One of the twin sisters who falsely accused Richard Klassen and his family members of abuse more than a decade ago says she’s pleased with a judge’s recent ruling.
“I’m really, really happy. I kind of knew the judge would go for the right decision,” 21-year-old Kathy Ross said in an interview from her B.C. residence.
“There was just way too much evidence there to go the other way.”
On Tuesday, Justice George Baynton of the Court of Queen’s Bench released his decision into the Klassens’ malicious prosecution lawsuit. Baynton found that child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga and Saskatoon police officer Brian Dueck maliciously prosecuted Richard Klassen and 11 other plaintiffs.
In the early 1990s, Richard Klassen, his wife and other family members were wrongly accused of sexually abusing Kathy Ross, her twin sister Michell and the twins’ older brother Michael. The Ross kids were the foster children of Richard Klassen’s brother, Peter Dale Klassen and Peter Dale’s wife Anita.
The bizarre allegations included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice, as well as claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.
Police arrested 16 people in 1991, but charges against 12 individuals were stayed in 1993, while Richard Klassen’s father, Peter, pleaded guilty to sexual assault as part of a plea bargain to spare his family members. The birth parents and a family member were found guilty, but the decision was later overturned by the Supreme Court.
The children later recanted their stories, and Michael Ross was found to be abusing his sisters.
Klassen and the others then sued for in excess of $10-million, alleging malicious prosecution. Lawyers for police, prosecutors and the therapist, meanwhile, argued the officials were simply doing their jobs.
“The lengthy civil trial that was conducted before me demonstrates how lying children wreaked such havoc, not only in the lives of the innocent people who were charged with numerous serious criminal offences founded on the children’s allegations, but also in the lives of the individuals who foolishly and maliciously acted together to charge and prosecute the plaintiffs for those criminal offences,” Baynton said in his 189-page judgment.
In the interview, Kathy Ross said she was happy to help out the Klassens by testifying at the civil trial. She said she didn’t get as emotional as her sister, but rather “kind of held it in.
“I think I was scared and nervous, you know, but I also knew that I had to do the right thing,” she said.
“I think it really opened my eyes, because that was the first time I actually talked about it a lot like that. So I think it was a healing process for me.”
Despite the hardships the Klassens have endured over the years, the family has maintained contact with the Ross sisters, and, to a lesser extent, Michael Ross, Richard Klassen said.
“But with the two girls, certainly they call us mom and dad and whatever. They have ever since they apologized,” he said. “They’ve always considered us their parents. They don’t have any parents.”
Klassen said he believes Michael Ross still lives in Saskatoon, but he “travels around.”
He said he has forgiven the children, who were once wards of the government, and believes they should have gotten “immediate attention for their sexual abuse problems that they were having with each other.”
Klassen said the Ross twins still blame themselves for what happened to his family.
“They always apologize and they’re always saying they’re sorry, and they don’t have to do that.”
At age 21, Michell Ross is currently in Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert, “since she keeps breaching little things and going back,” he said. Her two children have been “taken away by social services,” according to Klassen.
Kathy Ross said her sister is “still fairly hurt” by past events and recently got 40 days at the correctional centre for breaching probation. Michell Ross will be released on Jan. 10, said Kathy Ross, who also has a 17-month-old son in foster care.
According to Klassen, Michell Ross is an extremely intelligent person and is the most emotional of the three siblings.
“After she testified and everything, she gave me a plaque,” he recalled. “You know, she was thinking about me and my nerves. And it just said ‘spend the day thinking about yourself and calm down. You’re doing good.’ So she’s a really caring child.”
While the Ross twins may now be celebrating Klassen’s legal victory, their thoughts have also turned to their own legal future.
In 2001, around the time of their 19th birthdays, they launched a lawsuit of their own. The sisters are suing Dueck, Bunko-Ruys, the City of Saskatoon board of police commissioners, the province of Saskatchewan and a number of other parties, according to a statement of claim filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The statement of claim alleges the defendants “owed a duty of care” to the Ross sisters to prevent each of them from being placed in a position where they suffered or were likely to suffer physical harm, suffered or were likely to suffer a serious impairment of mental or emotional functioning and were or were likely to be exposed to harmful interaction for a sexual purpose.
It also alleges the defendants knew Michael Ross was sexually assaulting each of the plaintiffs.
In an interview Wednesday, Robert Borden, lawyer for the Ross twins, said Baynton’s judgment is “very, very helpful” for the Ross lawsuit. No date has been set for a civil trial, he said.
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