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McMartin Parents Dig Up Yard In Search of Abuse Evidence

March 18, 1985 GMT

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Authorities and parents of alleged molestation victims dug near a pre- school and said they found remains of a tortoise and broken toys, which one parent said proves children were threatened.

The parent also said children pointed out a shallow passageway under a fence where they said they were taken from the McMartin Preschool without their parents’ knowledge and abused.

Seven former teachers at the school are accused of 208 counts of child molestation and conspiracy involving 41 children. Children have testified in pretrial hearings over the last nine months that the teachers mutilated turtles and other animals to threaten the children into silence.

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Using a back hoe and shovels, about 50 parents found a large turtle shell in about two feet of sand, said parent Robert Currie.

The tortoise remains were found Saturday, and sheriff’s investigators moved in Sunday and continued the dig, unearthing what appeared to be additional bones, parents said.

″We had a dig today to prove a few things, and we proved all of them. And we’ve even found some additional evidence to substantiate the kids’ stories about turtles being killed,″ Currie said.

District attorney’s investigators watched the work 18 miles southwest of downtown Los Angeles, said Currie and police Lt. Robert Cashion.

Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson declined to discuss the significance of the discoveries Sunday but acknowledged that the parents’ actions had forced the dig.

″They certainly did,″ he said. ″When they called and told us what they had done, we had to come out here in the middle of the night and secure this area instead of coming in with the experts we would have liked.″

The passage under the fence was an important discovery, Currie said.

″We were trying to prove that there was a tunnel,″ he said. ″In an adult’s mind, a tunnel is six feet tall, big enough to walk in. But when the children saw what we were doing, they explained the way it really is. It’s a tunnel like a dog would dig to get under a fence.″

However, another parent, Arvin Collins, said Sunday that no passageway was found.

″We haven’t found the passageways yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist,″ Collins said.

Parent Joe Cipolla said: ″My son told me he witnessed animal sacrifices and devil worship here, and right over there (an avocado tree) is where he said the devil lived.″

Defendants include school founder Virginia McMartin, 77, her daughter Peggy McMartin Buckey, 58, and Mrs. Buckey’s children, Raymond, 26, and Peggy Ann, 28, as well as teachers Betty Raidor, 65, Mary Ann Jackson, 57, and Babette Spitler, 36.

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