Wednesday, December 20, 2000
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WENATCHEE -- A Wenatchee couple whose sex-abuse convictions were overturned
have had their parental rights restored to four of their five children.
Chelan County Juvenile Court Commissioner Bart Vandergrift restored parental
rights Monday to Harold and Idella Everett for Donna, 16, and the couple's
15-year-old twin sons, said state Department of Social and Health Services
spokeswoman Kathy Spears.
In January, the Everetts won back custody of their daughter Melinda, 18.
Another son, Richard, 19, was adopted and lives in Wisconsin.
Donna Everett was the only family member at the closed court hearing.
Neither she nor her attorney would comment about the case.
The state Court of Appeals threw out the Everetts' child-rape and
molestation convictions in 1998 because of irregularities in the child-sex
investigations known as the Wenatchee sex rings cases.
Spears said DSHS employees will monitor the children's' living situation
until the court ends their dependency, or they turn 18.
The couple's two daughters, Melinda and Donna, were foster children of
Wenatchee police Detective Bob Perez and his wife during the height of the
The two girls accused dozens of adults of molesting them and other children
in sex orgies. Both girls have since recanted their allegations.
In October, the Everetts settled a civil rights lawsuit against the city for
an undisclosed amount stemming from for their arrests, prosecution and
Subject: Perez crying, 4 years ago! (9-9-97)
The Wenatchee World
PEREZ: 'THE COMMUNITY IS ENTITLED TO HEAR THE REAL FACTS':
Former Sex Crimes Cop Says He Has NO Regrets About the way he
handled the investigations...
By MARLA J. PUGH, World staff writer
WENATCHEE --It's taken two years for Wenatchee police detective Bob Perez
to talk openly about his investigation into child sex abuse cases that led
to dozens of arrests. But it will be another three to five years before the
issue will be fully settled in court.
That's how long Perez said he expects pending civil cases against him to
last, including appeals. But the detective told The Wenatchee World Monday
that he will continue to fight allegations that he used abusive tactics and
forced false confessions -- and that he expects to win.
Perez has been silent about the investigations for several years, saying
that he wanted to protect the integrity of pending criminal cases and the
children who were victims of sexual abuse. But now Perez said he wants to
let the community know his side of the story and lay to rest any questions
about whether he did his job correctly.
"I'm not conducting a media campaign such as others have done," Perez said.
"I just thought it was time to step up to the plate. I think the community
is entitled to hear the real facts."
He said he was also concerned that other sex abuse victims may stay silent,
or that other police detectives may see what he has been through and be
afraid to investigate sex crimes.
"I want victims to know that there are people there that will believe
them," he said. "It may sound silly, but I'd do the same job again."
In 1994 and 1995, 28 people in the Wenatchee area were charged with child
rape and child molestation in what came to be termed the "sex-ring"
investigations. Of those, 14 pleaded guilty, five were convicted and
charges were dismissed or greatly reduced against six. Three people were
acquitted. Critics of the investigations claimed Perez intimidated
witnesses, violated their civil rights, and abused his authority as a
But Perez claims he did nothing wrong. Instead, he said he has been
harassed, threatened and even followed around town by his critics for doing
his job. His home has been staked out by media despite continued refusals
to grant interviews, and most of his time has been spent defending himself
"It's been without a doubt the hardest years of my life," Perez said Monday.
Yet Perez feels the community has supported him through the ordeal.
"I don't believe the comments about (Wenatchee being) a community divided
-- a city in shambles," Perez said. "I hardly think that in a community of
10 to 12 people sending letters to the Safety Valve supporting child
rapists means the community is divided."
Perez said he has received hundreds of letters of support from the
community -- including child abuse victims themselves. He said he has also
received continued support from the Wenatchee Police Department and his peers.
He said he will return to his job, but did not say when. At the moment,
Perez is on leave from the department without pay.
"I have taken time off specifically for my family who have been horribly
strained through all this --specifically my wife," Perez said, adding that
they have an
11-month-old son to care for. "It's time to give something back to her. We
have had very little time together with all this. ... I took time off as a
breather. I think I've earned it. But there's no doubt I will be going back."
Perez said he has no plans to leave the Wenatchee area after his court
battles are over.
"I'm not going anywhere," he said. "I decided a long time ago that this is
where I want to live and work. Nothing has changed."
Perez said he still spends a lot of time working on upcoming court cases --
including a civil suit filed against him by East Wenatchee pastor Robert
"Roby" Roberson who claims Perez violated his civil rights while Roberson
was being investigated for sexual abuse. Roberson was acquitted in Douglas
County Superior Court. Perez, who works in Chelan County, did not
investigate that case. The civil trial is scheduled for trial next April in
Roberson said this morning that he feels Perez is now using the media as a
ploy to affect the jury pool for that trial and to get the trial moved back
to a local court.
"We've never gone out looking to promote or parade ourselves and position,"
Roberson said, adding that Perez's interview with KOMO-TV in Seattle last
week was filled with lies. "We have just responded to media interest and
questions. But this isn't just a response to the media."
