Judy Johnson's Increasingly Bizarre Behavior
Revelations made in December 1986 and January 1987 that chief prosecutor Lael Rubin and her assistants withheld potentially exculpatory evidence regarding the mental illness of original McMartin messenger Judy Johnson encouraged defense attorneys and other skeptics to take another look at the validity of Johnson's charges of abuse, as well as claims of other complaining child witnesses. Information that Johnson told DA's investigators that her son claimed to have been molested by a well-known member of the Los Angeles School Board, that some of the defendants were witches, that instructors at a local
fitness club were witches, and that he drank blood from the chopped open head of a baby, as well as information about other bizarre allegations was withheld from the defense for 10
The following chronology of Judy Johnson's allegations to police and district attorney's investigators strongly suggests that she was mentally disturbed from the very beginning of the case. The events are based largely on reports made by the Manhattan Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles District Attorney's office.
The First Report
One month previous to the first report, which was on August 12, 1983, Judy Johnson took her son to the doctor because his anus itched and she feared she had given him vaginitis. The doctor treated her for vaginitis but did not see any need to examine the boy. The boy also had a history of hygiene problems, according to court testimony by the
father.50 Johnson complained to Detective Hoag by phone that on the previous day her two-and-one-half-year-old son Billy's anus had been okay in the morning before he went to school, but that when she examined it after school she saw something red. The same thing had happened on several previous occasions, she claimed. Other supposed symptoms of sexual abuse were tantrums, restlessness and nighttime crying.
On one occasion, when Johnson was giving Billy an after school bath, she saw a
"spot of blood" on his anus. Another time, Billy would not let her hold him and seemed to be in pain when she tried to rest his buttocks upon her hand. Johnson asked her son if he had been sodomized; he said
"no" but that Ray had taken his temperature.
According to Hoag's report, Billy indicated that he understood the words
"penis" and "anus." He also stated that he had showered with his older brother and had seen his brother's and Ray's penis. But he did not indicate to the officer that he had been sodomized. In the presence of his mother he claimed that Ray had taken pictures of him naked.
The father took Billy and his older brother out to dinner the night before Johnson reported the alleged molestation. Billy had been at the preschool until 4:00pm that day. The next morning Johnson again examined her son's anus and found that it was again red. The older boy did not indicate he had seen his father molest his brother. Responding to questions by his mother, Billy denied that Ray had ever put his penis in his anus. His older brother also denied that he had put his own penis in his younger brother's anus. The older son indicated to the officer that during showers he had touched his younger brother's private parts, but he denied that there was anything sexual to it.
The mother's remarks in that first face-to-face interview and subsequent conversations with the officer should have at least raised a skeptical eyebrow:
"Johnson related additional information she had been told by the victim: The victim reportedly told his mother that he had been taken by the suspect [Ray Buckey] from his cot at school and into the bathroom; mentioned a hair dryer being put on his head, his hands being placed behind his back; being rolled over . . . and being poked by the suspect and his anus hurting."
August 18, 1983
Six days later Johnson met with Det. Hoag again. This time she claimed that in the past few days her son used his brother's boy scout rope to demonstrate how he had been tied up. When Johnson asked if Billy wanted to tie her up he replied,
"No. Tie Billy up." She asked him how and he told her to put the rope around his neck. But he proceeded on his own to wrap the rope around his neck and cross it over his hands which, this time, were in front instead of the back.
In that same conversation, Johnson told Hoag that she had noticed other behaviors in son Billy over the last one-and-one-half-months that she thought were symptomatic of sexual abuse, including temper tantrums, restlessness and nighttime crying. One time, he reacted to noise by saying,
"what's that noise?" On another occasion he lost his appetite and didn't want Johnson to carry him. During that period he also had a red rash on his inner thighs and around his mouth, a red anus, a swollen puffy face. He constantly picked at his blanket, woke up frequently from his sleep, feared
"men" (his 13-year-old brother), and, according to his preschool teacher, had been crying excessively at school. She also said that he had been whining and clinging, running and hiding, and feared strangers and had nightmares. After waking from one nightmare he was crying and said to his mother the words
"Go away" and "too hot." He also wet himself and couldn't sit still. Furthermore, he was
"pushing with [his] feet" and sucking his thumb. He feared the dark, thinking that a monster would get him. Just that morning she had asked him if Ray had ever touched his penis and he replied,
"He has kissed it." The boy repeated that claim to Hoag, according to the police report.
That previous Saturday, Johnson recounted, she entered her son's room to
"crouched on his stomach with his butt in the air." He was saying "get away," she claimed, while whimpering and
"pushing at his rear end." Johnson also told Hoag that Billy said that Ray put a hair dryer on his [Billy's] head.
