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Macabre Cemetery Rites Told by McMartin Witness

Times Staff Writer

A 10-year-old witness in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case testified Wednesday that he and other pupils at the nursery school were taken on macabre field trips to a cemetery where they were forced to dig up bodies and watch teachers hack them with knives.

The articulate and poised youngster testified that he and 10 other children were taken in the school van on numerous occasions to a nearby cemetery by three of his former teachers--defendants Raymond Buckey, 26, Peggy Ann Buckey, 29, and Peggy McMartin Buckey, 58.

Once at the cemetery, the children were forced to use pickaxes, shovels and two rope-like pulleys to exhume the caskets and bodies from graves, he testified. He added that the children got down into the grave and as they dug, they would place the dirt in their shirts and haul it out of the grave.

He described the cemetery as having a gate and fence and being adjacent to houses and stores, but said he did not know the name of the cemetery, and that no one else appeared at the site while the children were there.

The bizarre story unfolded during cross-examination by defense attorney Dean Gits, who at one point asked the boy, “What did you do when you got the casket out?”

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“They (the teachers) opened it and said this would happen to us if we told about the abuses. And they’d cut a few pieces of the body up,” the boy replied calmly. “They didn’t take bones off, they just took slices out.”

“Would it bleed?” Gits asked.

“Sometimes,” the boy answered.

“Would you dig up more than one the same day?”

“No, one body a day,” the boy said matter-of-factly.

This was the first time that a witness has testified to such an incident during the nine-month-long preliminary hearing, which is being held to determine whether seven former teachers at the school should stand trial in Superior Court on 208 counts of molestation and conspiracy involving 41 former students at the school.

The defense, which has contended that the children are being brainwashed by therapists and making up the stories, scoffed at the testimony.

Deputy Public Defender Forrest Latiner, who at one point during the boy’s testimony was ordered to “stop snickering” by Municipal Judge Aviva K. Bobb, broke into loud laughter in the hallway during recess.

“Picture seven little dwarfs with pickaxes marching to a grave in broad daylight. . . . It’s totally unbelievable,” Latiner said.

‘Awful Things Happened’

Prosecutor Glenn Stevens, in a hallway interview, said: “We stand by the testimony of our witness. He was terrorized and taken to a cemetery . . . and awful things happened.” Stevens said he did not know the name of the cemetery.

The boy also testified that the same three defendants took off their clothes and fondled “my butt and penis” during naked games at the school and threatened to shoot and “slice up” his parents and burn down his house if he told about the games.

He testified that during a game called “naked movie star,” the children were forced to take off their clothes and imitate their favorite cartoon character. A stranger took Polaroid-type photographs of each child during the game as the three Buckeys watched, he said.

He said the stranger then showed the pictures to the three defendants and “pocketed them.” He said he asked the stranger to see the pictures, but the stranger said, “No, (you) can’t.” He said he could not remember what the stranger looked like or whether the person was male or female.

First Implication

He testified that the women stabbed gerbils, turtles and rabbits to frighten the children into silence about the alleged molestations. Witnesses have previously testified that Raymond Buckey and strangers stabbed horses and other animals, but this was the first implication of any of the other defendants in such an act.


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