Much of the criticism surrounding Perez had to do with the fact one of the
victims in the investigations was his foster daughter. Perez said he
realized defense attorneys would find fault in that, but he continued the
investigation because he knew he was capable of separating his role of
foster father from his role as detective.
"If anything, it held me to a higher standard," Perez said. "No arrests
were ever made on her statements alone."
Perez also disputes accusations that he forced defendants into confessing,
saying that in all of his interviews, other detectives, case workers or
other professionals were present.
"I treated these people with respect and dignity," he said. "I'm not an
evil guy with horns beating suspects with rubber hoses."
Perez said he still sometimes sees the victims of his investigations. Once
was at a Christmas party for foster children at the Chelan County PUD,
where Perez said a dozen children ran up to hug and kiss him.
"It made me cry ... it overwhelmed me," he said. "But I was their friend, I
helped them ... I believed them and I stopped the abuse. ... And I'll
always remember these kids. I don't think any of us should forget."
Sunday, June 14, 1998
Wenatchee: Sex Probe Tests Truth and Trust
The Washington town has been torn apart by claims that 43 adults abused children. Sixteen have been jailed, but investigators' aggressive tactics have sparked a backlash and prompted a civil suit.
By KIM MURPHY, Times Staff Writer
WENATCHEE, Wash.--Idella Everett wanted to be a good mother, but sometimes she just couldn't manage. Melinda would get sassy and flounce out of the room. Donna would get mad and yell so loud that once she hurt her voice and had to see the doctor. And the twins--well, they'd start blowing through the house like a twister, and Harold would pull the belt off his big belly and swat at them. "Knock it off!" he'd roar from his chair. Idella would wince.
Child Protective Services showed up one day. It wasn't that there were seven people living in the 700-square-foot house, they said, or that Harold and Idella couldn't read or write or hold down jobs. It was Harold's belt they didn't like, and Idella watched her young ones being led out the door, never to return.
Not long after, there was another knock at the door, this one from Wenatchee police Det. Robert Perez. He told Idella to go wake up Harold, because they were going to jail. Donna and Melinda had told him all about it, he said, about how Idella would hold them down on the bed, all 400 pounds of her, probing them with her fingers. And then Harold "did the wild thing."
What are you talking about? Idella wanted to know that day in 1994. But it wasn't much use. After a few hours with Perez, with his ruddy face thrust in hers, telling her she'd never see the kids again if she didn't talk, she thought of a lot to say. She put her pen to the paper Perez had typed up, with all its nasty details, and signed one of the only words she knew how to write: Idella.
"I was scared, and I didn't know what else to do," she said later. Besides, she told fellow inmates at the women's prison, "they gave me a [soda] pop."
The arrest of the Everetts opened a new window on Wenatchee, a rural eastern Washington state town once known for its apples, now better known for what happened to its children. A child sex abuse investigation, launched that year, resulted in 43 adults being charged with 29,000 counts of rape and molestation involving 60 children--children allegedly raped on church pulpits and in Sunday school rooms; children raped by dozens of adults lined up for a turn; children raped by mothers, fathers, brothers, pastors, pastors' wives, Sunday school teachers, foster parents, state social workers, even the lady at the supermarket bakery counter.
The sex-ring investigation itself is now the subject of a $100-million civil lawsuit being tried in Seattle, brought by the three adults acquitted in the case, along with one of 12 others who were arrested but never tried. Its outcome--closing arguments are scheduled for this week--could either confirm one of the worst cases of child sex abuse ever or show that 16 people are in jail for crimes that may not have happened.
Dozens of children have been removed from their homes and asked to testify about acts of molestation that many originally had claimed to know nothing about. Many were sent against their will to an Idaho mental hospital, where they were given medication and urged to call up memories of allegedly forgotten sex acts. Their parents, most of them low-income and many of them mentally disabled, were arrested, tried and convicted--some with sentences upward of 40 years.
Whatever the outcome, this case already has resulted in nationwide calls for reforms in the prosecution of alleged child abuse, ranging from how children are questioned to new legal protections for the accused--many of whom in Wenatchee pleaded guilty and went to prison, still proclaiming their innocence, on the advice of public defenders.
And no amount of money awarded by a jury can repair the rifts in this small town. Half a dozen mothers sit in a Washington state prison, insisting on their innocence and weeping for their children. Jobs have been lost, friends alienated.
The state has allowed some of the children to be permanently adopted. Dozens of others remain in foster homes.
The story, based on months of interviews, court testimony and police reports, is still unfolding in the fractured families with wounds too deep to repair, and in a town just now trying to find a way to move on.
Casualties of Case Everywhere
The casualties are everywhere:
* Idella's daughter Melinda, now 15, sat down on a road not long ago and waited in vain for cars to strike her.
