In late February, 1985, Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies were informed by Martha
Cockriel, a CII referred therapist who was counseling some of former McMartin children, that nine of her child patients were reporting satanic baby killings in an underground room at the McMartin preschool. The grisly tales were produced during interview sessions utilizing
"devil puppets," after the therapist asked the children: "If they find the secret room, what do you think they will
Cockriel's summary of the responses, as told to sheriff's investigators, and the results of subsequent sheriff's interviews with other children are below:
Child One: The secret room was above ground, accessed by the office.
"The room was totally dark but could be lit with red lights (similar to a photographer's dark room)." The room was 7'x9' (no height given). Contained table and chairs and a 35 mm camera on a stand. Didn't remember pictures on wall.
"Everyone, students and teachers alike, went into this room."
Child Two: ". . . didn't like Ray's secret room because it was dirty." Camera and male cameraman (white adult, dark hair and beard).
". . . no good things happened there." No location given.
Child Three: Secret room located underground. Entrance under Ray's desk.
"You stepped down into a wooden tunnel which was shaped in an arc. There was a wooden door on the room. There weren't any windows, but it did have lights. There was no talk of the devil in this room. Child Three told his therapist that there was a separate room where the devil lived. The devil hurt kids and threatened to kill their mothers if they told. The furniture was a table and chair. There were glossy pictures of molested children. Child Three saw a Polaroid camera in the secret room."
Child Four: The secret room accessed through trap door in a wall inside the preschool.
Child Five: The secret room near Ray and Babs' classroom by fence
"(that would be on McMartin property)." Concrete stairs led to the underground hallway.
"On the floor there was a material similar to battery acid. Inside the 'secret room' there were boxes of photographs and photos on the wall. There were no windows but there was a small hole in the ceiling leading above ground. There was also a second secret room he referred to as the devil room located near this room."
Child Six: ". . . you went into a tunnel through the floor in the little playhouse. The tunnel curves in an arc leading into two rooms. It was dirt with wooden supports. There were no stairs to the tunnel. The secret room was larger than 14' x 18' (size of Martha Cockriel's playroom), no windows, there were a carpet, a sofa, a chair, a Polaroid and a studio type camera. Pictures were taken of the children and they were molested as well. Ray kept a book of notes about the children in the room. There were boxes of naked photographs of children. No devil activity occurred in that room." Child Six also told Cockriel about a second underground room where
"devil stuff went on. They also took naked pictures and molested kids in that room." There were pictures on the wall of kids and the devil. Child Six believed the devil lives in this room.
Child Seven: The secret underground room was without windows. It was accessed from Ray's room under a floor mat.
"Kids were scared and photographed by Ray and his friends."
Child Eight: (Interviewed on 3-4-85 by a sheriff's investigator.) The secret room was located just outside Ray's classroom in the play area; its secret door was always covered with sand and leaves. The door was flat and wooden with a small metal handle and had a camouflage color.
"He said that the door pulls up from the handle side and leans back toward the ground." Between 10 and 15 cement steps led to room
"about the size of the kitchen in his house. He said the room had walls and contained old furniture." All the staff took kids into it except Virginia because her wheelchair couldn't go down the steps. Teachers had candles. When asked what was done in the room the boy answered,
"I don't know." "I asked him if he really didn't remember or if the stuff was just hard for him to talk about. He said,
'It's just real hard.' I told him we could stop and asked him to try to think about what happened in the secret room when we talked again. This interview was terminated at this time."
Child Nine: (Interviewed at McMartin site by a sheriff's investigator.) Said he saw an entry in vacant lot near west wall of the northwest classroom. The doorway led to a passageway, down some stairs in a westerly direction. He remembered a room downstairs, leading from the stairs and added that it must have been underground and located somewhere on the side lot on 927 MB BLVD, since the classroom was adjacent to the property line. He was taken down there is how he remembers it. The described location was covered with a concrete slab near the north portion of the vacant lot.
Child Ten: (Interviewed at McMartin site by a sheriff's investigator.)
". . . stated that he recalled an area at the rear (north) portion of the now vacant lot where there was a small playground and some cages where rabbits were kept. He also said that there were some sort of stairs that went down, located at the northeast area of the lot, but he remembered the entry to the stairs being on the outside or exterior located west of the northwest classroom. The stairs led down to a small underground room where he said that he had been taken. Matthew also said that there was a chain-link fence that surrounded the adjacent property. He added that
"you couldn't see through the fence," and that there was some sort of blind-type of material in the fencing."
