the little rascals day care center was a day care in edenton, north carolina, where, from 1989 to 1995, there were arrests, charges and trials of seven people associated with the day care center, including the owner-operators, bob and betsy kelly. the eight-month trial against bob kelly was the most expensive in north carolina history, ending in conviction on 99 of 100 charges and twelve consecutive life sentences. the police department suggested to local parents that they have their children assessed for possible abuse, and provided a list of recommended therapists.
one of the mothers of the 12 children that testified against kelly stated that she felt “overwhelming relief”. the children had testified that kelly had forced them to have different types of sex. after deliberation, the jury convicted her and she was sentenced to life in prison. other day care staff were similarly accused of committing acts of violence against children during the 1980s and 1990s, and many accusations involved satanism.
in the little rascals case, not only did the four therapists caring for the children use improper methods to advance the prosecution’s case, but their involvement went virtually unregulated due to other mishandlings of the case by the police, prosecution, and parents. the media coverage of the mcmartin case itself also played a significant role, as the publicizing of its strange details and allegations seemed only to prove that the underground world of ritualistic abuse that pazder brought forth in his book not only existed, but was still terrifyingly active (deyoung, 237-8). the eagerness of the public to accept the allegations of the little rascals case as fact caused a number of mishandlings throughout the case to be overlooked. shopper notes that in the little rascals case, these suggestions were likely more detailed than what is recommended by psychoanalysts, and were intended explicitly to draw out recollections of abuse.
the police told her that some of the children had recently named her as a lookout for the alleged perpetrators, despite the fact that she had no connection to the daycare other than sending her child to it. on 25 april 1989, minutes before bean was to enter the courtroom for the initial probable cause hearing of the case, the district attorney and a police officer confronted bean with the knowledge that his young son had been named as an alleged victim in the case. by thoroughly analyzing the wide variety of errors committed in the little rascals case, it is plain to see that it serves as strong proof that the gathering of children’s testimony, especially in emotionally-charged cases, ought to be a closely-guarded and delicate process. all of these issues occurred as a direct result of the errors in the case, which demonstrates precisely what actions and measures should be avoided when an emotional criminal case hinges on the testimony of children. “the little rascals day care center case: the ingredients of two successful prosecutions.” journal of child sexual abuse 3.2 (1994): 107-116. taylor & francis online.
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