Thursday, January 16, 2014

The San Antonio Four: Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, Cassandra Rivera and Anna Vasquez; In-depth Texas Observer article by Maurice Chammah on their 20 year struggle to prove their innocence; (Thoughtful, informative article. Must Read. HL);

STORY: "The mystery of the San Antonio Four," by Maurice Chammah, published by the Texas Observer on January 7, 2014.

GIST: "At first, Anna was a little distrustful of Elizabeth’s new friend. While visiting her mother across the room, she would glare at Otto. Anna had seen Elizabeth unable to deal with the interests of men before. “She thought I was up to something,” Otto told me. Otto found an organization called the National Center for Reason and Justice, which was created in the wake of the 1980s-era satanic ritual abuse scandals to advocate for people wrongfully accused of harming children. His packet of information about the case ended up on the desk of Debbie Nathan, a journalist who wrote Satan’s Silence, the seminal book on the satanic scandals, and who regularly vets cases for the organization. Since the early 1980s, the United States had seen numerous accusations, investigations and trials of daycare workers and other adults for supposedly engaging in ritual satanic abuse, including the rape, murder and torture of children. There was seldom evidence other than the statements of children or adults who “recovered” memories from their youth. By the time of VL and Stephanie’s outcries, these public dramas had largely died out, though Dr. Kellogg, in her exam notes, had written, “this could be satanic-related.” Nathan told me it was “probably the last time anyone wrote in the record, ‘This looks satanic.’” She checked Otto’s background, since it seemed “strange” that he was so interested in the case. “But he sounded like a respectable guy.” As Nathan examined the case, the testimony of Dr. Kellogg, who first examined the victims and described markings on their hymens as signs of abuse, jumped out to her. By the time of the trials, she told me, “good pediatricians knew this stuff had been discredited.”  Nathan brought the case to the Innocence Project of Texas, where well-known attorney Jeff Blackburn agreed to represent the women. But little happened for a year. Then Mike Ware, another lawyer with the Innocence Project, got involved. A boot-wearing, quiet man with a wide smile and blond hair mopped down on his forehead, Ware had worked for years with the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, which investigated old cases for possible wrongful convictions, and helped exonerate dozens of men. Nathan contacted family members and others connected to the case, and Otto sought out reporters and published a short essay of his own on Texas Monthly’s website. Michelle Mondo, a crime reporter at the San Antonio Express-News, read Otto’s piece and began investigating. “I called all the women’s previous attorneys, and they didn’t even remember the case,” she told me. Mondo spent more than a year on the story, reporting much of it in her spare time. She discovered that Javier’s two daughters had made abuse allegations before, in Denver, but then claimed at Elizabeth’s trial to not remember having done so. Mondo’s front-page story came out Christmas week 2010 with little impact. “I think that first story was really complicated,” she explained. “It wasn’t something easily picked up by the wires.”
But the pool of advocates for the women was growing. Nathan convinced a filmmaker she had mentored named Deborah S. Esquenazi to take a look at the case. Esquenazi became passionately involved, collecting footage for a documentary that she is still filming. Shortly after Mondo’s story appeared came the breakthrough. Stephanie Limon, the younger of the two accusers, called Debbie Nathan and recanted. She said that her father Javier had coached her to make the accusations. Stephanie now said the women had never abused her."

The entire story can be found at:


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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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