Child Eleven: (Interviewed Feb. 26, 1985 by a sheriff's investigator.) Tells of two separate rooms accessed by a wooden door on lower playground. Wooden stairs led to an arched dimly lit tunnel. Adults could stand upright and walk in the tunnel. Two separate rooms each had a wooden door entrance. Both rooms approximately: 10'x12'
no windows but had couch, two chairs, and 8½x10" color photos of children on wall. Ray and friends (unknown adults) took about 8 children down at a time and would dress as devils, witches, and ghosts. The secret room was located at northeast section of the vacant lot, near Ray's room.
On March 4, 1985 parents arrived on the McMartin side lot and randomly dug holes two to three feet deep in the ground. Other holes were also dug around Ray's room and a concrete slab was
"rolled up." The parents indicated that they were going to lease the lot and plant a garden there. Two days later, some parents dug another three foot hole next to Ray's room. A concrete slab was broken and another 4x4 one at the north end was left unbroken.
The documents don't say which parents dug the holes on the two previous days or how many on either occasion. However, Manhattan Beach Police Department radio logs reviewed by the District Attorney's office indicated that on March 1, at 9pm two cars were present on the side lot. A license plate check revealed that one of the cars belonged to Ann Currie, Bob Currie's wife.
On March 15, approximately 40 to 50 McMartin parents plus various children directed by Bob Currie descended upon the side lot with a backhoe and various hand digging tools to search under the ground for a secret room and remains of small animals allegedly mutilated to scare the children into
silence.131 The parents were upset because they believed that local police had not properly investigated the McMartin case, including the alleged tunnels and secret
|McMartin parents used a backhoe
to search, unsuccessfully, for underground caverns that their
children claimed were located under the lot adjacent to the
preschool. (From court documents)
A parent digging with a shovel next to Ray's room, along the wall in the northeast section of the vacant lot,
"discovered" a tortoise shell buried about two feet into the soil. The animal was uncovered under suspicious circumstances. Tree roots next to the animal had been severed, indicating that digging took place previously at that spot. The dark red soil was somewhat loose and the tortoise had been covered with fresh leaves (a Los Angeles Museum curator of reptiles confirmed several days later that the condition of shell indicated that the tortoise had not been in the ground very long. It takes a year or less for [the] platelets to fall off.)
Later, inside the school building, DA's investigators searching Ray's former classroom found a toy box with a small notebook paper in it. A map was drawn on it and marked with an
"x" at the exact spot that the parents found the tortoise. These facts strongly suggest that the tortoise evidence was fraudulent and was deliberately planted by someone wishing to incriminate Ray Buckey.
Despite the suspicious circumstances of the tortoise find, some parents at the site insisted that the children's stories of animal mutilation had been confirmed. One of the parents who dug up the shell stated,
"I think it may be the link we've been looking for." He disputed other DA's evidence that
". . . dead turtles, snakes, lizards and birds" were known to have been buried in the vacant lot by the children of a nearby family, stating that the dig was conducted based on information supplied by the McMartin
The parents also backhoed a 60 feet long trench running north to south in the northeast section of the vacant lot, parallel to the school building and a chain link fence. Six east-west trenches that intersected with the parallel trench were also dug with the backhoe at ten feet intervals for approximately 30 feet. The results of this excavation, as they related to evidence of abuse, were negative.
Between March 18 and March 22, 1985, Marilyn Salas spoke by phone with a deputy district attorney about what her eight-year-old son Robbie knew about the alleged tunnels. Mrs. Salas said she had heard the rumors from Jackie McGauley, but that Robbie said that he didn't know anything about them. But when Mrs. Salas took Robbie to the vacant lot next to the school he suddenly began to remember a tunnel that went to a secret room under the next door triplex. The entrance to the supposed tunnel was in the middle of the east wall of classroom #3. The trap door opened to a blue slide that transported the children and all the teachers except Virginia (because she used a wheelchair) to a 10 foot long tunnel lined with
"shiny, bumpy metal" into a 10 x 10 secret room. The children could stand in the tunnel but not the adult teachers.
The secret room had gray walls, lights, a wooden table, chairs, and a yellow and green sofa. According to Robbie, Ray killed naked babies on the sofa on several occasions, but the babies would not be there the next time he visited the secret room.
Cement steps rose up to another trap door that opened up into the living room of a mean old lady who lived in the triplex next door. She was mean, but she didn't molest. In fact, according to Robbie, she sometimes took care of the preschool children at the school when the teachers happened to be out.
Robbie told his mother that the children were hustled out to the garages where they were placed in three vans driven by Ray, Betty Raider and the mean old lady and taken to various off campus