* Sarah Doggett, the daughter of a middle-class couple accused of molesting their children, showed up for a routine appointment at the Child Protective Services office back in 1995, when she was 16, and was suddenly tied onto a stretcher, wheeled into an ambulance and transported to the Idaho hospital. There, she says, she was admitted as a "voluntary" patient, drugged and pressured for weeks to admit she had been abused. "She kept saying if I loved my sisters, I'd say this," Doggett testified about her state-appointed therapist.
* Jeannie Bendt, one of the Wenatchee mothers convicted in the case, says her 6-year-old son went into the same hospital an energetic little boy; he emerged, after six weeks of drug and counseling therapy, distant and sad. "When he called me, it was so depressing, like his heart was tearing out of him," Bendt recalled during a recent interview at the Washington state women's prison. "He said, 'I feel like I'm going to die. Can you come and get me?' "
"This is the best example of a terrible prosecution gone awry . . . since the Salem witch trials," said Kathryn Lyon, a former Tacoma, Wash., deputy public defender who has investigated the Wenatchee cases and now--along with the American Civil Liberties Union--is pushing for a Justice Department civil rights inquiry.
"A striking feature of the Wenatchee child sex abuse cases is that no governmental agency . . . assumed responsibility for investigating whether children were being harmed by the child protection system itself," the ACLU said.
"I did my job the best I could," said Perez, defending the investigation. During the civil trial, the city has maintained that, while there indeed may have been some mistakes made, officers and prosecutors had reasonable cause to believe that crimes may have been committed against the children, and they therefore were obligated to purse the investigation.
It was the McMartin preschool case that first raised questions about children's suggestibility and the capacity of innocent minds to call up evil memories.
In 1984, seven teachers at that Manhattan Beach preschool faced indictment on 115 charges of felony child molestation involving 42 children. There were no convictions in the case, which spanned seven years and cost $16 million.
A handful of other ritual sex abuse cases have unfolded in the years since, but none approaching the magnitude--or with the enduring questions--of what is alleged to have happened in Wenatchee.
The 28 convicted adults included not only poor, mentally challenged parents like Idella Everett, but relatively well-educated, middle-class mothers like Linda Miller and Carol Doggett. Many of them signed confessions, and the stories told by children match up with incidents admitted by adults in many important details. In a very few cases, there were adult eyewitnesses.
Patrick McMahon, an attorney defending the city of Wenatchee, cautioned the jury as the civil case opened in April: "The evidence that you're going to hear in this case is going to be some of the most graphic, horrifying, disgusting evidence that you will ever hear in your life.
"These kids went through hell. And at the end of this case, these plaintiffs are going to be asking for millions and millions and millions of dollars, because they got away with it."
After being taken from her parents, Donna Everett wasn't placed with just any foster father; she was placed with Bob Perez, a beefy, blond Wenatchee patrol officer doing a stint as a crimes-against-persons investigator.
Within a few months, Donna told Perez that her parents had been molesting her. One night not long after that, she came downstairs. "She sat down on the floor and just asked my wife and I if she could tell us about some other people who hurt her," Perez recounted in a recent interview.
Child Crawled Under a Table
As Donna began to talk, he said, she crawled down under the coffee table and folded herself into a fetal position. "She was just crying, saying, 'There's just too many, just too many.' And I'm sitting there trying to imagine that kind of abuse in a teeny, tiny child. She was only 9. To sit there and look at the pain on her face, I knew she wasn't lying.
"I said, 'Why did you wait so long to tell us?' She said, 'I've been waiting for you to do it to me too.' That just sent a chill up my spine. The tears were streaming down our faces. We couldn't believe what we were hearing."
Perez rushed to see Donna's older sister, Melinda, the next day at school. At first, she denied that anything happened, other than Harold hitting the kids with his belt. When Perez and a social worker started asking questions about "touching problems," Perez said, the girl started to cry and pulled her sweatshirt up over her head. "She said she wanted it to stop."
The stories started to flow out of Melinda too. The neighbors used to show up at the Everett home for sex parties, trading children among them, the girls said. Melinda, according to police reports, told about how her foster father, former San Diego title insurance executive Robert Devereaux, was holding orgies, arranging the children in bunk beds while two dozen adults waited in line for a turn.
It happened at church too, the girls said. Pastor Roby Roberson at the Pentecostal Church of God in East Wenatchee used to ravish young girls on the pulpit, and then everybody would go down into the basement and line up for sex.
Adults Confirm Acts With Confessions
As the stories grew, so did the confirmations. Donna's twin brothers, then 8 years old, said they remembered being molested. So did the Holt children, the Doggetts and the Towns. Linda Miller's daughters swore they were at the sex parties--then Miller signed a statement admitting she was there too. Corroborating adult confessions followed.
Then one March day in 1995, Donna Everett climbed into Perez's car and drove around Wenatchee, pointing to 18 locations where, she said, she had been molested. The plaintiffs in the civil case have tallied it up: Donna, by the time she was 9 years old, claimed to have been molested by 62 different adults. (She had been molested years earlier by a half-sister's boyfriend in an unrelated case.)
