Tue 10 Dec 96 10:13
By: Richard Smith
Re: Something Monstrous 1/2
The Independent - London
ON 13 March this year a pretty, blonde 10-year-old girl
went for a drive around Wenatchee with her foster father and
two child welfare workers. Their purpose was not to gaze on
the mighty Columbia River; or to admire the snow- peaked
Cascade Mountains, which shelter Wenatchee from the wind and
rains of the Pacific coastline; or to stroll through the
orchards which yield America's richest apple crop.
The group's mission was strictly business. They were
driving through the town's run-down neighbourhoods, gravel
roads, rusting hulks of cars, grey wooden houses with peeling
doors. The little girl was the centre of attention. She was
pointing out homes where she said she had been repeatedly,
routinely raped between January 1988, when she was four, and
March 1994, when she was nine. By the end of the drive the
grown-ups had jotted down 22 addresses.
The next morning the little girl - who for legal reasons
must be known as "D.E." - sat down with the same threesome at
the office of the Child Protective Services (CPS) and told
them the whole story. Her foster father took notes. He was a
policeman, Detective Robert Perez. He had taken D.E. into his
care in April 1994, four months after he had been shifted
from patrol duties to the child crime investigating unit. He
had received little training in detective work and none in
the treatment of child-abuse victims. But he forged a bond
with D.E., and one day she started telling him disquieting
stories. This interview at the CPS office was the latest in a
series of attempts to transform those stories into criminal
Det Perez later wrote up the interview, which lasted six
hours, in a 23- page report. It contains the names of 30
adults who, according to D.E., made a habit of using her and
two dozen other girls and boys as their sexual playthings.
She described orgies where parents engaged in oral sex,
sexual intercourse and other perverted acts with their own
and other people's children. The women would touch and
penetrate her "privates"; with the men she had to do "the
wild thing". Of particular interest to Det Perez was her
claim that a focal point for the rituals was a Pentecostal
church, "the House of Prayer", across the Columbia River in
Among the characters D.E. implicated in her conspiracy of
horrors were Robert Roberson, the pastor at the Pentecostal
church, and his wife, Connie; Honnah Sims, a Sunday school
teacher at the same church; Bob Devereaux, a single foster
parent with six girls in his care; Paul Glassen, an employee
of the CPS; Donna Rodriguez, the mother of a girl called Kim
whom D.E. had known since kindergarten; and her own natural
parents, Harold and Idella Everett. In mentioning her mother
and father at the 14 March interview, D.E. was going over old
ground. Her foster father, Det Perez, had arrested them six
months earlier, on 23 September 1994. Acting on information
D.E. herself had provided, he charged Mr Everett on 6,422
counts of child rape and Mrs Everett on 1,586 counts. He was
jailed for 23 years and four months, she for four years and
Since Det Perez joined the town's child crime unit in
January 1994, 45 adults - 24 men, 21 women - have been
charged with sexual abuse of minors. Of these, 16 have
pleaded guilty in exchange for reduced sentences; 10 have
been convicted in court; 10 had their charges reduced and
were set free; two were acquitted and seven await trial. The
26 people found guilty so far have been sentenced to a total
of more than 300 years. The highest sentence, 46 years, went
to a woman, Connie Cunningham.
Tim Abbey, a CPS supervisor who has worked closely with Det
Perez, said last Friday that in 19 years working at the
agency he had never encountered an epidemic of child sex
crimes like this one. As a consequence the CPS has moved more
than 40 children into foster homes. "I had my suspicions for
many years," Mr Abbey said, "and now it's all come together
because the children have reached an age when they can talk
about these things and, no doubt about it, because of the
dedication and energy of Detective Perez."
Gary Riesen, the town's chief prosecutor, said in a speech
to the Wenatchee chamber of commerce on Thursday that he had
total confidence in the professionalism of Det Perez's
Some people are not so sure. Every one of Wenatchee's
28,000 inhabitants agrees that something monstrous has
happened. But whether it is a monstrous crime or a monstrous
perversion of justice is a question that has proved bitterly
divisive. So much so that the Governor of Washington State
has called for an FBI investigation into allegations of a
The first serious doubts about Det Perez's investigations
arose after Kathryn Lyon, a lawyer from out of town, compiled
a 250-page report on the affair. "In 12 years working on more
than 300 cases of child sex abuse I have never had a female
client," Ms Lyon said.
"Here about half the people charged have been women, which
is absolutely remarkable. And there are other striking
things. All those who went to jail had public defenders; all
those who got off hired private counsel. Also, almost all the
people who have been jailed have been poor, weak and
vulnerable with extremely low IQs - Idella Everett's was
tested at 58 - while those who were set free were
significantly more intelligent."
