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Junk Science. Junk Justice. The Fells Acres Daycare Case

(C) Copyright 1995 Jonathan G. Harris. Permission granted to reproduce this work for nonprofit purposes. [Names of children have been changed to protect their privacy. This mess is not their fault.] Note: More information on this and other cases can be found in the Witch Hunt Information Center Homepage.

Prosecutors Larry Hardoon and Patricia Bernstein maintained that daycare owner Violet Amirault, her son, and her daughter sadistically molested children in a room referred to as the "secret room," "hidden room," "special room," or "magic room." No such room has ever been found. No other teacher or parent heard of such a room until the first accusation. All rooms in the two story Cape Cod were used in this crowded school and teachers were denied access to no part of the building. None of this stopped District Attorney Harshbarger from directing the prosecution of this case, nor did it stop one jury from convicting owner Violet Amirault (60 years old at the time) and her daughter Cheryl Lefave. Nor did it stop another jury from convicting her son Gerald Amirault, a father to three children. All remain in prison in Massachusetts.


Abandoned by her husband without support, Violet Amirault started Fells Acres and got her family off of the welfare rolls in 1966. Fells Acres grew from a small daycare in the basement of their Cape Cod house to a successful business serving over 70 children at a time, and occupying the whole house and an addition built for the school. Cheryl taught one toddler class and Gerald did odd jobs-- cooking, driving children to and from field trips, and sometimes helping teachers when a child needed to be changed or something needed to be fixed.

In March of 1984, Sandra Ellison moved to Medford and enrolled her five year old son Richard in Fells Acres. Her marriage had always been stressful. Her husband had a violent temper and was known to hit coworkers at times. He was often away from home, and she had filed for nonsupport. Soon after arriving in Medford, Mr. Ellison lost his job as a custodian at Wellesley and moved out of the house. Richard, attended Fells Acres two days a week from late March to June. His behavioral problems-- bed wetting, lying, baby talking like his 16 month old brother, and hostility-- worsened during the spring and summer of that year. Nevertheless before taking him out for a summer vacation in June, Sandra asked Vi to hold a place for Richard in September.

The initial accusation is difficult to follow, because the various versions told by the mother and son drastically contradict each other. Likely, Mrs. Ellison had suspected abuse as early as the previous April, as in early hearings concerning the closing of Fells Acres she admitted that she discussed with her son the sexual abuse of one of her brothers as early as April of 1984, when Richard was upset because he was having trouble urinating. At the trial she denied remembering any such conversation until confronted with tapes of her testimony and recalled to the witness stand.

On the eve of Labor Day 1984, Mrs. Ellison called a hotline to accuse Gerald of abusing her son. In the versions she told on the hotline and to social workers, she had become concerned about her son's behavioral problems, especially an incident in which he was caught in sexual play with a cousin. Earlier that August she had the brother who she thought had been molested at camp talk to Richard. The son told his uncle that Gerald had pulled his pants down. Indeed this incident likely did happen, as Gerald and Richard's teacher remember having to change the boy after he wet himself at nap time.

Contradictions Appear

After her brother reported this to her and said that Richard's behavior indicated that he had been molested, Mrs. Ellison spent considerable time questioning Richard. She also made an appointment with a therapist at Children's Hospital, even though at the trial she denied even suspecting sexual abuse at this point. On the eve of Labor Day, Richard finally told a bizarre story. Mrs. Ellison told social workers that in this story, every day at preschool, Gerald blindfolded Richard and took him to a secret room that had a bed and a shelf with golden trophies. There Gerald allegedly performed a variety of bizarre sexual acts on Richard.

When the social worker Donna Laspina first questioned Richard, he denied most of the accusations and only claimed to have been touched and kissed by Gerald. In later interviews he made more accusations as well as changed the description of the secret room to a windowless room with two cots. Later at the grand jury hearings, Mrs. Ellison claimed her son had been forced to urinate in cups and drink the urine.

