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Expert's Opinion in Molestation Case : Bones in Churchyard Called Table Scraps

June 06, 1985|DAVID FERRELL | Times Staff Writer

NORWALK — More than 100 bones and bone fragments unearthed at a former church site here have been determined by a county paleontologist to be commercially butchered beef and lamb bones, casting doubt on allegations that they are the remains of satanic human and animal sacrifices.

That conclusion contradicts charges made by children and parents in a yearlong child molestation case in Pico Rivera, according to Lt. Bill Stonich of the county's child abuse detail. Parents had claimed their children were sexually molested and forced to witness satanic sacrifices at the former site of the Old Molokan Christian Spiritual Church on Flatbush Avenue here.

"We were told we would find bones of a human origin and/or bones of animals used in some type of ritualistic sacrifices," Stonich said. "We did not find any evidence of that. (We) determined that the bones were beef and lamb bones, apparently cut with a band saw, which is consistent with commercial meat-cutting practices."

Stonich said the bones were examined last week by David Whistler of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Whistler's conclusions, Stonich said, supported the earlier explanation of an Old Molokan Church member that the bones represent the buried remains of dinners served at the church. Members of the congregation buried their leftover bones during several years they used the church, until it was torn down last year to make way for the Century Freeway, church member Mike Treguboff said.

But parents disputed the county's conclusions and continued to describe the bones as evidence in the widely publicized molestation case, which has involved at least a dozen children living on Planter Street in Pico Rivera.

Charges Still Pending

The case began in April, 1984, with the arrest of four Planter Street residents on 19 counts of molestation and kidnaping. Their charges were dismissed at a preliminary hearing last July, but a fifth resident of the street was arrested in September. That suspect now faces trial on two counts of molestation and two counts of kidnaping.

Vicki Meyers, a parent who helped initiate the digging at the former church site last month, said she found some blood in the bags in which the bones were buried. She said the bones were stripped too clean to be food bones and said children had been able to predict where the bones would be found.

"I don't care what the bones are," Meyers said. "I want to know why my kids know where they were buried. If they're (leftover) dinners . . . where's the other garbage? There's no food with them, no paper plates . . . nothing."

Investigators found no blood and saw nothing odd about the bones, according to Stonich.

Church member Treguboff said Monday that the congregation often used beef and lamb meat for soup and discarded the raw bones, which may account for some blood. The bones were buried to prevent flies and maggots, but other trash was thrown in a rubbish bin, he said.

"I think they're getting down to nit-picking," Treguboff said angrily, denouncing the accusations.

Stonich said investigators unearthed more than 100 bones in the most recent dig, May 24, before turning them over for scientific study.

Parents, who began digging at the site May 18, had previously uncovered 300 to 500 bones, Meyers estimated. She said she turned over only a sampling of those bones to sheriff's deputies. Meyers said she intends to take some of the remaining bones to an independent cult specialist to determine whether they were used as part of satanic rituals.

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