Roberson and the others say Donna and Melinda started telling stories so they could stay with Perez, whose 3,000-square-foot house with a duck pond and trips to Disneyland was preferable to the tiny shack they shared with their retarded parents.
Most of the other children telling similar stories were friends of the Everett girls, they say. Why, they want to know now, was Perez allowed to remain as chief investigator in the widening sex abuse investigation when the two key witnesses were his own foster daughters? Why didn't he tape record his interviews with the children and the mothers, nearly all of whom say they were badgered by Perez, coerced into telling stories about sex abuse by being told that their families would never be together again unless they did? Why did he destroy his interview notes?
"I told him nothing happened. I kept saying it and saying it, but . . . Perez was yelling, and he kept saying . . . 'I know what happened, so you might as well tell me.' So finally I said something happened," one young girl, Michelle Kimble, testified during the civil trial, weeping.
"He had a phone sitting next to him," said Kim Allbee, whose mother was arrested after her interview with Perez. "He said: 'If you don't start telling me the truth, I'm going to put your mom in jail.' He said, 'You have 10 minutes.' "
Bendt says she was "flabbergasted" when she went to the CPS office to discuss her son's case and found Perez waiting in a back room. He knew, the officer told her, that she had molested her son.
"He kept saying, 'Did you have sex with him? How many times?' . . . I felt powerless. They weren't listening to reason. They said, 'We can get you into this treatment plan; all we want to do is get your family back together. All we need is a statement proving you need help."
Figuring that's what it would take to end the nightmare, Bendt says, she signed the statement Perez was typing up. "He said, 'Did you do it 30 times a day?' I said, 'Yeah, yeah, whatever.' I was like laughing inside, because I didn't think any of it would stick."
After the confession, on the advice of her lawyer, she pleaded guilty but never anticipated what came next: a sentence of 16 years in prison and a permanent end to her status as the mother of her son. Her appeal was rejected: She had confessed.
"I still have nightmares," she says. "The smell of the handcuffs in my face. I remember his twisted, deranged, angry-looking face, sticking in my face: 'How many times?' "
Roberson's Pentecostal Church of God in East Wenatchee was a popular gathering point for Wenatchee's down-and-out. The food bank it operated was one of the biggest in eastern Washington, and people who came for food found themselves staying on for Friday night teen meetings, Wednesday Bible study and Sunday services.
Half the congregation was kids. Sometimes their mothers would come along, but more often than not, Pastor Roby would send the church van around town, picking up kids whose parents were still sleeping off a hangover.
These days, the basement of the Church of God has been renamed "the war room." In it are stacks and boxes of documents, nearly every important filing in the abuse investigation since 1994.
Pastor Works to Free Defendants
Since Roberson and his wife, Connie, were acquitted of charges of operating a massive sex ring at the church--their defense paid by several Wenatchee families who mortgaged their homes--the pastor has worked to free the remaining defendants, writing letters, attending hearings, calling politicians.
"The mind-set at CPS was, these kids are being raised in these homes, in poverty. They'd be better off being removed from their homes, in foster care, than continue to be raised in squalor," Roberson said.
"These people [law enforcement and child welfare officials] are power hungry. They're crazy. They're absolutely out of control," he said. "Before I got into this, I really believed that a court of law was a place where justice would prevail, where truth would come out. . . . It seems to me now, if somebody wants to accuse you of something and send you to prison, they can do it. They can do it. I got off, but how many people do you know who can come up with $260,000 for their defense?"
Roberson became involved in the case before he ever surfaced as a suspect, with the arrest of the Everetts.
The Everett children came to church regularly, and Idella would show up every once in a while. The pastor had grown close to the eldest child, Richard, a shy and intelligent boy, now 17, who essentially managed his family's affairs.
Roberson visited the Everett home several times a week. It seemed to him completely impossible that the couple was molesting the children, and he began meeting with officials to tell them so.
Richard told him immediately that his parents had never molested anyone, Roberson recalled, and Roberson filed an application with the state to take the boy into his home as a foster son.
Perez admitted he had told Connie Saracino, an employee of the state Child Welfare Service, to give Roberson a warning. "She told me if I proceeded any further or was involved with Harold and Idella's children, I'd be arrested for witness tampering," Roberson recounted.
When he nonetheless showed up at Idella Everett's sentencing hearing, he ran into Perez. " 'We warned you, Bob, we warned you,' " the officer said as he passed, Roberson testified.
"I didn't even go back to the sentencing hearing. I headed straight home. I told [my wife], 'Honey, I'm scared.' "
A month later, another member of the congregation, Donna Rodriguez, Kim Allbee's mother, was arrested, accused of molesting her own daughter and other children. "I was outraged; I was shocked," Roberson said. "I know this lady, I know the kids. Something's wrong here!"
Near the end of March 1995, two detectives from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department showed up at the church parking lot to arrest Roberson.
Connie Roberson was arrested at a local college, where she was attending a course on home schooling. Daughter Rebekkah was picked up by CPS workers and questioned. Honnah Sims, a Sunday school teacher at the church, also was taken into custody.