Richard had also said that other children were taken to the secret room and abused and named one of his friends explicitly. The fact that Richard's friend denied the incident and his father, a psychiatrist, insisted that his son had no problems at school did not cause the investigators to hesitate.

On a third interview, Richard said that the incidents happened when his teachers were out sick and Gerald had taken over the class. The teachers noted that Gerald never took over that classroom and rarely even visited the classroom to avoid distracting one of the pupils, his daughter. Later, Mrs. Ellison the told the grand jury the teachers were in the room when he was removed; but the boy's teacher never saw Gerald remove any children at nap time.

Perhaps the most drastic contradictions were in the location of the secret room. Mrs. Ellison initially said her son did not know whether or not the secret room was in the school, because he had been blindfolded. Later Richard told an interviewer that the secret room and a magic room were in the school. At the trial, the Mrs. Ellison and Richard maintained that he went to a secret room and a magic room in a white house and a brown house away from the school. They also changed the story so the molestation happened only once.


Hysteria Builds

After their first interview with Richard, officers Rivers and Byrne went to the school a seized class lists from Violet Amirault. They attempted to interview a few other children and succeeded only in making them nervous.

The next day police came to the school and arrested Gerald in front of all of the teachers and students. The officials appear to have quickly believed they had uncovered something big. The day after Gerald's arrest, police, prosecutors, DSS officials, and child care licensing officials met to discuss how to handle the investigation and the press releases for what they saw as a major story.

The police and social workers started further interviews with children and continued to warn parents to question their children. By the time the weekend had arrived, there were still no new accusations. Parents continued to worry.

The Clown Appears

Friday night, Debbie, a three year old, would not tell her parents why her underwear was inside out. Her parents began to worry. Her mother talked to her good friends, the Dukes, who told her to ask her daughter about a "magic room" and a "secret room." Furthermore , a mild rash appeared on Debbie's vagina and Debbie seemed someone anxious over the past few weeks. Did Debbie have some of the ominous symptoms of sexual abuse? After an unknown amount of questioning, Debbie told her parents that she saw a clown in a basement "magic room." When her parents inquired as to the sex of the clown and how she knew, she responded that it was a male clown and that she could tell because it had parts that girls don't have. More questioning yielded statements that she saw Cheryl's pubic hair, and Cheryl tickled her all over (including the vagina). That Monday a social worker came and extracted claims of abuse by Cheryl and the clown.

In Debbie's interview with the social worker, she described changing in the magic room with the clown and going swimming in Vi's pool. With prompting from the social worker, she inserted a crayon into an anatomical dolls large vagina and added that she had something stuck in her vagina. Later the swimming evolved into stories of naked pool parties.

Monday, the Dukes took their four year old son to their doctor because he acknowledged the magic room. Dr. Robinson questioned the boy and got a story of a clown sticking his bum in George's face in the magic room. Although the report indicates that George mentioned being fondled, it also says that George denied having his pants pulled down or having anything put in them; but the seed to further questions had been planted. When the social workers came with the dolls the story expanded to include bizarre acts such as being raped with scissors and being photographed.

Panic Spreads

A week after Gerald's arrest, the authorities closed the school and held a meeting at which many parents were instructed to ask their children about a magic room, a secret room, and a clown. Police told parents listed "symptoms" of sexual abuse, which include common problems such as bed wetting and changes in appetite. They further warned parents to persist in questioning their children because a child's insistence that no abuse occurred should not be believed.

The day after the school closed, the Boston Herald's sensational headlines started. The next few days featured Shelley Murphy and Gayle Fee's Headlined articles "Day-Care Staff in Sex Probe" and "Kid Sex Victims May Total 20," filled with comments from anonymous sources.

Early in the investigation police searched the school for the magic room and pornographic photos. "29 photos, camera seized at day school" read a headline in the Boston Globe's Metro Section." The revelation that the photos were merely pictures of birthday parties and other typical preschool activities was buried in the back pages a couple of days later.