Ms Lyon said 17 people who had confessed to Det Perez
withdrew their confessions when they spoke to her. "I saw a
pattern in the interrogations. He combines terrible threats
to these vulnerable people with exorbitant promises, such as
saying they will not go to jail if they come clean. One
woman I spoke to said Perez had threatened to take away her
wooden leg if she did not confess."
No less disturbing are indications that Det Perez
manipulated the crucial witnesses, the children. Mr Riesen,
supporting his star investigator, stresses that D.E. was not
the only child to furnish evidence of a huge sex ring.
Thirteen other children had also been interviewed, the
prosecutor said. I spoke to two of them last week.
KIM ALLBEE, a plump, bright girl of 11, knew D.E. well. She
arrived for the interview with her mother, Donna Rodriguez,
sat down and proceeded confidently to tell her story.
On the morning of 2 February, Kim said she was ordered to
leave class and go into a room to talk to Det Perez. Perez
said D.E. had told him that she, Kim, had been sexually
molested by adults. Was it true? "I said 'No way!' But then
he kept going and telling me, like, you were molested and
everything like that. Then he drew a stick man and he asked
me where the private area was. He said I should circle it,
and I did. Then he asked me, 'Were you touched there?' And I
said, 'Yeah, right!' " Kim curled her lip, indicating that
the remark had been sarcastic.
"Then he picked up the phone and said, 'If you don't start
telling me the truth you're never going to see your family
again'. I stared at him. He put down the phone and said,
'You've got five minutes to tell me the truth or your mom
goes to jail and you'll never see her again'." Kim buckled.
Det Perez, she said, bombarded her with leading questions
gleaned largely from the testimony of her friend, his foster
daughter, D.E.. "To every question I just said 'uh-huh', you
know, agreeing with him but not saying anything."
Kim fell silent and Mrs Rodriguez picked up the thread.
"Fifteen minutes after Kim left school, four cop cars arrived
at the front of my home. They arrested me and then I was
questioned by Perez for two hours. He told me my daughter had
said she had seen me sexually molest 14 other children. He
said I had 'done' my daughter and then I had let Bob
Devereaux 'do' my daughter. He said I'd go to prison for
life. I was crying. Then I thought, 'Women raping little
girls! I mean, like, really!' And I got mad. I pounded the
desk and said if I ever saw a child molested I'd report it
immediately. Then he put handcuffs on me and took me to
Mrs Rodriguez was charged on 168 counts of child rape. She
spent three weeks in jail before being freed on $25,000 bail.
From jail she phoned her ex- husband, Kim's father, and got
him to take Kim away from Wenatchee. She also hired a
private lawyer. On 21 August, two weeks before her trial, all
charges were dropped. In the absence of Kim, the only witness
Det Perez had was D.E..
Kim, who was only reunited with her mother after she had
been cleared, wishes Det Perez had never been born.
Another girl whom Det Perez interviewed was Annie
Rodriguez. She was the critical piece in the Bob Devereaux
puzzle, the witness the detective believed would substantiate
D.E.'s allegations. As Det Perez saw it, Mr Devereaux, a
foster parent to six girls aged 11 to 17, was the most
sinister figure after Pastor Roberson in the child sex
conspiracy. Police records show that D.E. said Mr Devereaux
would invite 20 or so adults over on Friday and Saturday
nights to have sex with his girls and 15 other children.
This, she said, went on for six years. Mr Devereaux faced
eight life sentences on 670 counts of child rape and 335 of
The case broke down after Annie, who is 16, recanted the
story she told Det Perez. A victim of foetal alcohol
syndrome, she has a mental age lower than Kim's. "Perez came
across as all macho," she said. "I found him intimidating.
He put his face in my face. He got me to say things." Enough
"things" for Det Perez promptly to arrest Mr Devereaux. That
was on 3 August 1994. A few days later Annie told Paul
Glassen, a CPS employee, that she had told "a whole bunch of
lies", whereupon Mr Glassen was arrested for tampering with a
witness and later accused - again, on the basis of D.E.'s
evidence - of being a child molester himself. He fled to
Canada, where he remains to this day. Mr Devereaux's case
went to court, even in the absence of Annie's testimony for
the prosecution. He spent $50,000 on his defence and lost his
home, but the abuse charges were dropped and he was set free.
