to face the accused in court.
  4. The influence of the press.  The egregious reporting principally by the LA Times that were biased against the defense that seemed to assume the charges were true. Finally, they never published investigative stories based on examining the prosecutions case.
  5. Lack of medical evidence to support the allegations.

The second case took place in New York.  A nine year old girl accused her father of raping her.  Six months after her father was convicted she later recanted to her Grandmother and said she only did it because her mother threatened to beat her if she didn’t.  Her mother was lost in drugs and alcohol.  Even though the family has been working to get their father released, he is still in prison after 20 years.

Locally, a Superior Court Case involves a father of multiple children.  He has been in jail awaiting trial for yearly four years.  The parents have requested that their names not be used so as to keep their children out of the limelight.

This is not a case where the parents were ever tried or convicted of any felony.  This is not a case where drugs or alcohol were a problem.  This is a case where parents were trying to raise their kids with morals.  Imagine a Christian-Amish couple wearing clothing that is different from traditional jeans, t-shirts and hoodies that many of our local youth wear. Think trying to enforce a no-dating rule on a 16 year old that wants to date, dress like other teenagers, wear make-up, have sex and is being told “NO” by her parents.

What happened?

We’ll cover that in the next installment as public records are retrieved.



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