Social Workers and Parents Prod

In the minds of the investigators, the goal was not to determine whether something happened; it was to extract "disclosures." One social worker even described an interview which produced no accusations as "unsuccessful." No tapes were made of most initial interviews, making it difficult to analyze how much the children were led. Nevertheless, the social worker and police reports contain descriptions of parents or investigators badgering children. "All these questions about school are making me sick" one girl told her mother. In another case, a social worker described extracting the accusations as "painful prodding."

Often the disclosures began as vague statements. "There are bad people at Fells Acres.. They touched kids ... they touched their penises and vaginas" was regarded as a disclosure by social worker Karen Gaughan. Gaughan made no attempt to distinguish whether the girl witnessed this or heard this from someone else and believed it. Perhaps if the social worker had checked with the child's physician, she would have found that the child had said "Bad people were taking pictures. They took them from the wall." Of course this child had not witnessed the theft of the many pictures which decorated the walls of the school.

One former pupil, now a teenager, who enjoyed Fells Acres and still insists it was a wonderful place, admitted to me that the repeated questions about school upset her and her friends because no one had done anything to them. Ironically such displays of anxiety are often interpreted as evidence that abuse did occur in such cases.

DSS reports also show that interviewers blindly accepted without question any sexual disclosure, even if it were in the midst of obvious fantasies. DSS reports of conversations with parents contain little or no details on how parents extracted "disclosures."

Even more dubious was the usage of anatomically detailed dolls with explicit genitals. Some therapists claim they can use them to help children talk about abuse or diagnose sexual abuse by observing how children play with the dolls.

Researchers Discredit Methods

Recent research by Stephen Ceci at Cornell and Maggie Bruck of McGill suggests that both claims are false. They tried to use dolls to determine which three year olds were touched on the genitals during a doctor visit. They found questioning the children with the dolls was no more accurate than flipping coins for determining who received a genital touch. Furthermore some children wrongly claimed that the doctor put his fingers or other implements inside of them, even though the researchers only asked children the questions once. Fortunately videotapes of the visits cleared the doctor.

The one or two direct questions faced by the children in psychology experiments pale against the highly suggestive techniques of the Fells Acres investigation. On a second interview of one four year old girl, a social worker asked her to show the police officer what was special about the dolls. They then did an exercise in which the girl drew the good clown and the social worker drew the bad clown. The social worker then asked the girl what was missing, and the girl said "his penis." The social worker continued to question the girl and asked if she touched the penis and if she touched the penis with her mouth, and had her demonstrate what she did using the doll. She then put the penis in her mouth. In a later videotaped interview, the girl was led to perform sex acts on the doll, and the defense expert noted that she smiled as if she were merely playing. She also put the doll's foot in her mouth, but the interviewer found that action much less interesting.

Pediatric Nurse Makes Videotaped Interviews

The videotaped interviews conducted by pediatric nurse Susan Kelley, one of the prosecution's "experts", provide the most dramatic examples of the interrogations of the children. Many of these interviews occurred after the child had been questioned many times by parents, social workers, police, and perhaps even therapists. Susan Kelley would repeat a question after getting a no answer and use Sesame Street puppets to beg them for disclosures. She would ultimately use a study of the parents of the Fells Acres children and parents in other similar cases to obtain her PhD from Boston College.

"Do you think that you could help me the same way that April did by telling me the story about what happened with the clown in the magic room," she pleaded to one child. Later Kelley asked direct questions about sexual activities and reminded the child "She said that you -- that Jane and April-- you girls -- the clown had you girls take your clothes off in the magic room?" Nevertheless this interview yielded only a story about a clown playing with fire and spanking children.

