In what was called the “scandal of the century” at the time, three Saskatoon foster children accused their foster parents and members of their family of bizarre abuse rituals, including forcing them to participate in orgies, drink blood, eat eyeballs and watch babies being skinned alive and burned.
The children have since recanted their accusations and the foster family has sued for malicious prosecution.
Following is a timeline of the case as it developed:
Michael Ross and his younger twin sisters, Michelle and Kathy, are placed in the foster home of Richard Klassen’s brother and sister-in-law. All the children are younger than 10 at the time.
Michael is referred to the MacNeill Clinic, a mental health facility in Saskatoon, for his disruptive and disturbing behaviour, including physical and sexual abuse of his sisters.
December 14, 1989
Michael Ross is separated from his sisters and removed from the Klassen foster home because of his behavioural problems.
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Taking a break?
He begins to make false allegations of sexual abuse against the Klassens in an attempt to have his sisters removed from their foster home and to be reunited with them.
May 29, 1990
Michelle and Kathy are removed from the Klassens and placed with Michael in his new foster home.
July 10, 1991
Richard Klassen and 15 others, including the children’s disabled birth parents and members of the extended foster family, are arrested on sexual assault charges. Six days later the Klassens are released in Saskatoon on bail.
February 10, 1993
The Crown stays charges against 12 of the 16 people on the grounds it wanted to prevent any further trauma to the children. Richard Klassen’s father, Paul, pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault in a plea bargain deal. The children’s birth parents and a family friend would later be found guilty, but the Supreme Court overturned the convictions.
July 29, 1993
Robert Borden, a lawyer for some of the accused, is taken to the Law Society of Saskatchewan by the Crown attorney’s office for comments he made to the media about the false charges brought against his clients and the conduct of the prosecution.
December 31, 1993
After years of tormenting his sisters, Michael Ross is separated from them for the second time.
January 31, 1994
The Klassens file a $10-million malicious prosecution lawsuit against the lead investigator in the case, Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck; a therapist, Carol Bunko-Ruys; and two Crown prosecutors, Matthew Miazga and Sonja Hansen.
Richard Klassen and a friend, Sheila Steele, start their Injusticebusters website and begin publishing information about the court cases.
Michelle Ross, then 17, sees a poster in downtown Saskatoon placed there by Injusticebusters. She contacts the organization and apologizes for the first time.
March 8, 1999
Michael Ross signs a declaration saying he made up all of the sex assault stories involving the foster families and their relatives.
October 13, 2000
The Saskatchewan Social Services Department responds to a request by CBC’s The Fifth Estate to contact Kathy Ross. The Fifth Estate is told the department had a “legal and moral obligation to take into consideration the wishes of the children” and that they regretted that they could not help the program any further.
Kathy Ross would later tell The Fifth Estate no one from the department had ever talked to her about the request. Six weeks later on November 29, 2000, The Fifth Estate airs Scandal of the Century.
After a three-year separation, Kathy Ross is reunited with her sister Michelle. Kathy also signs an affidavit stating she had lied in court.
Dec. 30, 2003
Three of the four defendants in the $10-million lawsuit are found liable for malicious prosecution. In his 98-page decision, Judge George Baynton said Miazga, Dueck and Bunko-Ruys maliciously prosecuted 12 members of the family.