Donna Everett, it turned out, had given authorities lurid details of sex parties at the church, and the stories had been backed up by Melinda and several other children.
Roberson, according to the criminal trial testimony of one mentally disabled parishioner, used to undress young girls on the pulpit, have sex with them and declare, "That's how you get the devil out!"
Connie Roberson, the children said, had sex with children at the church and at her home. They would have big sex parties in the basement every Friday night, the children said in court testimony.
For law enforcement officials, it was astounding enough that Donna's stories about the church were backed up by several other children. Then, late on the night of March 25, 1995, police in a remote town in northern Washington called to say that a Wenatchee woman, Linda Miller, had been picked up near the Canadian border. She had been attempting to cross into Canada with her daughter but was turned back because one of her companions had a sex offender conviction in another case, which turned up during a routine border check.
At Perez's request, Miller was brought into his office at 12:15 a.m., where he questioned her for the next three hours. By the time it was over, Miller had given him the single most important confession in the case. This one didn't come from a mentally retarded adult, it didn't come from a vulnerable welfare mother, it didn't come from an impressionable child. It came from a capable, middle-class adult whose ex-husband had been convicted of molesting her daughter in an earlier, unrelated case. And when Perez finished typing up her words, Miller corrected a few spellings and signed it.
What it said was horrifying.
Roberson, she told Perez and another officer, organized sex orgies among children every Friday night--exactly what Donna, Melinda and several other children, including Miller's own daughters, had said. "Sister Connie and Sister Honnah paired the children up and told them exactly what to do to each other. The adults then take their clothes off and begin to have sex with the children. . . . I went to this church and participated in these sex acts with the children for about four months."
Almost immediately, Miller recanted her confession, saying it had been coerced. But her statements about the Robersons and similar sex parties at the Devereaux home sent the investigation into a dizzying new arc.
Foster Father's House Full of Girls
Devereaux was one of a growing number of Californians who had cashed in their home equity for a quieter life in the idyllic Northwest, and he and his wife opened up their 3,000-square-foot home to troubled foster children.
When the couple divorced, Devereaux didn't want to turn the girls living with them out of the house, so he stayed on as a foster parent--to the growing discomfort of CPS workers who worried that it didn't look right to have a single man alone with all those girls, ranging in age from 9 to 17.
After CPS took Donna out of the Everett house, she moved into the Devereaux home for a while. So did several of the other girls attending the Roberson church.
Things started on their downward course for Devereaux one night when he found one of his foster daughters camping in the side yard with her boyfriend in her tent. When Devereaux forbade her to see the boy again, she tried to poison his soft drink with iodine, according to Devereaux and CPS officials.
CPS workers took her in, and Perez, interested in what was going on at the Devereaux home, interviewed her. Devereaux, she told him, was molesting the girls.
"Next thing I know, I'm arrested," Devereaux said in an interview. "Perez told me [the girl] said I'd raped her, and [another girl] had seen [one of the foster girls] giving me a hand job in my bedroom. He kept saying he wanted me to admit it. I was just dying, and all of a sudden, he starts screaming at the top of his lungs: 'You f---ed your kids! You f---ed your kids!' "
Foster Daughters' Allegations
It wasn't long before Donna was remembering things that happened at the Devereaux house. As did another foster daughter--who also had made accusations against her stepfather, counselors, teachers and therapists. And then Linda Miller said she was at sex parties at Devereaux's house too.
After several months, prosecutors dropped all felony charges against Devereaux in exchange for guilty pleas to two misdemeanors, spanking a child in his care and warning one of the other targets of the investigation that she might be arrested. He was freed but lost his house, income and reputation. He now lives in a one-room guest house in East Wenatchee and works at a mini-mart.
Devereaux's arrest already had set other investigations in motion. The day after the girl made the original accusation, her Child Welfare Service caseworker, Paul Glassen, visited her at juvenile hall. She was extremely upset. "I told a whole bunch of lies yesterday to a policeman about Dad," she said. Perez had pressured her into saying it, she told him.
Glassen, angry, went back and filed a report with the juvenile detention officer about Perez's interview tactics.
The next day, Wenatchee police arrived at the CWS office, handcuffed Glassen and arrested him on a charge of witness tampering. Glassen, released pending disposition of the case, filed a formal complaint with his agency, which did nothing, he said.
He eventually was charged with a misdemeanor, obstructing an officer in an investigation. The charge was dismissed before going to trial, but Glassen was fired anyway.
Still, the most frightening part of the ordeal was still to come. A witness or witnesses, Glassen learned, had named him as a child molester. (Miller, in her confession, said she saw Glassen at Devereaux's purported sex parties, along with one of Perez's other most vocal opponents, Bob Kinkade, head of a citizens' group formed to raise public questions about the sex abuse charges.)
Terrified that the next move would be to seize his 5-year-old son, Glassen fled with his wife and child to Canada, where he still lives, fearful of returning home.