"Oh, come on, please tell Ernie. Please tell me. Please tell me, so we can help you, please? Mommy would be so happy if you would help us; so would Bert. Please, tell me; tell Bert? OK, you tell Ernie, you whisper it to Ernie, all right; and Susan's going to cover her face, and you whisper it to Ernie, who touched you there?" Susan Kelley begged another girl to make a "disclosure" after already obtaining two no's to her touching question. Could there be any doubt as to why Kelly obtained so many fantastic stories of colored elephants stomping on children and clowns playing hide and seek in magic rooms?

In situations where the children had not already made accusations, their first stories to Nurse Kelley, when not bizarre, lack real sexual content. When pressured to tell about seeing Gerald's penis, one girl described an incident (likely imaginary) when Gerald unzipped his pants and ran out of the office saying "I have to go to the bathroom." Another claimed that Gerald had cut in front of her in the bathroom to use the toilet. When pestered with touching questions she said that Gerald put his hand under her dress and Vi made him sit in the corner.

The Search for the Magic Room

For some time the police and prosecutors believed that there was a hidden room in the school. One teacher, who lead prosecutor Larry Hardoon questioned, recalls that the investigators had no idea where the magic or secret room was. They asked her about possible hidden rooms at the school and they also considered the possibility that the secret room was in another building. Only later did the investigators realize that there was no special or hidden room at Fells Acres.

Because the older children, whose classes were on the second floor, were often taken on long afternoon walks during the summer, the prosecution eventually identified a second floor bathroom and the adjacent classrooms as the magic rooms. The prosecutors maintain the children identified these as the special rooms when they toured the school almost nine months after the initial accusation, even though the social services and police reports have some of the same children placing the magic room in the basement and most not giving the rooms any location during the early interviews.

Parents Panic

To the parents any slightly strange behavior became evidence of abuse. For one parent (who did pursue charges) it was the time her three year old daughter suddenly blurted out "penises go in vaginas, don't they mommy." Rather than assume her daughter was parroting the words of an older child, she assumed this was a sign that her daughter had been involved in sexual activities. Even the fact that the girl used the words "penis" and "vagina" instead of her usual word "peepee" was evidence to this parent. Nevertheless, the parent could not explain how witnessing a sexual act would cause the child to change the terms she used for the genitals. This particular example is especially ironic in that the mother had spent a couple of months at the center with her daughter and could not see how any abuse could have happened there.


Eventually 19 prosecutable cases surfaced. Nine children testified against Gerald, and four against Cheryl and Vi. Gerald's trial took place in the spring of 1986 and lasted three months. Cheryl and Vi's 11 day trial took place the following year.

Behavioral Symptoms

"Behavioral symptoms " of sexual abuse, as described by parents, played key roles in both trials. Many of these were incidents which would otherwise be attributed to normal childhood events, but developed a sinister air when described in the context of the trial. Richard's mother described how her son broke things and blamed his baby brother. Other parents described events such as a three year old pretending to be a "doggie" while naked and a boy lining up toy soldiers to protect himself at bedtime.

"Behavioral symptoms" that were absent during medical exams in 1984 and 1985 suddenly appeared in parents' testimony. One mother blamed her admission to a psychiatric hospital on her sons behavior after his disclosure, which did not occur until several months in therapy.

Another claimed that her daughter had frequent nightmares and woke up screaming about clowns soon after graduating from Fells Acres in June of 1983. The attorneys noted that this same mother had told the grand jury that her daughter had some nightmares and they were not much. Prior to the trial she had never testified or told investigators about dreams involving clowns. Furthermore the mother maintained that in September of 1984 her daughter acknowledged the existence of a clown doing tricks in the magic room the morning after the mother, following the advice of the police, asked her about the magic room, the secret room, and the clown. She then remained unconcerned until December when she contacted the police after reading a list of symptoms of sexual abuse.

Children Testify

In Gerald's trial the children testified sitting at a small table in front of the jury. Judge Dolan took off her robe and sat with the children. Parents flanked the children so they would not have to look at Gerald, who was sitting off to the side. One child testified on videotape because the prosecution said he was too scared to go before the court. Such treatment gave the jurors the impression that the children were afraid of Gerald and thus transmitted a presumption of guilt.

