Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions
The investigation began in January 1995 when Detective Robert Perez was told by his 13-year-old foster daughter, Donna Perez, that she had been sexually molested. On March 13, 1995, Perez put Donna in his police car with two social services caseworkers and they drove through Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. Donna pointed out houses and buildings where she says she and other children were repeatedly raped and molested since January 1988. She listed 22 locations.
Many of the people convicted were poor, mentally retarded and on welfare, and their lawyers stated that their guilty pleas were coerced. In 1995, after Pastor Robert Roberson criticized the investigation, he was arrested and charged with eleven counts of the sexual abuse of a child. Roberson and his wife were acquitted of all charges.
Forty-three adults were arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse, involving 60 children in 1995. Parents and Sunday school teachers were charged, and many were convicted of abusing children, often including their own, or their foster children.
Prosecutors were unable to provide any physical evidence to support the charges. The main witness was Perez' foster daughter; Perez was the investigator of the cases.
Conviction review summary
This case was mishandled by the police. Proper protocol was not followed when interviewing the children. Because of this, those who were convicted were freed by higher courts and had their convictions overturned or pleaded guilty on lesser charges. Five served their full sentences before their cases were overturned. Some lost parental rights. By 2000, the last person in custody, Michael Rose, was released, after a judge vacated his March 1995 convictions.
In 1996, a consultant, retired Bellevue Police Chief D.P. Van Blaricom, hired by a city insurer who looked into how the Wenatchee police ran the child abuse investigations, stated that the cases were handled properly. In 1998, Phillip Esplin, a forensic psychologist for the National Institutes of Health's Child Witness Project said that "Wenatchee may be the worst example ever of mental health services being abused by a state ... to control and manage children who have been frightened and coerced into falsely accusing their parents and neighbors of the most heinous of crimes." In 2001, a jury found the city of Wenatchee and Douglas County, Washington negligent in the 1994-1995 investigations. They awarded $3 million to a couple who had been wrongly accused in the inquiry.
- Egan, Timothy (December 12, 1995). "Pastor and Wife Are Acquitted on All Charges in Sex-Abuse Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-31.
After less than a day of deliberation, a jury today acquitted a lay pastor and his wife of all charges of sexual abuse of children in a trial that critics say demonstrated the worst aspects of police misconduct in such cases. The defendants, Robert and Connie Roberson, were accused of being at the center of a sex ring in which children were ritualistically raped and abused. ... Prosecutors offered no physical evidence to support the charges.
- Barber, Mike; Lange, Larry (August 1, 2001). "Jury finds city, county negligent in child sex ring case". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
- "Children sacrificed for the case". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. February 23, 1998. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
On the morning of March 13, 1995, Perez put Donna in the front seat of his police car. Two CPS caseworkers were in the back taking notes as they drove through Wenatchee and East Wenatchee. Donna pointed out houses and buildings where she says she and other children were repeatedly raped and molested since January 1988 -- 22 places in all. Along the way she saw a delivery man and a taxi driver. They were added to the list."[dead link]
- Egan, Timothy (December 12, 1995). "Pastor and Wife Are Acquitted on All Charges in Sex-Abuse Case". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- "A record of abuses in Wenatchee". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
The town of Wenatchee, Washington, made world headlines in 1994 and 1995 when police and state social workers undertook what was then called the nation's most extensive child sex-abuse investigation.[dead link]
- "Last child-sex ring defendant released from prison after court action". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. December 27, 2000. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
When he got out of prison, Michael Rose hugged his mother and just felt relieved that the ordeal of child-sex ring prosecution was over.[dead link]
- "Wenatchee abuses attacked nationally". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. May 28, 1998. Retrieved 2007-11-26.
The Wenatchee child sex-abuse investigations are the nation's most blatant example of continuing judicial abuse, civil libertarians and nationally known commentators said at a conference here yesterday.[dead link]