Woman Sees Satanism in Child-Abuse Cases : Shelter: She operates an underground network to hide youngsters from allegedly abusive parents. Critics charge she’s operating outside the law.
In the view of children’s rights crusader Faye Yager, a shadowy, satanic brotherhood manipulates the nation’s courts, haunts the police and allows children to suffer unspeakable evil.
A 30-room English Tudor mansion--complete with housekeeper, gardener and Rolls-Royce parked outside--protects Yager from that world.
Her home is the headquarters of an underground network through which, she says, thousands of volunteers in 50 states have hidden hundreds of children from abusive parents.
Police came to the house in April with a search warrant, looking for files or videotapes to back up a Florida woman’s claim that Yager had tried to browbeat the woman’s children into accusing their father of satanism and abuse.
Since Yager’s arrest April 14 on charges related to that complaint, Cobb County police have received calls from throughout the country, many on behalf of fathers who hope the network will be dismantled and their missing children returned, police Lt. Robert Pittman said.
“It’s very frustrating to a father who’s been cleared of any wrongdoing whatsoever to know there’s a nationwide organization whose avowed purpose is to remove children from the jurisdiction of our courts,” said Thomas A. Massey, an Evansville, Ind., attorney.
Massey represents John Rademacher, whose ex-wife and 8-year-old daughter, Sara, have been missing since last November, presumably hidden through Yager’s services.
Authorities seized about 40 files and tapes from Yager’s home, but she said the network was not exposed by the search.
“I’m not stupid. I don’t keep anything that’s going to lead to any kids, but they don’t know that,” she said.
Yager, a 40-year-old former interior designer, started Children of the Underground three years ago for the purpose of sheltering abused youngsters she believes have been abandoned by the court system. She estimates she has helped 500 families or more, with one to six children each.
The case against Yager, expected to be argued before a grand jury this summer, involves a Florida woman who said she asked the organization for protection because her husband physically abused her, their 8-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son.
Yager is charged with kidnaping the boy and subjecting him to cruel verbal treatment; a kidnaping charge involving the girl later was reduced to interfering with the custody of a child.
Police contend that Yager threatened to send the children back to their father, who she said would beat them, if they refused to make accusations against him.
Cobb County Dist. Atty. Tom Charron described Yager as a woman of good intentions who has become obsessed.
Yager denies the criminal charges, but does not entirely disagree with Charron’s assessment of her.
“I am obsessed,” she conceded in an interview at her home in affluent Sandy Springs in suburban Atlanta. “I’m obsessed with a legal system, a system designed to protect that destroys. I’m obsessed with this cult business that is allowed to operate. These people are Ozzie and Harriet by day, and get away with it.”
She claims that many prominent lawyers and judges are “generational satanists” brought up to believe in Satan.
In her basement files, records involving “cult” cases are earmarked with bright orange tabs.
Sitting in a room filled with antiques, she strings together story after story of children who say they were abused, many by fathers or relatives involved in occult activities. In a voice often just above a whisper, she tells of girls used as Satanic “breeders” to produce babies for their tormentors to sacrifice.
At times, she stops to introduce a grandmother who works with the network, or to chat with an abused teen-ager who is among her house guests.
The case against her, Yager said, never will go to trial. She said that police and FBI agents assisting in the investigation are harassing her family and trying to destroy her credibility, especially among law enforcement officials who have trusted her.
“My credibility has been tarnished, tarred and feathered. I’ve been slandered,” she said.
Her history with Cobb County authorities dates back to 1973, when the courts awarded custody of her own daughter, Michelle, to the child’s father, Roger Lee Jones, even though Yager claimed he had sexually abused the girl.
She launched her underground crusade in 1987, the year after Jones was indicted on nine counts of child molestation involving three minors in Venice, Fla. He still awaits trial on the charges.
Memories of what happened to her daughter, who now lives with Yager and her current husband, keep her bent on helping other children, she said.
FBI agent Jeff Holmes accompanied police in the search of Yager’s house a few days after her arrest, but won’t say whether the FBI has undertaken a broad investigation of the network.
Charron said that until the missing children are found or their locations are revealed, authorities can do nothing.
“Until you have the children or proof of where they are, you don’t have the elements of a crime,” he said.
Any broad action involving the network would be up to the FBI because Cobb County has limited jurisdiction, Charron said.
Yager’s detractors say she is a media princess carried away with publicity.
Denise Gooch, a founder with Yager of the nationwide organization Mothers Alliance for the Rights of Children, described her as a “reporter’s dream and a parent’s nightmare.”
She was asked to leave because of philosophical differences and began her own network the same year, said another founder, Sarah King.
Yager admits she doesn’t shun attention.
Her gardener drove her to a preliminary hearing in her husband’s Rolls-Royce. She wore a hat, a floral print dress and a corsage. She listened as her attorney told the judge she should not pay court costs because she is indigent.
“Howard Yager doesn’t have to pay for attorneys for his wife. I have no income,” she said, adding that she transferred her property and money to her husband’s name before she started the underground.
Authorities have criticized Yager’s interview techniques with children. They say she intimidates them and often brings up the subject of satanism.
“She’s not objective,” said Pittman, the Cobb County police lieutenant. “We feel she intimidates the child into saying things that aren’t true.”
Some videotapes, Pittman said, show Yager “screaming and hollering at kids, threatening to send them back into an abusive situation.”
Yager, who has the children sit in a high-backed Renaissance-style chair in her library while she videotapes them, denied she is abusive.
“I’m very blunt about things,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You’re at the end of the road. If I can’t help you, not many people out there are going to.’ ”
She also denied bringing up satanism. She said: “I don’t want to believe things like that are going on. I’m being forced to believe it.”
Helen Russell, a friend who has watched some of the interviews, defended Yager’s style and her ideas about cults.
“Isn’t it easier to think one woman is crazy,” Russell asked, “than to think our society has gotten so perverted?”