During both trials, many children admitted to practicing their testimony. The testimony of Brian , below, is classic example of this: Cross by Julianne Balliro (comm vs. Amirault, May 26, 1986):

page 31-98

Q: Okay. Well, do you practice things about Fells Acres, too, the same way you practice your ABCs?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay. You've been saying them over and over and over again?

A: Yes.

Q: And you say them with lots of different people?

A: Yes.

Q: And if you forget, sometimes people help you remember?

A: Yes.

Q: Okay, and sometimes there's things--there are some things that they don't help you remember, right?

A: Right.

Q: Things like who Steve is, right?

A: Right.

[Steve is a mysterious bad man who Brian mentioned on an interview] .... Many others testified that if they did not practice, they would forget what happened at Fells Acres or that they knew the Amiraults were bad because their parents told them.

Such practicing led to testimony such as Brian's description of a mysterious bad puppet show: [Redirect by Prosecutor Larry Hardoon. (Comm. vs. Amirault May 26, 1986) page 31-100 to 31-101]

Q Brian, Julianne asked you about a puppet show; do you remember?

A Yes.

Q Okay. And did you go to one puppet show or more than one puppet show?

A Just only two.

Q Okay, there's two. And can you tell me what the two of them were?

A I forget.

Q: All right. Well, were they both good puppet shows?

A: No, one was bad and one was good.

Q: Okay, and what happened at the one puppet show that was bad, Brian?

A: They took everyone's clothes off.

Q: All right. And did they do anything after they took everyone's clothes off?

Ms. Balliro: Objection.

The Court: Overruled.

A: I forget that one.

Q: Okay. So you don't remember what they did after they took everyone's clothes off?

Ms. Balliro: Objection. Motion to strike.

Court: Overruled.

A: No. .....

page 31-103: Bench conference:

Ms. Balliro: Your Honor, I would just move to strike the business about "they" took everyone's clothes off. We don't know who "they" is or whether "they" includes Tooky or Tooky was at the puppet show.

Almost all children testified that they were threatened, even though experts state that when the abuser is not a family member, threatening children frequently causes them to tell about the abuse right away. Even the state's expert, Dr. Renee Brant, could not estimate the probability that a threat would be successful at keeping a child quiet. In ritual abuse cases such as this one, threats have to successful virtually 100% of the time for the case to be credible, as no children disclosed any abuse until repeatedly questioned. Other psychologists and child development experts point out that a preschool age child does not have the self discipline required to reliably keep secrets; this is how child molesters often get caught. Furthermore, in some cases even the parents admitted that their children told them they liked school, and the prosecution produced not a single caring parent who removed his or her child from the school because their child was unhappy there.

One boy testified to being tied to a tree in front of all of the students and teachers. He also said that Cheryl killed a dog and buried its blood in the sandbox and that a robot threatened to kill him if he told about the abuse. He even claimed a baby was killed there during one interview, although he forgot this at trial time. Another boy claimed that Vi killed a frog and fed it to him. During the original interview he had said it quacked like a duck and was a monster.

A girl claimed her wrist was slashed and it bled. Under questioning by prosecutor Bernstein she revealed that a robot threw her in circles, bit her on the arm, and scared her. In the cross examination she described the robot as being like R2D2 from Star Wars, having wheels and flashing lights, and talking in a robot language. Another girl talked about a game where she licked ice- cream off of the trunk of an elephant and the trunk was Gerald's penis. Another girl originally told Susan Kelley that the clown had chased her naked into the school yard, and people yelled "Ha, Ha you're outside naked," but denied remembering this on the witness stand.

The descriptions of the magic, secret, and hidden rooms appear to be very inconsistent. Some mention wires on the floor. Others a lamp and a green light and a green or orange rug. Some mention a camera on a tripod. Many of the children claimed that they told their teachers that they were going to the magic room. Others could not remember how they got to the magic room. One child answered the question of how he got to the magic room, with "by Tooky."

