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3 of 4 Children Recant Horrific Tales of Abuse

February 08, 1996|JUDY PASTERNAK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO — Three of the four children who are the alleged victims in a 1,200-count abuse indictment have told the Chicago Tribune that they made up the horrific stories that have shocked this city.

Conflicts are emerging in accounts of what authorities described as four years of sexual assault, beatings, drug injections and meals of fried rats and boiled roaches. The litany of allegations has landed Gerald Hill--father of two of the children and stepfather to the others--in the Cook County Jail facing 1,200 charges. Their mother, Barbara Hill, is jailed as well, facing four charges.

But the Cook County public guardian, Patrick Murphy, said that he believes the findings of Mt. Sinai Hospital therapists who interviewed the children--a 5-year-old boy and his sisters, ages 10, 11 and 12--over the summer and decided to call in the police.

The Cook County state's attorney's office issued a statement late Wednesday saying that the children are "in the hands of child care specialists" and that "law enforcement personnel have not attempted to discuss" the story with them.

"In due course," the statement concluded, "a decision will be made based on the evidence and welfare of the children."

Gerald Hill's attorney denied the charges Tuesday, when his client appeared briefly in court. Barbara Hill's father, Harvey Lawrence, said in an interview on Wednesday that she also denies the story.

"It's not true, none of it," Lawrence said after speaking to his daughter that morning. "What's true is there was cigarettes with cocaine being smoked, but giving it to children, that's one of the biggest lies.

The accusations, Lawrence said, arose from a family feud over custody of the children. Barbara Hill's oldest son, Gregory Lawrence, and his fiancee have been caring for the youngsters under state supervision since they were removed from their mother in January 1994.

Gregory Lawrence's fiancee told the Tribune that Barbara Hill's relatives simply "don't want to believe that someone in their family would do something like that."

The Tribune reported that the three girls said their brother's fiancee prodded them into weaving their tale--and they repeated it to therapists, police and prosecutors so they wouldn't get into trouble.

A state report said that the children were referred to Mt. Sinai because of their disturbing behavior while in their older brother's home. An official familiar with the case said that included smearing feces on a wall, cutting up clothes and making sexual advances to an infant.

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