But the case did not stop there. Juana Vasquez, Glassen's supervisor at the Wenatchee CWS office, had already raised concerns of her own about Perez's treatment of one of his former foster children. The officer had arrested the boy several times, sometimes sending him to the same Idaho mental hospital--Pinecrest--where several of the Wenatchee children had been sent for medication and therapy, Vasquez said.
Perez and others connected with the investigation favored Pinecrest, she said, because the hospital was so cooperative. " 'Whatever you need from us, we'll get for you,' the personnel said. There weren't very many questions asked," Vasquez said. "We'd drop the kids off at the door with the reports of what had been going on, and that was enough to get the child in. . . . They'd say, 'What are you looking for?' "
Employee Fired After Tactics Questioned
Vasquez was suspended in 1994 and fired the following year, after allegedly failing to report sex abuse in the Devereaux home. She won a $1.57-million verdict from the state earlier this year in her suit challenging her dismissal.
Juan Garcia was another employee in the office who raised questions about Perez's tactics and lost his job. In one case, he said, Perez was interviewing a third-grade girl about reports that she had been beaten by her mother's boyfriend.
"His technique was extremely loud, extremely abrasive. He would never sit down," Garcia said. "He had his weapon and his cell phone on the table. He told me not to interrupt him and to take notes." The little girl, Garcia said, was "very scared," and started to cry.
"I called for a little break. We went outside, and I tried to explain to him, 'Let's take it easy.' He said he wanted to continue the interview; she was about to say something. He went back in and said, 'You've gotta tell me what happened to you.' She didn't know exactly what he wanted her to say. She was not going to say anything that she didn't know anything about."
Garcia filed a report against Perez and filed another one later about a similar interview, when he arrived at the home of now-convicted child abuse suspect Cherie Town.
"When I got there, he [Perez] was in the backyard yelling and screaming at Cherie Town, extremely loud, saying he already knew what happened, 'You better tell me or you're never going to see your kids. Juan's here, he's going to take them to foster care right now.' She just sobbed the whole time, not really saying anything. The kids were crying up and down, saying, 'Perez is here, Perez is here, he's going to take us all to foster care.' Hysterical. It was chaos."
Shortly after his second complaint, Garcia was placed on home duty and subsequently fired.
"I try to imagine what these children went through. That's the horror that is just so staggering," Glassen says now. "It's a bizarre story. I have trouble believing now it has happened. To think that having worked in the system, I would have to remove my own child from the country in order to feel he was safe."
Medical Evidence Was Confusing
The medical evidence was confusing from the beginning. Local doctors found that all of the girls examined, and 75% of the boys, had been penetrated. But knowledge about child molestation has expanded in recent years, and doctors now know that irregularities that once looked like sex abuse can be considered perfectly normal. An expert hired by the plaintiffs in the civil case looked at the same evidence and didn't find reason to conclude that any of the children had been molested.
Yet every one of the police officers, prosecutors, therapists and CPS workers assigned to the Wenatchee case remain convinced that terrible abuse happened. Where, they ask, would children like Donna Everett find a place in their souls to imagine the graphic details she gave her interviewers?
For those who say how could such a truly bizarre thing have happened, they counter: How could it not have?
The answer, says former McMartin prosecutor Glenn Stevens, is, in the end, in every listener's own mind.
"You got a kid. He says, 'I was molested by X.' And then he goes on to give details about what happened. And then he goes on to say he did Satanic rituals. . . . They kind of expand and extrapolate information," Stevens said.
"Eventually, you get to a point as a logical adult of saying, 'I don't believe this.' Everybody draws the line in a different place. We all have our own realm of probability and certainty, and if you go back, the only reason you believe the first statement they made is because you want to."
In her recent testimony in Seattle, Donna, now 14, slouched in the witness chair, staring at the floor and giving monosyllabic, almost trance-like, responses. Perez, sitting at the defense table, wept as she testified.
"Would you say all of the adults were doing it to all of the kids at the church?" asked plaintiffs' attorney Robert Van Siclen.
"Yes," she replied.
"And it happened just about every time you went to church?"
"You said you would sing songs up above, and then everyone was told to go to the basement?"
"What happened when you got down to the basement?"
"That all of us kids had to take our clothes off."
"Do you remember saying Sister Honnah and Sister Connie would tell you to pair up?"
"And the kids would then have sex with each other?"
"Yes . . ."
"And then what?"
"Then they would touch us."
As she talked, she slid slowly down in the witness chair, until finally her head was nestled against her shoulder, like a bird raising a wing against the rain.
She walked out of the courtroom and Perez followed her, and the two clung tightly to each other in the hallway, Donna sobbing loudly into his stomach, Perez sniffling into her hair. Then she was led away, and Perez sat down on a hallway bench, alone, staring into space. He stayed there for a long time.
Wenatchee has a lot riding on the outcome of the civil case. A judgment of $100 million would bankrupt the city of 58,000.
