Officials failed to investigate brother for abuse, victim says
Editor’s note: Some readers may find passages in the following story offensive.
An eight-year-old girl tells a police officer and therapist in a 1990 videotaped interview that she was sexually abused by more than a dozen adults and also watched them kill babies, drain the infants’ blood and eat their eyeballs, court witnessed Wednesday.
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These and other bizarre allegations made by a young Michelle Ross and her siblings led to sexual assault charges against the adults in a case once known as the “scandal of the century.”
Most of the charges were eventually stayed and the children have since admitted to fabricating the stories, but many of those charged say their lives were ruined by the false label of “child abuser.”
They filed a $10-million lawsuit alleging malicious prosecution against various justice officials, and the trial began Monday.
More than two hours of Ross’s video statement to Saskatoon Police Cpl. Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys was played in court Wednesday. Ross, now in her early 20s, also testified Wednesday and is expected to continue today.
In the video, Ross gives a detailed account of the killings of two babies. She said her birth parents stuck knives into a baby boy and girl while she watched.
“The baby screamed and yelled and tried to kick her in the stomach,” Ross says on the video.
Ross is supplied with a toy knife and a doll, which she undresses. She then makes cutting and stabbing motions toward the doll when asked to show what happened.
The babies were cut up and placed in boxes and buried in the garden, she says. Ross remembers going with her mom into the garden, even though she was only two years old at the time.
She later admits she didn’t see the baby boy being killed because she was at day care, but maintains her brother told her it was true.
Bunko-Ruys leans in closely during the story, nodding repeatedly.
The family of one of the babies got angry when they heard what happened, yet still came over for Ross’s third birthday party, the child says on the video.
Ross describes similar killings of the family cat and dog. Bunko-Ruys then tells Ross she’s “doing very well” and they appreciate her telling them these things.
“I want you to know I believe you,” Bunko-Ruys says.
In the video, Ross says she wants the adults to be put in jail. Dueck tells her that none of them are in police custody yet “but they will. If you help me then maybe that will happen.”
Ross gives a long list of people she says abused her, and gives vivid but similar details for each of the assaults. It includes various members of the Klassen family and their extended families.
Dueck has made note of each name, and crosses it off after she gives details about their alleged abuse. After more than an hour, Ross begins to fidget, then yawn. She then tries to help Dueck with his list of names.
“Are you going to cross this (name off)?” she asks, and he does.
“I know this is hard for you, but let’s do a little bit more,” Bunko-Ruys instructs.
She repeatedly tells Ross, “Close your eyes” and try to remember any other people who might have touched her.
“Can you remember any other big people who might have touched you?” Dueck asks. The video interview ends a few minutes later.
Ross was questioned Wednesday by plaintiff Richard Klassen, who is representing himself in the lawsuit. Robert Borden and Ed Holgate are the lawyers for the other 11 plaintiffs.
She told court that she made up the stories because her older brother, Michael, pressured her and convinced her it was true.
It was Michael who was actually abusing her and her sister Kathy the entire time. Ross said many officials knew this but did nothing.
Ross read a letter she wrote to Bunko-Ruys around this time. The letter asks for help because Michael was abusing her. Ross wrote that Michael even abused them in Bunko-Ruys’ office when the therapist went outside to talk to Dueck.
“June of ’91. Dear Carol. When you and Brian (left the room) . . . Mike got mad. Then he locked the door. Why? Because so he could screw us — me and Kathy. Then he put his finger in me. Then he gave me a threat. The threat was this — that if I told on him he would put me in a high, high tree and cut the tree with an axe and make me bruise my body. PS — we ate candies. I need help. HELP. From Michelle.”
Ross also tells Dueck in the video that Michael was “screwing” her the night before, but he doesn’t inquire further.
Michael would often sneak into the girls’ room at night in the Klassen foster home, Ross testified.
Foster mother Anita Klassen testified Tuesday she told social workers about Michael. They suggested she buy a beeper for the door, but Michael eventually learned how to avoid detection.
Michael was eventually removed from the Klassen home and placed in a Warman foster home. But after the allegations began against the Klassens, the girls were placed in the Warman home with Michael.
The family also found Michael sneaking into his sisters’ room, Ross testified. They tried the beeper, tried to tie a rope to the door, and even piled cans outside the door. He still got in and molested the girls repeatedly.
“Sometimes, he’d put his hand over our mouth and then he’d abuse us,” she told court.
He became known infamously as “Houdini,” Ross said.
She testified Anita and Dale Klassen were good foster parents, and none of them abused her.
“I was raped by my brother, not by all these other people I said I was,” she said. “I want people to know that.”