Sask hearing begins for 12 suing over false accusations of foster kid abuse
SASKATOON (CP) – Pamela Shetterly had faith in Saskatchewan’s justice system – even after she and 15 others were charged with ritually and sexually abusing foster children in fantastically macabre and perverted ways.
“I heard bizarre things that were attached to (the case), such as sex with bats and killing and eating of babies, drinking of blood, that sort of thing,” she told court at a civil trial where she and 11 others are suing for malicious prosecution. “I thought these stories could well and easily would be sorted out. I thought there are ways to prove such things and to me it would only be a matter of recourse once we were in the justice system.”
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Shetterly was arrested in 1991. The charges against her weren’t stayed until 1993. Her home was never searched by police and she never saw any evidence to back up the charges.
The three foster children who made the allegations are now adults and have publicly admitted the stories were all lies.
Shetterly and the other 11 are suing two Crown prosecutors, the estate of their former boss, a Saskatoon police officer and a therapist for $10 million.
Justice George Bayton, who is presiding over the trial without a jury, told the court his job will be difficult.
“The subject matter of the trial pertains to a series of events that have taken place over a decade,” said Bayton.
“The factual and legal issues raised by the litigation are complex and convoluted.”
The ordeal, according to published reports and court documents, began back in 1987 when three foster children all under the age of 10 – a brother and his younger twin sisters – were put into a Saskatoon foster home.
The young boy was abusive to his two sisters – both physically and sexually – and he was eventually removed from the home.
That’s when he started telling police about horrific abuse that he and his sisters had suffered over their short lives – they were forced to eat eyeballs and feces, to drink blood, to participate in orgies, and to watch as their neighbour’s newborn baby was skinned and barbecued in the backyard.
As investigators worked the case, the foster kids were reunited and shortly after, the sisters began to back up their brother’s claims.
Eventually the allegations included almost every adult the children had known. In 1991, police arrested 16 people including the child’s disabled birth parents, a family friend and many members of the foster family.
The Saskatoon police called it the “scandal of the century” but most of the cases never saw the inside of a courtroom.
In 1993, charges against 12 of the 16 were stayed while one person pleaded guilty to one count of sexual assault. The birth parents and a family friend were found guilty, but the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court.
The Justice Department has never acknowledged the children’s admission that their allegations were false – only that the charges were stayed because the young victims were too traumatized to continue with the case.
The case has striking similarities to one that was happening around the same time in Martensville, just north of Saskatoon. In that case, 180 charges were laid against nine individuals, including several Saskatoon police officers. Similar allegations of ritual abuse were made by the children.
Only one person was ever convicted of sexual assault. The stories of murder, animal mutilation and Satanism eventually were proved false and the methods of police and prosecutors came under heavy criticism.
Outside court Monday, another of the plaintiffs, Richard Klassen, said he’s happy the case is now before a judge but he just wants the whole ordeal to end.
“I’m tired,” said Klassen.
“I’d like to just get this over with. I’m confident that we will win. And then I’d like to move on. I want to get on with my life. I want to take my family away from this province and I never want to return.”