"I've had three police officers in my office, and all three of them told me that not only did they not have any evidence that Bob Perez did anything illegal, he wouldn't do anything illegal. I did everything I reasonably could have done to make sure there wasn't a smoking gun somewhere, and I felt a real strong obligation, unless the police did something wrong, to support them," said Deputy Mayor Chuck Johnson.
Charles Hoffman, a community leader whose wife and daughter were murdered by a transient sex killer who once rented a room at Linda Miller's house, said the Rotary Club sponsored a Christmas party for foster children last year, and Perez showed up as Santa Claus.
"The second they saw him, they were up there hugging him," he recalls. "The worst thing Bob Perez does is listen to children. Kids' reactions don't lie.
"You know," Hoffman said, "what I saw happen in the O.J. Simpson trial was the shift in focus in that trial go to Mark Fuhrman. I've seen that exact thing happen in these cases. I think there's a very strong parallel here between Bob Perez and Mark Fuhrman."
Perez says now he did his best.
"I was put into detectives for a two-year period, and in that two-year period, I did my job the best I could do. Obviously, I didn't conduct a perfect investigation, but I always tried to make it perfect.
"They try to make it sound unbelievable. But if you sit and look at the facts, it makes total sense, and it's not that bizarre. It's horrible, but it happened."
* * *
Who's Who in Wenatchee
In all, 10 adults were convicted in the child sex abuse case and 18 others pleaded guilty to felony charges. Charges against 12 defendants were dropped before trial, and three others were acquitted. Here are a few of the key players:
Harold and Idella Everett: A poor, illiterate couple whose two daughters, Donna and Melinda, made allegations of abuse while living as foster daughters with the chief investigator in the case. The two girls eventually named as many as 100 family friends, neighbors and relatives as molesters. The Everetts pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child rape and remain in prison, although a fact-finder for the state court of appeals has recommended a new trial. Their oldest son--who denied that any abuse occurred--was permanently adopted. Their four other children remain in foster homes and mental hospitals.
Robert Perez: Chief investigator in the sex crimes case for the Wenatchee Police Department.
Mark and Carol Doggett: Telephoned Child Protective Services for help after they learned their adolescent son and daughter had been having consensual sex. After questioning and therapy, three of the four children accused their parents of molesting them, and the Doggetts were convicted at trial and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Their conviction was reversed on appeal, and the court granted bail earlier this month.
Jeannie Bendt: Arrested after her 6-year-old son was questioned by Perez, she subsequently confessed and pleaded guilty on the advice of her lawyer but says her confession was coerced. She is serving a 16 1/2-year sentence. Her parental rights have been terminated.
Patrick McMahon: Attorney for the City of Wenatchee.
Robert "Roby" Roberson: Pastor of the Pentecostal Church of God in East Wenatchee. He and his wife, Connie, were arrested after several children alleged wild orgies in the church basement and molestations at the pulpit. The couple was acquitted at trial and became lead plaintiffs in the current civil suit.
Donna Rodriguez: Arrested after her daughter, Kim Allbee, a good friend of the Everett girls, made allegations of abuse during an interview with Perez. Allbee later recanted, the charges were dropped, and both mother and daughter became plaintiffs in the civil suit.
Linda Miller: Arrested after her children made disclosures to Perez. Subsequently made a detailed, middle-of-the-night confession to a wide range of sex-ring activities, naming other adults and victims, but almost immediately recanted. Pleaded guilty and served time, but her conviction was reversed last year.
Honnah Sims: A Wenatchee bakery employee and Sunday school teacher at the Pentecostal Church of God, she was arrested but acquitted on charges of participating in the alleged church basement sex ring. She is a plaintiff in the civil suit.
Robert Devereaux: A foster parent who was arrested and accused of molesting a number of his foster daughters. Charges were subsequently reduced to one count of spanking a child and another of informing a fellow sex-ring suspect of the progress of the investigation. Has a separate civil suit pending against the city.
Paul Glassen: Former Wenatchee Child Welfare Services worker who fled the country to protect his child after reporting Perez for intimidating a child witness and subsequently being named himself as a child abuse suspect.
Juana Vasquez: Glassen's supervisor, fired along with Glassen and fellow CWS worker Juan Garcia for a variety of unrelated issues. All three were critics of the Perez investigation.
Cherie and Meredith Town: Neighbors of the Everetts. Both were arrested after Cherie called police during an argument and accused her husband of molesting their two sons. Both parents pleaded guilty and were sent to prison. One of their sons went on to name other suspects, including Roberson.
Copyright Los Angeles Times
THE SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
August 10, 2001, Friday, Pg. B1
VICTIM OF WENATCHEE SEX-ABUSE INVESTIGATORS BEARS NO ILL WILL
Honnah Sims could be angry at the people who threw her in jail
and accused her of child rape in the lurid and roundly discredited
Wenatchee child-sex-ring investigations.
Instead, she feels sorry for them.
