IPT Book Reviews

Title: Witch Hunt: A True Story of Social Hysteria and Abused Justice  Positive Review Positive Review
Author: Kathryn Lyon
Publisher: Avon Books, 1998

Avon Books
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
(800) 238-0658
$5.99 (p)

This 470-page book describes the sexual abuse hysteria in Wenatchee, Washington, that resulted in 45 people being arrested and dozens imprisoned for bizarre sex crimes. Wenatchee occurred a decade after similar infamous cases of the 1980s such as McMartin and Kern County in California, Jordan in Minnesota, and Kelly Michaels in New Jersey. Many people felt that the days of sexual abuse indictments on the basis of fantastic statements by children who were repeatedly interviewed was over. But it happened again in Wenatchee, which Lyon compares to the McCarthy era and sees as the greatest instance of social hysteria in the 1990s.

Central to the story are the actions of Wenatchee Police Detective Robert Perez and his foster daughter. Perez was an ideological dinosaur who garnered the support of some local officials and the child protection agency. Perez took no notes and did not tape any of his interviews. As the hysteria grew, the police succeeded in obtaining confessions from poor, illiterate, and mentally disabled suspects. Several of these were convicted in trials with public defenders and no expert witnesses.

Other defendants with private attorneys were acquitted. Robert Robinson, the pastor of the local Pentecostal church, spent 135 days in jail along with his wife, Connie, before being acquitted of engaging in sexual orgies with children in his church.

The book closes with the 300th anniversary of the Day of Repentance in Salem, Massachusetts in response to the Salem witch trials. The Robertsons were there along with other former defendants from the most notorious sexual abuse cases — Scott and Brenda Kniffin, Ray and Peggy Ann Buckey, Kelly Michaels, Cheryl and Violet Amirault, Bobby Fijnje — along with others from less publicized cases. Several of the journalists and mental health professionals, who were pioneers in their concern for false allegations of sexual abuse were also there and participated in the events.

This book is highly recommended.

Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Emeritus Professor, West Virginia University.

Order this book: Paperback

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