MANHATTAN BEACH (CBSLA.com) — It’s been 30 years since allegations of child molestation at a Manhattan Beach preschool shocked the country.

CBS2’s Paul Magers spoke with key figures in the McMartin abuse case about what’s happened in the years since.

“There’s just a lot of damage done,” said publisher Kevin Cody, whose newspaper The Easy Reader featured extensive coverage of the case. “You know, that can’t be undone.”

It was September 1983 when a letter from the Manhattan Beach Police Department to parents of the McMartin preschool sent shockwaves through the community.

After an allegation of child molestation and the arrest of a preschool teacher, the letter asked parents to investigate if their children had been victims. It mentioned sex, fondling and said photos may have been taken of children without clothing, and all possibly under the pretense of taking the child’s temperature.

“Perhaps, it started as a misreading of an innocent act …” said Danny Davis, who represented Ray Buckey, who was tried with his mother, Peggy. They would eventually be charged with 65 counts of child molestation of the preschool students.

The trial would become what many claim to be the longest, most-expensive criminal trial in U.S. history.

“Once the parents began to believe that there had been crimes committed, then the case got very heated,” Cody said. “There is really no upside of this one.”

“The strongest evidence, the physical evidence, the medical evidence, I think was very significant,” said Lael Rubin, the lead prosecutor in the case.

That evidence from the prosecution, photographs taken at the Children’s Institute International, showed what they believed was trauma to the genital area.

Key McFarlane, the director of CII at the time, examined and videotaped approximately 400 children using anatomically correct dolls.

“I’ve been working with sexually abused children for 13 years, and I have never seen children as frightened as these children.”

The thing was that, apart from the CII doctors, none of the 124 witnesses called during the trial, or 800 exhibits in court, offered an corroborating evidence to support the prosecutor’s allegations.

“I never did anything. My son didn’t do anything, nor my mother, my daughter, or any of the teachers,” Peggy Buckey said. “I just can’t imagine ever molesting a child.”

The trial dragged on for nearly three years.

The CII investigation methods, such as its suggestive and leading questions to children and its use of dolls, would eventually be discredited.

In the end, Ray Buckey and Peggy Buckey were acquitted.

“What did you say to the families of the children? Did you speak to them when it was over?” Magers asked Rubin.

“Oh, course I did. They were pretty distraught,” Rubin replied.

Magers asked Rubin if he thought the defendants were guilty or innocent.

“I’m not comfortable commenting on any of them at this point in time,” Rubin said.

But Davis did say about his client Ray Buckey: “He was singly the most heroic client I’ve ever defended, not only because he was innocent, but he endured it with a quiet wisdom.”

Rubin reflected on the many changes that came about as a result of the McMartin trial, which affected criminal cases across the country.

“The criminal justice system, interviewers and police, law enforcement are much more concerned about eliciting information from children, as opposed to giving them clues,” Rubin said.

In the years since the case, there is a positive update on the children involved in the trial, who are now adults in their mid-30s.

“The children are doing great,” Cody said. “They are very happy, well-adjusted people.”

But even now, the questions still linger.

Cody said: “I said, ‘Do you have an independent recollection of being abused?’ ‘No.’ ‘You think you’re abused?’ ‘Yes.’ I’ve asked several times ‘Are you interested in talking about this?’ They say ‘No’ and I say ‘OK, let’s not talk about it.’ ”

Since the McMartin trial, new protocols have been developed.

CII is still in business, providing children’s treatment services in the Los Angeles community. But they no longer provide children interview services, medical exams or make any determinations of abuse.

CBS2 attempted to reach Ray Buckey for comment but was unable to locate him.

Comments (16)
  1. Don Lofton says:

    What disturbs me most today is that even in 2018 our society still believe that kids don’t lie. As a parent kids are human beings and they will lie. How very sad this story is. I still feel society still hasn’t learned.

    1. Snoopy It Is says:

      Don Lofton, as an adult, I believe that you know that children don’t lie. The way you phrased your words would cause any thinking person to suspect your motives. You should have said, “… our society still believe that kids can’t be mistaken [when they tell something].” Rather, you said, “… our society still believe that kids don’t lie.” You’re saying that 400 children under five years old were lying? While 400 children can be possibly MISTAKEN– though not about the allegation at McMartin– 400 children can never LIE about the same allegations. You said the children lied which shows a dark and sinister evil about your intentions.

