When we contacted various state officials, and those in the prosecutors office they refused to discuss this monstrous travesty of injustice. You can be sure nothing is fixed, as they will not even talk about it. Further, the prosecutors office and police have merely shifted from large-scale frame-ups, to smaller individual frame-ups.
It is so pathetically bad that King County Prosecuting Attorney Daniel T. Satterberg considers a mere accusation to be the proof of a crime.
Wenatchee, Washington, got world attention in 1994–1995, when it found itself in the midst of what was characterized as history’s most extensive child sex abuse investigation. Three years later, the investigations had fallen apart amidst accusations of abuses by police and state social workers, and alleged false confessions, badgered child witnesses, and evidence based on the generally discredited “recovered memory” theory. The cases eventually came to be known as the Wenatchee Witch Hunt.
Forty-three adults were arrested and accused of 29,726 counts of sexually abusing 60 children.
Some were released. Eighteen pleaded guilty, mostly on the basis of signed confessions. Ten were convicted at trial. Three were acquitted. Eighteen went to prison.
Many witnesses and defendants later said they were pressured into making false confessions and accusations by caseworkers from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and by Wenatchee Police Department Lieutenant Bob Perez.
All who confessed later recanted. Some defendants said that when threatened with life imprisonment, they pled guilty to lesser charges. Some said they were told that if they confessed they wouldn’t go to jail but would be treated in the community. Many were told they would never see their children again unless they signed a confession. Those questioned also said they were told that their children wouldn’t be placed in foster care or put up for adoption if they signed confessions.
Child witnesses, mostly from 9 to 13 years old, were often taken from their families and placed in foster care. Many said later that they were subjected to hours of frightening grilling and if they didn’t believe they had been sexually abused, they were told they were “in denial” or had suppressed the memory of the abuse. They were also told that siblings and other children had witnessed their abuse, or that their parents had already confessed.
Interrogators called some children who denied abuse liars. Children were told that if they agreed to accusations they wouldn’t be separated from parents or siblings. Many of them later recanted.
Lieutenant Perez neither recorded nor kept notes of his interrogations.
Recantations were ignored. “It’s well known that children are telling the truth when they say they’ve been abused,” Wenatchee Child Protective Services (CPS) supervisor Tim Abbey later told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “But (they) are usually lying when they deny it.” Abbey also told an investigator that CPS interviews in the Wenatchee cases were not taped because tapes of the interviews in the California’s notorious McMartin pre-school case, in which no one was convicted, had been thrown out on “technicalities.” In fact, the McMartin tapes showed investigators browbeating and prompting children, and successfully getting them to weave fantastic stories.
DISSENTERS FIRED AND ARRESTED
Also arrested was caseworker Paul Glassen. After he had reported the recantation of the child witness who first accused Devereux, Glassen was handcuffed at work and arrested for witness tampering. Those charges were eventually dropped, but Glassen was fired and was later investigated for being a participant in the alleged orgies run by “The Circle.” After Glassen moved with his family to Vancouver, Canada, Perez and a CPS worker told the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that he was being investigated for 50 counts of child abuse, and he lost his job there. Glassen later received a $295,000 settlement from the city of Wenatchee, and a letter clearing him of any charges.
Glassen’s supervisor, Juana Vasquez, who questioned the investigation and the placement of children in foster care to facilitate criminal investigations, was also fired. A jury later awarded her a judgment of $1.57 million in her suit against the state for wrongful termination and retaliation.
After the Everetts were arrested, their pastor, unordained Pentecostal minister, Robert “Roby” Roberson, tried to get custody of the oldest Everett child. Roberson had originally become involved when DSHS personnel asked them to keep an eye on the family and look for signs of abuse. He believed the Everetts were innocent. A CPS caseworker told Roberson that Perez would arrest him if he attempted to contact his parishioners, the Everett children. At Idella Everett’s sentencing, Roberson spoke up in her defense. Roberson later reported that Perez said, “We warned you, Roberson, we warned you,” at the sentencing hearing.
Arrests were made, and although some of the 43 arrested had charges dismissed, others confessed, were sentenced, and went to prison or were tried and found guilty. In 1995, when the investigations were at their height, Douglas County commissioners and Douglas and Chelan County prosecutors asked for a grant of state funds to pay for the burgeoning costs of foster care, counselors, expert witnesses, and more prosecutors and police. They received $141,098. Public defenders, however received no extra funds.
But some Wenatchee citizens began questioning the investigation. Pastor Roberson attended a city council meeting and afterwards gave a television interview about the cases. The day after the interview aired, Douglas County police and the State Patrol searched the church and Roberson’s home, removing carpet samples to look for semen. About a week later, the Roberson’s four-year old daughter Becky was taken from them and held as a material witness.
Eventually, Roberson and his wife Connie were accused of running organized ritual sex abuse from the East Wenatchee Pentecostal Church and House of God and food bank. At their December 1995 trial, which featured little Becky as a defense witness, a Chelan county jury acquitted them in three hours. The jury foreman characterized the prosecutions as “a witch hunt.” A Sunday school teacher, Honnah Sims, was also acquitted, and charges were dropped against the driver of the church van. The Robersons and their codefendant settled a lawsuit with the state for $850,000 in December 1999.
INNOCENCE PROJECT NORTHWEST
In 1998, law students and faculty at the University of Washington formed Innocence Project Northwest and took up the cases of the convicted and incarcerated. Eventually, all 18 had verdicts overturned, or made plea bargains to reduced, often unrelated charges. Some, however, had served their full terms while appeals were underway. The last of the 18 defendants was released in December 2000.
Article taken from HistoryLink File #7065. Wenatchee Witch Hunt: Child Sex Abuse Trials In Douglas and Chelan Counties. historylink.org. * Bold and italics added for emphesis