The first child witness in the McMartin Pre-School molestation case took the stand again Wednesday, testifying under cross-examination that he and other pupils were driven by teachers to at least three "strangers' houses" where some of the children were sexually abused while others waited in the car.
The 7-year-old boy emerged from his first day of questioning by the defense with his earlier account of events at McMartin essentially intact. He also provided further details and new information on the unusual field trips.
Testifying in a preliminary hearing, the child said that besides excursions to "a farm" and "a circus house," he and other McMartin children were taken several times by car and van to unfamiliar houses--with "Peggy" (defendant Peggy McMartin Buckey) and "Babs" (defendant Babette Spitler) driving. He said he was unsure whether he could identify any of the houses if he saw them again.
Asked by Peggy McMartin Buckey's attorney, Dean Gits, what happened inside the houses, the child said, "We got touched there." Gits did not ask the boy who touched him. Buckey, 58, a former teacher and daughter of the school's founder, is charged with 57 counts of child molestation and conspiracy.
She is one of seven defendants facing 208 charges of molestation and conspiracy involving 41 children at the school since 1958. The others are Virginia McMartin, 77, founder of the school; her grandchildren, Raymond, 26, and Peggy Ann Buckey, 28; Betty Raidor, 65; Mary Ann Jackson, 57, and Babette Spitler, 36. All taught at the now-defunct school.
During further questioning by Gits about other outings, the child said that at the farm about which he testified Tuesday he saw defendant Raymond Buckey beat horses. He said it was a long drive from Manhattan Beach and appeared to be deserted.
The "circus house," he said, was a large place about half an hour's drive from the school and had a television camera. He said he once saw two people dressed in an elephant costume there.
The boy testified Tuesday on direct examination that during "naked games" played at the Manhattan Beach nursery school, he was tickled, touched on the genital and anal areas, sodomized, photographed and threatened by his teachers. He implicated Raymond Buckey, Peggy McMartin Buckey, Spitler and Raidor in the alleged molestations. He also said that Virginia McMartin watched while the alleged abuse occurred.
During two hours of cross-examination Wednesday, Gits questioned the boy in rapid-fire fashion, but in a gentle tone of voice. The child generally stuck by his story, but a few inconsistencies emerged.
A key element of the boy's testimony Tuesday involved a game of "cowboys and Indians" played naked in the classroom. Under cross-examination Wednesday, however, Gits led the youngster through a long series of questions about a similar game played fully dressed on the playground.
Then Gits asked the boy if he had ever played that game inside. "No," the boy replied, apparently contradicting his earlier testimony.
"They didn't play cowboys and Indians inside?" Gits repeated. "No," the boy said.
"So the teachers never chased you and put you in (a pretend) jail inside?" Gits asked. "No," the witness replied.
The defense seized on his answer as an inconsistency.
"That's a real obvious one," Raidor's attorney, Walter Urban, said during a recess.
However, Deputy Dist. Atty. Glenn Stevens, one of three prosecutors, told reporters the child thought of the two versions as separate games and was confused about whether Gits meant the clothed or unclothed game.
"There are no material contradictions in what the child is saying," Stevens said during a recess. "He has to be asked questions more than once because he is scared. I think that accounts for a great many of his 'I don't knows' and 'I don't remembers.'
"He is nervous and perspiring a little, but he is confident and secure with his answers."
The boy's testimony was interrupted by frequent recesses called by Municipal Judge Aviva K. Bobb whenever the boy appeared tired or the defense attorneys became argumentative.