Prominent Pediatrician. Bogus Evidence

Ritual abuse theory promoters cite this as a documented case because all appeals have been lost and there are claims to physical evidence. With the possible exception of one child, the "physical signs" are commonly found in unabused children. The one exception is a girl with a small scar on the hymen. This scar was not seen in an examination of the child soon after the case started, likely because the child's pediatrician did not use a coloscope, a device for examining colons and vaginas under magnification. More recent studies suggest these sort of small scars are indistinguishable from normal hymenal irregularities.

Gerald's family and attorneys maintain that likely this girl had no contact with Gerald during the brief time period she attended the school. Their claim is supported by the fact that the girl maintained that Gerald was a blond, even though he had dark brown hair. She further elaborated that she knew the clown was Gerald because some of the blond hair was exposed. She claimed that Gerald stuck a big knife into her bum (anus). Under cross examination she described how it got stuck inside of her and she screamed. Her teacher then took her back into the classroom and told Gerald not to do that again. The girl had initially had claimed to be assaulted by a robot, a blond man with glasses, and an unidentified "Mr. Gatt".

Dr. Emans maintained that the presence of vulvitis in all three girls participating in the second trial was unusual and significant in identifying sexual abuse; in spite of the fact that the total population really included at least 60 girls. A monograph Emans co- authored in 1982 states explicitly that vulvovaginitis is common and often due to poor hygiene. Vulvitis and vulvovaginitis are mild inflammations which can result from many causes--irritating soaps, uncleanness, infections, and tight fitting clothing. Furthermore, one of the girls had not been at the school for 18 months by the time Dr. Emans carried out the examination. Vulvitis caused by the rubbing of sexual abuse generally heals within three weeks. Emans had examined the other two girls at least four weeks after the school closed and found vulvitis in them even though their family pediatricians found no vulvitis or other physical signs of abuse during the examinations they conducted almost immediately after the school closed.

The Prosecution Psychiatrist

Renee Brant provided similar pseudoscientific testimony to back up the prosecutions case. Much of her testimony concerned the behavioral disturbances parents described seeing in their children -- bed wetting, sex play, stomach aches, crying, running outside naked, nightmares, overeating, undereating, and hostility towards other family members.

Brant maintained that these could all be symptoms of sexual abuse. Most were trauma nonspecific, in that they can be caused by other things a child's life. The sexual acting and precocious sexual knowledge Brant claimed were trauma specific, they could be caused by nothing other than sexual abuse. Using Brant's theories the prosecutors blamed even normal expressions of sexual curiosity on the alleged sexual abuse. The most bizarre behaviors generally did not appear until "disclosure," and Brant wrote that off as consistent with sexual abuse, forgetting that being asked to play with anatomically detailed dolls or seeing pornography at home were more likely explanations.

She also provided the prosecution with speculative theories lacking any scientific support to explain some of the contradictions in the children's stories. Should a child name anyone other than a defendant, the child could be trying to protect the perpetrator or avoid retaliation. If a child said other witnesses were present for the abuse, it was a "rescue fantasy." Under these theories, denials and retractions should be seen as proof that the child is afraid to disclose, or they simply should be ignored. Of course, the possibility that children were making up stories to try to satisfy adult interrogators should not even be considered.

Perhaps the most compelling evidence that the Amiraults were unjustly convicted is what was not found --- no pornographic photographs, no animal remains, and no costumes. Furthermore no teacher ever saw a child react in fear to Gerald, Cheryl, or Vi. Brant tries to explain this away with an incestuous family analogy, maintaining that children still loved the Amiraults while they were being tortured, much like a child loves a parent. She further adds that the confinement of the abuse to the magic room caused the children to associate the fear with that room only. This speculation becomes even more ridiculous when one considers that most of the children had none of the Amiraults as teachers, and some had little or no contact with Gerald. Furthermore, records and trial transcripts indicate that children made claims that abuse happened in almost every room of the school, as well as outside the school.