"I just feel so sorry for the people Perez has sent to
jail," Mr Devereaux said last week. "Most of them - except
for Honnah, Donna Rodriguez, the pastor and I, are retarded
people - easy prey, especially for confession and plea
Honnah Sims, who is 31 and married with one son, is the
Sunday school teacher at the Pentecostal church. Her accusers
were D.E. and a little friend of hers, A S. "D.E. told Perez
I stuck my fingers in her," Mrs Sims said. "A S said I used
carrots and pencils, too. I was facing two life sentences for
child rape." Mrs Sims hired a Seattle lawyer, Robert Van
Siclen, to defend her. She said he demolished D.E. and A S in
court. When Mr Van Siclen asked A S why she would turn
someone in if it was not true, the court record shows she
replied: "To get my way."
Mrs Sims, like Mr Devereaux, was bankrupted, but it was
worth it. Her trial lasted a week and the jury took just half
an hour to acquit her on all counts.
HER church, however, remained under suspicion. Last Friday
the trial began of Det Perez's prize catch, Pastor Robert
Roberson. His problems began when he undertook too vociferous
a public defence of D.E.'s parents, both of whom had been
members of his congregation. In October last year the CPS
warned him to keep out of the case or he would be arrested
for tampering with police evidence. But he continued to dig
for evidence of his own. A close friend of the Everett
family, who were among thousands of beneficiaries of a food
programme for the poor that the pastor ran from his church,
he was begged by D.E.'s 15-year-old brother, Richard, to help
his parents out. Richard, according to members of the church
congregation, insisted that his sister was lying. At Idella
Everett's sentencing hearing on 30 January, Pastor Roberson
stood up and denounced the court's findings.
"As I walked out of the court Perez said, 'We warned you,
Roberson, we warned you'," the pastor said. "I was afraid but
I let it all hang out at a town meeting on 23 March. Five
days later, 11 police cars turned up at my church. I was
handcuffed and arrested, held for 135 days, beaten up five
times and charged with four counts of child rape. My wife,
Connie, has been charged on two counts of rape."
The basis for Pastor Roberson's arrest was the statement
D.E. gave on the day after her drive around Wenatchee. She
described an encounter between herself, her sister Melinda,
her three brothers and the pastor and his wife. "Pastor Roby
touched me and did the wild thing and did the same to Melinda
. . . Connie put her fingers inside me and my sister. She did
the wild thing to all three boys."
To Pastor Roberson's initial dismay, an adult witness
stepped forward to corroborate the evidence against him. Gary
Filbeck, a previously convicted paedophile, was arrested for
child rape this year but was offered a reduced sentence by
Wenatchee prosecutors if he testified against the pastor. Mr
Van Siclen, who is defending Pastor Roberson, said Mr Filbeck
told Det Perez "he saw Roberson butt-naked, bonking little
D.E. in front of at least 29 people inside the church".
Filbeck said he saw the pastor ejaculate and cry, "There goes
"I interviewed Filbeck two weeks ago," Mr Van Siclen said
on Thursday, "and he told me none of this happened. Yet the
prosecution say he will testify to his original story in
"In 25 years doing these kinds of cases I've never seen
anything like this. Ordinarily, if there's nothing there the
police and the prosecutors drop the cases. Here they just
throw the evidence in the air and let the jury decide. And
this when the chief witness is living with the chief
investigator! I'm not saying there are no sexual abuses in
this community. I'm sure there are. But they don't involve
this investigation or anyone in this church."
The curious thing about the Roberson trial is that D.E.
will not be called as a witness. She is a child, welfare
records show, with a history of psychiatric problems.
Although Det Perez has sought to convey in court the
impression that he formed a strong bond with her after
admitting her to his home in April 1994, a CPS document shows
that in January this year he found her so troublesome he
tried to have her removed from his care. She has terrible
screaming fits and a tendency to break things. On 22
September she was arrested by the juvenile delinquency
department for "malicious damage" and then sent to a hospital
for observation. Mr Abbey, the CPS supervisor, said D.E. had
been too drained by her ordeals to testify again.
Other children have been drained, possibly damaged, by
their exposure to the Wenatchee justice system. Kathryn Lyon
said at least a dozen children who have fallen into the scope
of the sex abuse investigations have been sent to a
psychiatric hospital, in some cases for retracting evidence
they had given against the alleged child rapists.
As for Det Perez, who is variously described by his
detractors in Wenatchee as an "egomaniac" and an "evil
whacko", he admitted to me that he felt "under the gun". He
is also unhappy that at the end of the year the Wenatchee
Police Department plans to return him to patrol duty.
But he came across as confident that his experiment in
detective work had proved of service to his community. "I
have no second thoughts about any of the cases I have
investigated. Not one. The criticism against me has been
generated by a handful of people in this area who have been
either suspects or have been convicted."
What about the threatened FBI investigation? "That would be
fine. There's nothing to hide here. I'm very satisfied. I've
made a major impact on the lives of these children."
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