A Manhattan Beach grocer watched while teachers from the McMartin Pre-School molested and filmed naked children in his storeroom, a 10-year-old witness testified Wednesday.
The child had testified last week that he and other children from the nursery school had been taken several times to Harry's Market, where, he said, they were told to remove their clothes and were "touched" in a back room. He said then that the owner had come to the door to confer with one of the teachers but that he didn't remember whether the man was actually inside the storeroom.
However, during more than two hours of cross-examination Wednesday by Bradley Brunon, who represents school founder Virginia McMartin, 77, one of seven defendants in the molestation case, the child was asked again, "Was there ever any person not a teacher in there?"
"The store owner, Ray," the boy replied. "He was watching the games."
"Did that happen on more than one occasion?" he was asked. "Yes," he said.
"You now remember that he came in on (at least) two occasions and watched the games?" Brunon asked. "Yes," the child answered.
"What games were played (in the storeroom)?" the lawyer asked.
"Tickle and naked movie star," the boy said.
Rasheed (Ray) Fadel, owner of Harry's Market, is the first person--other than the defendants--to be placed by any witness at the scene of the alleged crimes. His store and home were searched by authorities last summer.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Lael Rubin, one of three prosecutors in the case, refused to comment on whether Fadel, 35, is considered a suspect or whether criminal charges against him are imminent.
Fadel, reached by telephone at the market he has owned for nearly a decade, said he had never been a spectator at the so-called naked games and denied that his store had been used.
"This is not true at all. It's all fibs. Nothing happened in my store," he said. "The second I open my business I have employees with me." Fadel said he has no storeroom, although he does have an outside compressor room--"whose door is always open--"and an indoor wine cellar. He also said no groups of children had made field trips to his market.
Fadel said that defendant Peggy McMartin Buckey is a customer and that Ray Buckey worked for him as a box boy for several months when he bought the store in 1976. When questioned by a reporter last week, however, Fadel denied knowing any of the defendants, said Buckey had never worked for him and identified himself as Ray Rasheed. "My English is not so good," he later explained.
Earlier Wednesday, during the boy's sixth day on the witness stand, Brunon sought to discredit his testimony by pressing for details about the bizarre slaughter of animals and rituals he has described.
The child was asked to identify photographs of doors he may have entered or exited six years ago at St. Cross Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach. Last week, the child said he and other children witnessed the sacrifice of live animals in candle-lit ceremonies at the church involving unidentified black-robed people who sometimes wore masks.
He was asked about door locks and altar dimensions and a wealth of other details the defense says it believes will eventually trip him up or render his story too preposterous to be believed. Although none of the defendants is charged with killing animals, the allegations are important to the prosecution's claim that the defendants conspired to silence the children by frightening them. Asked about the alleged sacrifice of a rabbit, the witness said: "Ray went outside somewhere and came back with the rabbit."
The exchange continued.
Question: He put it on the altar and cut it to pieces, is that right?
Q: Where were you?
A: By the people in robes.
Q: When the rabbit was cut up, did it bleed?
Q: So it (the blood) went on the altar?
Q: Did he just leave the pieces on the altar when you guys left?
Q: And the blood as well?
During a rest period for the youngster, attorney Forrest Latiner, who represents Peggy Ann Buckey, 28, told Municipal Judge Aviva K. Bobb that he believes the child's testimony reflects a combination of "brainwashing" by therapists and television reports about the case.
"Can you imagine in your wildest dreams . . . \o7 St. Cross\f7 ? If you can, your honor, then we should stop cross-examination at this point and let all the children say what they will and go to trial."
Defense attorneys told reporters outside the courtroom that no caretaker at the church had ever reported finding the remains of any animals and that police investigators had not found traces of blood on the altar.
Other defendants in the case, now starting its seventh month of preliminary hearing to determine whether they should stand trial, are Betty Raidor, Mary Ann Jackson, and Babette Spitler. They are accused of 208 acts of molestation and conspiracy involving 41 children.