Three jurors from Gerald's trial who I interviewed insisted that they found the children credible. Although the jurors claimed the expert testimony was unimportant, in their conversations with me, two of them invoked Brant's interpretations to explain away contradictions and ridiculous events in the children's testimony.

Their main reason for not believing Gerald's testimony was that he got confused over whether his childhood bedroom was on the right or left side of the second floor of his former home, which became the Fells Acres schoolhouse. These jurors said that his lack of memory was a ploy to hide that the magic room had been his bedroom. Never mind that both rooms had been identified as the magic room, and that Gerald actually did identify one of them as his bedroom, but had added that he was not sure.

Vi, Cheryl, and Gerald remain in Massachusetts prisons, having lost all appeals to date. Vi and Cheryl keep getting denied parole because they won't confess. Their sentence was 8-20 years in prison, but the judge from their trial promised to reduce it to five years if they were denied parole when they first came up. He kept his promise, but in an unusual move, the prosecutors appealed the revised sentence and won at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Gerald's sentence is much harsher-- 30 to 40 years with parole eligibility after 20 years.

The district attorney for Middlesex County, Scott Harshbarger used the convictions to bolster his career and is now the Massachusetts attorney general. Susan Kelley became the head of Boston College's nursing department, and has made a career promoting the existence of ritual abuse and satanic ritual abuse. For more information and documentation on this and other cases see the Witch Hunt Information Center Homepage. ----------------------------------------------------


I am an assistant professor of chemical engineering who has been interested in the ritual abuse daycare cases because of the seemingly pathological science and logic that are used to send people to prison for decades. I set up a mailing list called "witchhunt" where these are discussed. I am not related to any of the families involved in this case and did not know any of them until after I had learned a lot about the case. At the end of this file I describe the history of how I learned about this case.

I first learned about this in January 1994 when there was a little debate about it on an internet mailing list. Curiosity got the better of me, and I looked up some newspaper articles and the Mass Supreme Court Decisions. The latter was particularly shocking in the mention of robots, animal slaughter, clowns, and magic rooms [these documents are available via anonymous ftp to in /pub/harris/witchhunt/fellsacre and /pub/harris/witchhunt/uncompressed]. I posted it to a bulletin board with some questions in a posting titled "mass molestation or witchhunt" and one reader who knew Violet Amirault's stepdaughter, Susan Leighton, through the FMSF forwarded my posting and other postings on the subject to family members.

In the mean time I was rather interested in the Fells Acres case, especially because it occurred in Middlesex County, where I live and work. I gradually accumulated more articles from back issues of the Boston Globe on microfilm at MIT. In April I had to propose a seminar topic for a freshman seminar next fall. Enjoying controversy I chose the interaction between science and public policy. I added the infamous preschool trials to a list of possible topics ranging from organochlorine compounds to nuclear energy to lie detector tests. I thought using expert testimony from transcripts of a trial might be interesting (plus it would satisfy my curiosity about what actually went on in these trials. ). When I called the local courthouse, the clerk rudely told me all such transcripts were sealed. I later learned that this was totally false. Later someone posted to the bulletin board a response from Susan Leighton which included citations from trial transcripts and an indication that she could provide more information. This included more disturbing information. At around the same time I received a letter from Gerald Amirault stating that he his family could provide documents and information and that all of the major networks had other daycare cases to work on. I contacted Susan Leighton to get the portions of the transcripts she referred to. Soon afterwards I called the courthouse again and found that the transcripts were not sealed and that complete transcripts of the second trial, Violet Amirault's and Cheryl LeFave's trial, were available at the courthouse. I have since then continued investigating this and interviewed some people and obtained more documents from Gerald's wife as well as microfiche copies of Gerald's trial from the courthouse.

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