"I have no animosity toward the people who caused this," Sims said
last week after a Spokane jury awarded her and her husband, Jonathan,
$3 million after a three-week civil trial stemming from the case. "I
have pity. I know the people who did this to us will never heal,
because they will always have to spend their lives covering up the
Hours after winning the civil judgment, Honnah Sims was in Seattle
selling fruit at Pike Place Market. It's an annual commitment to help
out old friends who stood by her from the start, when the scales of
justice fell seriously out of balance in Wenatchee. She wasn't about
to break it.
Sims, said Terri Martin, who with her husband, Rick, runs the fruit
stand that sells the produce for which Wenatchee is famous, is a woman
who keeps her word.
"After the jury verdict came out, I called Honnah and said, 'You don't
have to come to Seattle with me. I understand.' But she said, 'I'm
coming with you,'" Martin said. "That's Honnah."
Sims and her husband won the largest settlement to date in a host of
lawsuits that have been filed in the now-discredited 1994-1995
Wenatchee child-sex-ring investigations. At least 60 adults were
arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse involving 43 children.
The sex-abuse investigations have since been heavily criticized by the
courts. All 18 people convicted in the investigations now have been
freed, with their cases overturned or by agreeing to plead to lesser
charges to get out of prison
Sims said seeing justice rendered by a jury decision that police
conducted a negligent investigation was more important than winning a
"I doubt we will ever see any money, anyway," she said.
Sims' lawyers expect to file a judgment for the money by Aug. 20,
after which Douglas County has 30 days to file an appeal.
"But it was never about the money," Sims said. "I'm a hard worker and
have never been hungry a day in my life. We live a Christian life. I
just hope my life has been used for some good."
The civil trial was the first test of a precedent-setting Supreme
Court decision last September. It came about through the six-year
perseverance of Sims, her co-plaintiffs Roby and Connie Roberson,
Donna Rodriguez and the lawyers who stuck with them for years, Robert
Van Siclen and John Stocks of Auburn and James Beecher of Seattle.
While the Simses won monetary damages from Douglas County, the jury
decided that the investigations by Wenatchee and Douglas County of
Roberson and Rodriguez were negligent, but did not meet all the
standards for monetary damages.
Sims was depressed when she learned the others had failed to win
damages, and she wept. Since then, however, all four have agreed that
a verdict of negligence against the police across the board was
enough. Their lawyers, meanwhile, are considering an appeal of the
Sims and the Robersons were jailed in 1995 in an investigation
initiated by Wenatchee police Detective Bob Perez and forwarded to
Douglas County. The Robersons were jailed for 155 days after being
charged with 14 counts of child rape and molestation. They were
acquitted later that year.
Sims, a Sunday-school teacher at the church, was charged with
molestation and acquitted by a jury in 1995, facing the possibility of
losing her then-14-year-old son to state custody. Charges against
Rodriguez were dismissed in 1996 when four of her five accusers
recanted their stories.
Many of the accusations against the four, as well as against dozens of
other people alleging participating in a lurid child-sex-ring
operating from Roberson's church, came from two troubled girls living
in Perez's own home as foster children.
Stocks remembered how the case started for him back May 23, 1995, when
Sims husband, Jonathan, phoned him. Stocks was on his way that weekend
to water-ski in Wenatchee with a friend from law school and agreed to
drop by the jail to see Sims.
"I thought I would only spend 10 to 15 minutes there, but once you
meet Honnah, she is such a real person that I ended up sitting there
for three hours taking notes," Stocks said.
Van Siclen and Stocks became among the first lawyers from outside
Wenatchee to take the cases. Van Siclen took the lead in the criminal
trial, winning acquittal for Sims and the Robersons.
The group, however, lost a 1998 civil suit before a Seattle jury.
Stocks took the lead in arguing on appeal. He won reinstatement. In a
precedent-setting decision last September, the high court let stand a
state Court of Appeals decision that law-enforcement agencies could be
held financially liable for conducting faulty child-abuse
"Sims said she had offered several months ago to settle the case with
Wenatchee and Douglas County for $500,000. City and county lawyers,
however, "just laughed," she said.
The award now sends a strong message, she said. Although she and the
Robersons were acquitted, many others convicted in the cases spent
years in prison and permanently lost their children, which will ring
more powerfully with juries.
Last week, Sims hauled boxes of fruit to farmers markets in Seattle
Wearing an apron behind the counter, she cheerily called out to the
hundreds of tourists and other passers-by to sample some of the best
of Wenatchee, the fresh peaches and Rainier cherries grown by the
The Martins, too, are among the best of Wenatchee, she says. Back in
1994, when it seemed the world was against Sims, Terri Martin, who had
worked for Sims at a supermarket bakery, and her husband, Rick,
readily scraped together $25,000 to post a cash bond for Sims' bail.
"I just felt it was the right thing to do," Martin said flatly. "We
never had any doubt about her innocence from day one. Honnah is a very
honest and good person."
Color Photo GILBERT W. ARIAS/P-I: Honnah Sims, left, who won
a $3 million judgment stemming from the Wenatchee child-sex-ring
cases, helps at her friend Terri Martin's fruit stand.