Definitions

child-abuse register

Kern County child abuse cases

The Kern County child abuse cases started the day care sexual abuse hysteria of the 1980s in Kern County, California. The cases involved claims of sadistic ritual abuse that were performed by pedophile sex rings with as many as 60 children testifying they had been abused. At least eight people were convicted and most of them spent years imprisoned. All of the convictions were overturned on appeal.

History

In 1982, Alvin and Debbie McCuan's two daughters, coached by their step-grandmother Mary Ann Barbour, who had custody of them, alleged they had been abused by their parents, and accused them of being part of a sex ring that included Scott Kniffen and Brenda Kniffen. The Kniffens' two sons also claimed to have been abused. No physical evidence was ever found. The McCuans and Kniffens were convicted in 1984 and each sentenced to hundreds of years in prison.

The convictions of the McCuans and Kniffens were overturned in 1996 and the two couples were released. In 2001, a TV movie about the Kniffens was released under the name Just Ask My Children.

Six similar cases occurred throughout Kern County. For instance, the testimony of five young boys was the prosecution's key evidence in a trial in which four defendants were convicted, with John Stoll, a 41-year-old carpenter, receiving the longest sentence of the group: 40 years for 17 counts of lewd and lascivious conduct. "It never happened," Ed Sampley, one of the accusers, told a New York Times reporter in 2004. He lied about Stoll. Sampley and three other former accusers returned in 2004 to the courthouse where they had testified against Stoll, this time to say that Stoll never molested them. In their late 20's, each of them said he always knew the truth -- that Stoll had never touched them. However, Stoll's son has "continued to say that he had been molested." In the case, the only defendant with a previous conviction of molestation was Grant Self, who rented Stoll's pool house briefly. Self had a long record of sex crimes against children. John Stoll had to wait until 2004 for the reversal of his convictions, but was released on the new testimony. Self remains in a mental hospital for sexual offenders because he had prior convictions for child molestation, had violated his parole by associating with children, and had violated hospital rules by possessing photos of young children.

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