      Do you think these kids, whose case was thrown out of court in spite of medical evidence and a total lack of investigation, were lying too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N7_epvNbaPQ. Thankfully, society doesn’t want to learn what you want them to learn which is to “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” And for people like you, that “speak no evil” part is most important for victims. Isn’t it.

      1. STFU. This was the very definition of a witch hunt, in which the ‘witches’ were innocent. Fabricated testimony, biased letter, investigations that would be laughed out of any courtroom today. Welcome to Salem, 1990. Don’t tell me, you must be a Trump supporter.

      2. Eunice Small says:

        There was zero medical evidence. Where do you get your false facts from? This trial was a witch hunt predicated on the accusation of the mentally ill crazy woman . Which btw; yes children do lie. All people lie even people under 3 ft high! The evil here is your dark sinister mind that allows itself to harbor fairy tales and repeat them as factual. You build upon your ill conceived analysis by throwing in satanism and other things which had nothing to do with the case. The criminal in that scenario was the social working wanna be child advocate. Yes it is certainly possible to lead 400 kids into saying things she thought she already knew as fact. It is possible to lead 1000 kids. The numbers dont prove anything. The truth was still proven because there wasnt any evidence.

  2. JoAnne Bemis says:

    I believe children want to please……lie? no. I believe a children’s innocent heart wants the approval of a trusted person. So whether it is one child or 400, that the children were answering a very persuasive line of questioning. An adult would interpret the response as a lie. A child would only view the response as “pleasing” the party asking the question. Complete analysis of this case would point the finger at the person who interviewed these children. That is the true guilty party.

    1. Snoopy It Is says:

      False. But then you already know. I’m only responding. I don’t believe in convincing anyone of anything since truth remains in spite of who knows it. “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around, does it make a sound?” We know that it does– but that no one hears it. If children are abused sexually and in satanic and ritualistic ways and no one knows about it, does it still happen? Yes. And you know it.

      There have been hundreds of preschools and daycares where kids alleged the very same type of abuse that happened in McMartin. Parents and adults do not have the time or energy to address these kinds of things in court if they are false. WIkipedia reports in favor of satanic groups and organizations with their extremely biased reporting, but here is just one hundreds of ‘school’ and church satanic ritual abuse of children cases that Wikipedia actually chose to report (because they are silent on all the ones where satanists admitted to the abuse or/and were successfully prosecuted; I can find you links for those if you wish to admit that you know the truth): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Rascals_day_care_sexual_abuse_trial

      Children want to please adults; but they don’t lie about abuse unless coerced. You cannot coerce 400 children (and many more; remember the catholic church?). When the kids think they will get in trouble, then they can be easily ‘coerced’; but kids are more likely to get in trouble for reporting abuse rather than for denying it. Moreover, the parents of the kids would have provided the conscience of the kids: if therapists (for what reason?) can coerce over 400 kids to allege not only sexual abuse but also satanic and ritualistic abuse (explain that one to me; who is after the satanists to make up these lies?), the kids would be more honest with their own parents who are ‘safe’. If Mr. Therapist coerces Amy to lie about abuse, Amy would still feel safe enough with her parents to tell them the truth. The fact that these kids told THEIR parents the truth BEFORE they told the truth to the therapists says everything. One cannot reasonably claim that the therapists coerced kids to lie, because the kids’ parents wouldn’t coerce them to lie. If anything, the parents would URGE the kids to “tell the truth.” You lost your argument.. The only thing that satanists have going for them, for these hundreds of thousands of cases to remain suppressed and covered up, is that people are too busy and too indifferent about these kinds of things. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And so it is. Be wise; debate these facts with someone else. But not with me.

