The District Attorney's Excavation
On March 20, 1985 the District Attorney hired a professional archaeological
firm, Scientific Resource Surveys, Inc. (SRS), to conduct a scientific search of sections of the vacant side lot next to the preschool. The purpose of the investigation was to:
1) determine if the property contained the buried remains of animals exhibiting the effects of traumatic death; and (2) determine if the property contained evidence of a subterranean
The SRS report reflects a high respect for strict scientific procedures. During the excavation, the site was closed off to any parties who had a potential interest in the outcome of the McMartin trial. Excavation methods were clearly explained. All relevant procedures and discovered artifacts were clearly, intensively, and sequentially photographed (before, during, and after excavation) and all the data and possible alternative explanations were soberly evaluated.
The SRS report presented a comprehensive use history of the McMartin property and adjacent vacant corner lot. This was important because it would help to interpret the meaning of artifacts found in future
excavations.136 The following important features, among others, were noted:
1) The land comprising the McMartin preschool site and the adjoining lot were purchased in 1942 by the Morris family.
2) The McMartin lot was vacant from that time until the school was built in 1966.
3) A house, garage with concrete floor, and a sidewalk were located on the adjacent lot.
4) Both lots were two feet higher at their north ends, affecting water drainage.
5) The future McMartin lot was kept clean by the property owners.
6) A greenhouse "consisting of glass walls on three sides and a tar paper covered roof stood on the northeast corner of the house" once located on the side lot.
7) Other reports indicate that sometime prior to 1942, the McMartin property was used has a horse stable and was inhabited by a wide variety of farm animals. Out houses had also been located throughout the property, according to the reports. The property was also used as dump
The excavation of 6 units in the northwest section of the vacant lot was determined by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office on the basis of past excavations of animal remains by parents and areas children cited as the location of a secret
"terrain conductivity meter," was used to sense underground soil anomalies (unusual soil variations) that might indicate the presence of evidence related to animal mutilation or a secret room. SRS explains the device and how it works:
The device, a Geonics EM-31, transmits and receives a magnetic
field into the soil. The values it reads in response constitute a direct measure of the electrical conductivity of the soil. In this way, the device can detect anomalies in the soil and provide information on such features as subterranean cavities and changes in soil consistency. Use of the meter on the Goldstein property [vacant lot next to the preschool] focused on identifying the presence, if any, of a subsurface room and animal
Possible physical evidence of manmade underground tunnels or rooms, according to the SRS report, would include
". . . existing structures, wall lines, compacted floors, trash scatters, or changes in soil resulting from the use of such features. No such evidence was found . .
hired by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office, work on the
side lot. (From court documents)
The terrain conductivity meter could not be used to detect potential caverns underneath the steel reinforced concrete floors of the school building. However, on March 25, the District Attorney's investigators questioned 11 McMartin children on the school site in order to identify and investigate possible locations of trap doors and underground secret
rooms.141 Contrary to what has been reported elsewhere, this part of the investigation was not
cursory.142 Summaries of DA's notes make it clear that every potential location of a trap door entrance known to investigators was examined. Photographs taken of the peeled back floor tiles document this evidence.
SRS excavators found "several thousand" items of trash scatter, including
"ceramic, glass, metal, rubber, plastic and paper . . . as well as bone, shell, and plant remains." They concluded from markings on bottles and ceramics that the trash was made sometime between 1890 and the 1930s, prior to the presence of buildings on the property and prior to the advent of community trash collection
Most of the excavated remains, including 700 animal bones from cattle, sheep or goat,
fish, pigs, chickens and birds, had nothing in common with the operation of the preschool and were
"associated with the 1930s trash scatter . . . found undisturbed among the refuse belonging to the earlier residential occupation of the lot." Some of the bones showed signs of common butchering techniques and bore no known relation to the McMartin preschool
The only findings that were possibly related the operation of the preschool were two tortoise shells, one found by the parents and another found by SRS workers. SRS concurred that the parents' tortoise
find was the result of a recent burial. SRS excavators uncovered a second tortoise. Neither tortoise presented strong evidence of
trauma.145 At the subsequent trial, a herpetologist testified that the parents' tortoise showed no sign of molestation, and that it would have been virtually impossible for a human being to kill an adult tortoise by stabbing it with a knife. He pointed out that some tortoises, protected by their strong shells, even survive being run over by cars.
DA's investigators reported this "Synopsis of Facts: . . . Eleven children interviewed at McMartin Preschool during search of school for trap doors, tunnels, and subterranean rooms. Investigation of said locations yielded no evidence of trap doors. Subterranean room locations to be excavated beginning 4/1/85." The interviews took place March 25, 1985 in the morning at the preschool site. The various locations given by the children and the investigation
Jackie McGauley Daughter: The trap door was in NW quarter of NE classroom. Tunnel led to garage at 933 Manhattan Beach.
Findings: Tiles were removed; no trap door.
Child Number Eleven: Secret room located at SRS markers 8S4W to 6S4W and 8S2W to 6S2W (in lot west and adjacent to preschool). Room was 4' high, 6' square. Accessed by standard house size door oriented in a north-south direction and opened from west to east.
Findings: Not excavated yet.
Bob Currie's Son (10 yrs): Trap door located beneath front office bathroom sink. Tunnel went 6 ft. down to secret room 6' long, 4' wide and 4' high. 2nd trap door in SW quadrant of NW classroom, next to west wall and 6' north of the door. Tunnel connected to two rooms 3' high and wide and 6' long located under school.
Findings: Tiles removed at both locations. Negative
"subterranean room" in vacant lot at SRS 4S2W. Findings: Not excavated yet.
Child Number Six: (7 1Ú2 yrs): Trapdoor located in blue and white playhouse in extreme SW corner of play yard. Door opened to tunnel which led to secret room 6' high and wide, 10' long, located in vacant lot.
Findings: No trap door and
"the concrete beneath" playhouse "indicated no trap door had ever been located there." The lot had not been excavated yet by DA.
Child Number Twelve (9 yrs): Trapdoor located beneath the bathroom sink in SE classroom; opens to tunnel which traveled to room 4' high, 10' wide, 12' long. 2nd trap door in SW quadrant of
NE classroom; opened to tunnel that went to garage at 933 MB BLVD.
"Tiles were removed from both areas . . . No trap doors were found."
Child Number Thirteen (6 yrs): Trap door on NW wall of NE classroom. Findings: No door found there.
Child Number Three (8 yrs): Secret room located in vacant lot, near SRS 10S2W; was 3' high, 4' wide and long.
Findings: Not excavated yet.
Child Number Five (6 yrs): Said he and Ray dug hole 5' deep and 3' diameter in sandlot play yard, 12' west of NW corner of SE room. Led to tunnel that went to 6' deep and high, 12' wide and long; located near SRS 8S4W (vacant lot).
Findings: Sandlot hole not found. Vacant lot not excavated yet.
Child Number Fourteen (6 yrs): Ladder located near SRS 8S4W went to secret room made of concrete: 6' high, 3' long, 6' wide. Findings:
Not yet excavated.
Child Number Fifteen (12 yrs): Trap door located in NW corner of SE room. Opened to tunnel which led to room 6' high, 15' wide, 15' long located beneath sand play yard 12' west of the SE classroom. Second trap door located in NW corner of NW classroom; it opened to a tunnel which went to aforementioned room.
Findings: Tiles were removed from both locations identified by Cindy. No trap doors were found. The secret room site not yet excavated.
Salas's son (8 yrs): Trap door located next to middle portion of the east wall of the northeast classroom. This trap door opened to a tunnel at 933 Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Findings: Tiles removed at trap door location; negative