The McMartin Preschool case is ancient history to many people in Los Angeles, but in 1984 the shocking story exploded out of Manhattan Beach. Dozens of children told amazing stories of being lured into "naked games" and mass sexual abuse at the hands of teachers and staff. Channel 7's Wayne Satz and later the L.A. Times reported that kids had been fondled and photographed nude and forced to watch animals being slaughtered. School officials were indicted, held without bail for years and tried, but none were convicted and no adults ever testified to witnessing the alleged sexual abuse. In this Sunday's L.A. Times Magazine, one of those children, Kyle Zirpolo, writes that none of it was true, at least for him. He says the lurid tales were planted during questioning by his parents and professionals at Children's Institute International, which examined some four hundred kids and declared that many had been abused.
I remember them asking extremely uncomfortable questions about whether [defendant Ray Buckey] touched me and about all the teachers and what they did—and I remember telling them nothing happened to me. I remember them almost giggling and laughing, saying, "Oh, we know these things happened to you. Why don't you just go ahead and tell us? Use these dolls if you're scared."
Anytime I would give them an answer that they didn't like, they would ask again and encourage me to give them the answer they were looking for. It was really obvious what they wanted. I know the types of language they used on me: things like I was smart, or I could help the other kids who were scared.
I felt uncomfortable and a little ashamed that I was being dishonest. But at the same time, being the type of person I was, whatever my parents wanted me to do, I would do. And I thought they wanted me to help protect my little brother and sister who went to McMartin.
Zirpolo came forward after seeing the documentary Capturing the Friedmans. The South Bay's Easy Reader got wind of the pending story and went to press first this week with reporter Kevin Cody's reconstruction of the case and Zirpolo's part in it. Reacting to it all, Garrison Frost wrote Friday at The Aesthetic website that the stories are "certain to ruffle some feathers in a town where one still occasionally sees 'I Believe the Children' bumper stickers."