Skeptic News: Free the San Antonio Four

From: The Austin Chronicle

Anna Vasquez had no reason to mistrust the criminal justice system. That is, until it put her behind bars for more than a decade for the supposed ritualistic sexual abuse of a friend’s nieces – abuse that neither she nor her accuser say ever happened.

Relatively speaking, Vasquez is the lucky one. She was released Nov. 2 on parole, perhaps prompted by the recantation of one of the alleged victims. Her three friends Elizabeth Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, and Cassandra Rivera (collectively known as the San Antonio Four), however, are still in prison, serving time for the alleged sexual abuse of two of Ramirez’s nieces, then 7 and 9.

It was 1994 when those accusations were made – right at the tail end of the satanic ritual abuse scare that had gripped the nation since the McMartin Preschool case took control of the national consciousness in 1983. For those who don’t remember the hysteria, this probably seems incredible: Across the country, individuals, many of them daycare workers, were accused of “ritual” abuse of young children left in their care. The accusations of abuse went from sad but commonplace allegations of penetrative sexual assault to absolutely off-the-wall allegations involving satanic rituals. Daycare workers put children through blood-letting rituals; they took children to cemeteries and put them into freshly dug graves; they deluded them into believing that an arm was being cut off and replaced with the arm of Satan. Indeed, those three allegations are among many specific charges made to Austin police and Travis County prosecutors in the 1992 case brought against Fran and Dan Keller, who ran a modest drop-in daycare center out of their home in what was then rural Oak Hill. According to police and prosecutors, those allegations were not only believable but credible. As recently as 2009, prosecutors at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office have maintained their belief that these “crimes” happened.

Satanic ritual abuse (SRA, sometimes known as ritual abuse, ritualistic abuse, organised abuse, sadistic ritual abuse and other variants) was a moral panic that originated in the United States in the 1980s, spreading throughout the country and eventually to many parts of the world, before subsiding in the late 1990s. Allegations of SRA involved reports of physical and sexual abuse of individuals in the context of occult or Satanic rituals. At its most extreme definition, SRA involved a worldwide conspiracy involving the wealthy and powerful of the world elite in which children were abducted or bred for sacrifices, pornography and prostitution.

Official investigations produced no evidence of widespread conspiracies or of the slaughter of thousands; only a small number of verified crimes have even remote similarities to tales of SRA. In the latter half of the 1990s interest in SRA declined and skepticism became the default position, with only a minority of believers giving any credence to the existence of SRA.

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One Response to Skeptic News: Free the San Antonio Four

  1. In 1988, I had a senior student support staff member at University of North Texas, where I’d taken up a position, tell me that women were having babies to sacrifice to Satan and that it was true because she’d seen them confessing it on the Geraldo TV show.

    If I’d known that was what I was heading into, I’d never have resigned my position in Glasgow.

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