Prosecutor thought case too weak to proceed
The Saskatoon Crown prosecutor first handed the Klassen sex abuse file more than a decade ago compared the children’s claims to the complaints made during the Salem witchcraft trials.
“I was completely floored when I read the documents,” prosecutor Terry Hinz testified Thursday at the malicious prosecution lawsuit filed by 12 people charged with ritual abuse of several foster children.
“It made me feel I was transported back into the 17th century reading about the Salem witchcraft complaints.”
The children detailed stories of baby killings, drinking blood and eating eyeballs, Hinz said, who reviewed the file in the early months of 1991.
“I had a file with inconsistencies, bizarre allegations and no corroboration,” he said.
Hinz had read the file over the weekend at home. The following week, he gave the file back to Saskatoon police Cpl. Brian Dueck, who had interviewed the children and compiled the file.
Hinz said he told Dueck, “Where are the bodies? Find me the bodies.”
He said Dueck replied that “these cultists are too clever” and would have long ago disposed of the bodies of the babies.
Hinz recalls asking Dueck if he would go through various records to see if any neighbourhood children had died or gone missing.
Dueck told Hinz that people like this work with “brood mares” — women who breed children specifically to sacrifice them. These children are never registered with any agencies and are impossible to trace, Hinz told the court.
Hinz said he couldn’t prosecute without more information. The conversation ended cordially, and Hinz never talked to Dueck about the case again.
In July of 1991, Hinz was at the courthouse on another matter, and heard that the Klassens and their relatives had been charged with more than 70 counts of sexual assault, incest, and gross indecency.
Hinz went into the court office and looked at the file to see if there was any new information, but there wasn’t, he said.
“There was really nothing new in there,” Hinz said.
Hinz, who retired last year after 25 years as a prosecutor, said the ritual sacrifice allegations “coloured” all the other allegations, calling the entire case into question.
The prosecution went ahead, led by prosecutors Matt Miazga and Sonia Hansen.
The Klassens and their relatives were committed to stand trial. On the eve of the trial in 1993, a controversial plea bargain was reached.
Peter Klassen pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault in exchange for staying the remaining charges.
The case began when three children, Michael, Michelle and Kathy Ross, began to fabricate fantastic stories of ritual abuse against their former foster parents, Anita and Dale Klassen, and 14 other adults.
The Ross children were living with a new foster family, the Thompsons, at the time that many of the allegations were recorded by foster mother Marilyn Thompson.
Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys questioned the children and the adults extensively.
The children have all since admitted to lying, including the allegation about Peter Klassen.
Twelve of those charged are now suing Dueck, Bunko-Ruys and prosecutors for $10 million, alleging malicious prosecution.
During the lawsuit’s pretrial questioning known as “examinations for discovery,” Dueck’s lawyer, David Gerrand, successfully argued that Hinz would not be able to testify about any conversations he had with Dueck.
Justice Mona Dovell agreed that these conversations were covered by the solicitor-client confidentiality rule.
Richard Klassen was prepared to argue this point again at the trial, but Gerrand stood and told court last week that they have removed their objections.
That cleared the way for Hinz to answer any queries about his involvement with Dueck.
Under cross-examination by Gerrand, Hinz was shown to have confused details about a previous case involving Peter Klassen.
“And that’s one of the firm recollections you have?” asked Gerrand.
Hinz also said he had no doubts about the integrity of Dueck, Miazga or Hanson.
Also Thursday, there were some emotional moments when Richard Klassen questioned his niece, Jackie Klassen.
Jackie, now 21 years old, recounted being questioned at her elementary school by police and a social worker about abuse. She denied ever being abused or seeing her parents abuse anyone.
She and her brother were taken for medical examinations.
She was again questioned about the same matters after the family moved to Red Deer, and was taken “kicking and screaming” to the doctor for another medical exam.
When she began to discuss being taken from her parents and placed in foster care, both she and Richard Klassen broke down and a five-minute recess was called.
The third Ross sibling, Kathy, finished her testimony Thursday afternoon.
Like her brother and sister, she admitted to lying about being abused by the Klassens and their extended family members.
The case is expected to run at least another week.