August 29, 1983
Johnson called Det. Hoag again and said that three nights earlier Billy ran and hid from her when she tried to put him to bed. The boy, according to the police report, told her that he wanted his mother to pretend to be another preschool child so that together they could hide from Ray. Then, pretending that Ray was coming, Billy told his mother,
"Be quiet. Here he [Ray] comes."
In another recent incident, Johnson said she was in the bathroom wearing only her bra and panties when her son came to her and said,
"Billy wear bra." Johnson told him he could not wear a bra. Then, according to Johnson, Billy said that Ray had put a bra on him.
In that same conversation Johnson also said that, while she was at a local stereo store with her two sons, Billy drew attention to a light in the store. Johnson then asked him if Ray had used a light to take his picture and the boy answered,
"Yes." On the way out of the store Billy looked at a photo of a boy in clown attire. When Johnson pointed out that the clown was actually a boy in makeup, Billy answered that somebody named Mike also wore makeup. Under subsequent questioning from his mother, Billy confirmed that Ray had put makeup on him.
Johnson also said that Billy told her, in response to her questioning, that he did not tell her about his red anus sooner because Ray had threatened him. (This contradicts Johnson's earlier claims that she had feared giving Billy vaginitis and had been inspecting his anus regularly.)
August 30, 1983
Johnson went to the police station with her son for another interview with Det. Hoag. The boy allegedly told Hoag that he had put makeup on himself at school (possibly
finger paints?) and that Ray had also put on makeup. He also told Hoag that Ray had tied him up with rope. Contrary to what his mother had claimed, the boy said that Ray had not dressed him in a bra. When asked where Ray put his penis the boy opened his legs and pointed to his anal region. He also said that his bottom still
The report also indicates that by August 30 Hoag had contacted several other parents whose children had all denied being sexually abused at the
September 7, 1983
Ray Buckey was arrested, based on information given to Hoag by Johnson and medical examinations that were not diagnostic of sexual abuse. At the time of Buckey's arrest, police noted that he was not wearing
underwear.53 The very next day, according to police reports, Johnson reported to Hoag that her son recently told her that Ray did not wear underwear.
Johnson continued to regularly call police and DA's investigators long after Ray was arrested and gossip had spread through the community (at least some of which came directly from Johnson in conversations with other parents) and results of the CII interviews became known to
parents.54 Her reports also continued to become increasingly bizarre.
September 29, 1983
Johnson called Hoag and told him that now Billy remembered that Ray took him to a large department store and bought him gum.
September 30, 1983
Johnson reported that Billy said that Ray sodomized him while his head was in the toilet. Ray also wore a mask. Ray slapped him and pulled his hair several times. Her son has acted out continuously since she reported the alleged molestation. Her son had tried, once again, to tie her up.
October 17, 1983
Hoag reported on the boy's reaction to identifying people in school photos:
"____ was not certain in the identifications and it was learned that he does not fully comprehend the word
'name'." Billy told his mother that Ray said
"Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater," before sucking his penis. Billy also told her that Ray masturbated him, that Ray put him into a closet and a high place, that Ray hurt him during hide n' seek, that Ray gave him wet kisses and kissed him all over his body, that Ray took his blood pressure and that sometimes when that happened Ray's penis was between the cuff and the boy's arm, that Ray gave him a shot, that Ray pinched his cheeks, that during nap time (which would have been in front of all the other children) Ray tied the boy's hands behind his back as he rested on the cot, slapped him in the chest, and then sodomized him, and that Ray threatened to hurt him if he told anyone.
October 19, 1983
Johnson reported that Billy had seen Ray in a cape. He sat on Ray's lap and it hurt. Ray inserted some kind of air tube in his rectum as another teacher watched. Ray taped the boy's eyes, mouth, and hands.
October 20, 1983
Ray dressed up like a minister.
November 10, 1983
Hoag interviewed McMartin preschool teacher Betty Raider, who would later become one of the seven charged suspects. Raider knew who Billy was and remembered that he was not verbal.
November 17, 1983
Billy Johnson was taken to Ray's apartment and sodomized by Ray and another unknown man. Another small boy was also present. He was photographed and placed in a bathtub.
November 18, 1983
A female teacher took his clothes off and hurt him by touching him.
November 30, 1983
A female teacher made Billy vomit by stepping on his stomach. An old fat woman came to the school and held his feet down as he was sodomized. He had to perform oral sex on Ray's mother. Ray had no underpants on.
Johnson told Hoag that Billy told her he had been driven far away by a man named
"Dave" to a ranch where he rode naked on horses. Ray took pills and gave himself a shot and killed a dog and put a cat in hot water.
December 19, 1983
Billy told his mother that he saw rabbits being chopped up. One teacher slapped him and another hurt him by putting some kind of star in his bottom. Ray wore police,
fire, clown, clergyman, and Santa Claus costumes. Ray threatened to get Billy and burn his house down; said that his mother wouldn't love him anymore. Billy has been afraid of the dark lately.