    2. Snoopy It Is says:

      Also, whenever you are able to explain why people would ‘persecute’ satanists– i.e. the so-called satanic panic of the 80s and 90s and all these preschool, daycare, and church satanic ritual abuse cases– let me know what your theory is. Why are people alleging ritualistic abuse and torture by satanists? Why not just allege sexual abuse? Sexual abuse is acceptable in society, and it’s easier to believe. Long ago, the FBI claimed that the Italian Mafia didn’t exist; then we found out that it did. Then there was the suppression of the reality of familial (physical) abuse; then we found out that it existed. Then there was the suppression of familial sexual abuse (incest); then we found out that it existed. Now is the suppression of the biggest and baddest of them all that people from all walks of life partake in (satanic ritual abuse); it’s only a matter of time till everyone knows that it exists (as practiced purposely and systematically by organizations and groups and people from all walks of life).

      Women allege rape (false and true reports) all the time, and they’re usually believed before the alleged perpetrator even gets a chance to talk not to speak of go to court. The alleged perpetrator is usually ‘guilty until proven innocent’. satanists, however, are ‘innocent unless proven guilty’; and with every proof of guilt, satanist lawyers are contracted to overturn the verdict and blot out the existence of organized satanic ritualistic abuse groups in our cities, states, and countries. If these satanic ritual abuse cases were false and the kids, parents, or/and therapists and counselors and lawyers wanted for some reason to destroy the lives of ‘innocent’ alleged perpetrators, then why not just allege sexual abuse? I’d like to see your argument on this and pokes my finger through all the holes in it. It just doesn’t add up. It doesn’t make sense. It isn’t probable. You aren’t talking to someone who is confused or puzzled or in doubt about satanic ritual abuse as practiced by groups and organizations of people; I know a lie and a liar when I see them; and I can smell the truth. Sincere and insincere people literally sound different as soon as they open their mouths.

      And for supposedly false allegations of satanic ritual abuse, the kids’ stories certainly are always too detailed and elaborate for something little kids can possible imagine or come up with. The kids in McMartin knew what blood tasted like and what internal organs looked like, felt like, and smelled like. How is all that possible? The kids in Hampstead, London threw a dragnet around over SEVENTY different adults ALL of whom the two kids remembered as the abuse had gone on for years and was customary to them. Only the kids’ dad was called in for questioning by the police, AFTER he was given a TWO-WEEK warning about the questioning by the police in advance. Tell me on what planet this kind of aberration happens. As I said, I’m not in doubt about any of this. satanists depend on people’s desire to not know these kinds of things– people’s tendency to choose denial– in order to hide the facts and cover up the truth; but I don’t believe or side with people. I believe and side with truth. Makes it harder to pull the wool over my eyes. I’m just letting you know that there are still people who THINK and CARE out here, who don’t listen to arguments but who listen for truth. Truth and lies have a different sound to them– even a different smell, and certainly a different feel. The more you talk, the more I will see where you are coming from and what your actual intentions are. It’s probably best for you to keep your opinions to yourself because satanists and satanist sympathizers don’t like to be uncovered, even if they are safe in front of a computer on the other side of the world.

      1. JoAnne Bemis says:

        I see that your OPINION is all that matters….

      2. Snoopy It Is says:

        I’m excellent at language. Watch your shotgun phrases and thought-terminating cliches. Everyone’s opinion matters to them, so why shouldn’t mine matter to me? (Beat that. Lol.) However, after all opinions are laid on the table, then there’s the unbiased truth. Truth is so superior to lies that even lies (all of them) are founded on the truth. There is nothing that happens or doesn’t happen inside of all existence that isn’t founded on truth.

        (Because if you lie, then it is TRUE that you lied; and if something doesn’t exist, then it is TRUE that it doesn’t exist. If a tree falls in the forest, then it is TRUE that it fell; and if no one is around to hear it fall, then it TRUE that no one heard it. For this reason, truth always wins, even while it seems to be losing. It eventually will surface as it always must.)

        Picket fences, may build our defenses
        in domestic wars of leisure suits.
        That’s okay, it doesn’t bother me. You can hold on to your philosophy.
        What’s mine is mine, what’s yours is yours. But what’s the truth.” –Jennifer Knapp, ‘In The Name’

  3. pupidawg says:

    If only the judge and prosecution would have watched Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine in The Children’s Hour, all of this mess could’ve been avoided.