January 20, 1984
Johnson told Hoag that her son claimed he had been taken to a carwash and locked in a trunk. He was molested at the car wash.
January 23, 1984
Johnson reported that Billy had told her about other locations he had been taken to by Ray, including another bay area preschool, the zoo, and a car wash where he said he was sodomized. He had also been taken somewhere on two different buses
"with a lot of other children, men and women."
February 15-16, 1984
The following is taken directly from notes taken by a deputy district attorney summarizing Johnson's latest reports:
Billy describes having communion in a church. A prayer similar in sound to the Lord's Prayer was recited. A goat climbed up higher, higher, higher. Then a bad man threw it down the stairs. It woke up later. Ray poked Peggy at the altar. Lots of candles; they were black. Ray pricked his rt. pointer
finger. It bled. Ray put it in the goat's anus. Nobody had clothes on under the robes. Billy had a robe on too. They put a band aide on his
finger. Old Grandma played the piano. Lots of threats were made against Billy and his family. It is unclear whether it was a doll or real baby (Billy says real baby) but the head was chopped off and the brains were burned. Billy said Peggy killed the baby. Peggy had a scissors in the church and she cut Billy's hair. Billy had to drink the babies [sic] blood. Ray wanted Billy's spit. He put it on the altar. The baby was big like Billy. It screamed. When Billy's bottom was bleeding Ray put a tampax in his bottom to stop the bleeding, then he took it out.
The red circled people in this ad [referring to a newspaper ad for a local health club] are all familiar to Billy. The 3 women are witches. The man poked them. Peggy,
Babs, and Betty [the preschool owner and two teachers] dressed up as witches too. The person who buried Billy is Miss Betty. There were no holes in the coffin. Babs went with him on a train with another girl where he was hurt by men in suits. Ray waved good bye. The train moved fast. It had lights. Ray took him back to school. Possibly [location of organization] Big Brothers. Peggy gave Billy an enema before he was taken away (from McMartin
sch.) Staples were put in Billy's ears, nipples & tongue. Babs put scissors in his eyes. She hit him a lot. She chopped up animals and said she would come in the night and take him away. She pushed his stomach and threw him against the wall. He has extreme fear regarding
Babs. Also something awful would come in the window. Ray made small babies cry. Billy was hurt by a lion. An elephant played with the lion, squirted H2O. Then the lion didn't move. Billy was on his back. Ray let him pull the lion's tail. The lion roared but didn't move. Betty was there, and other people. One lady took pictures.
February 22, 1984
Johnson reported bizarre stories that she says she heard from her son. The following is verbatim from the report:
Billy feels that he left LAX in an airplane and flew to Palm Springs area. Described the airplane as one like used by federal express only it had windows. Billy went to armory located behind Judy (?) residence. Ray drove there in his VW bus. Billy went with Peggy who drove a red and white VW bus, at the armory there were some people there wearing army uniforms. The goat man was there. After going to the armory, Billy was taken to Sand Dune Park, at the armory it was a ritual type atmosphere. When Billy was taken to a church, Judy believes it was the Church of Religious Science [address]. At the church Peggy drilled a child under the arms (arm pits). Atmosphere was that of magic acts. (Ray flew through the air.)
Judy Johnson had a psychotic episode and was hospitalized. The following account is taken from the police crime report based on the
Judy Johnson's father and brother called the police to say that she was in great need of hospital commitment and psychiatric evaluation. The call was precipitated by Johnson's deteriorating mental condition and repeated attempts by her father and brother to persuade her to commit herself to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
On March 6, 1985 the two of them arrived at her house. The brother knocked repeatedly at the front door before being allowed in by Billy, Johnson's now four-year-old son. Johnson then came out of her bedroom with a 12 gauge shot gun and walked to within 6 feet of her brother. Aiming directly at him with anger glazed eyes she pumped the gun and stood ready to shoot.
"Get off my land," she warned. "This is sacred property."
Johnson's father and brother left immediately for the police station and, fearing for the safety of Johnson and her children, began arrangements to have her involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. A county mental health official approved Johnson's transfer to Kaiser hospital in Harbor City. The official was
"extremely familiar with the various complaints of suspect's mental condition which started with the McMartin case."
Because of Johnson's extreme paranoia towards uniformed police officers and the presence in her home of the shot gun, and possibly a .22 caliber rifle, plain clothes officers were used to take Johnson and her children into custody. When officers arrived at the home the older son tried to warn his mother about the officers' presence. For his own safety, officers restrained him and took him away from the scene. Upon returning to the home they found Johnson, unarmed, and took her and both her sons into custody. Later that day officers found the .22 rifle under the bed of Johnson's oldest son.
Johnson was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic after a 12-day psychiatric examination. She died of alcohol poisoning in December of 1986, before she had a chance to testify at the trial.