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Klassen/Kvello civil action

A self-represented litigant's major accomplishment

injusticebusters thank all the journalists who got on board to help make this the story of the century. This trial represents a culmination of the 5½ years we have been on the Internet and the 5 years before where we tried to get the story to the public.

Guardian knew kids were lying:
Kids rewarded with fast-food, inquest hears

The woman who was the first to learn of bizarre ritual sex abuse allegations by her three foster children noted at that early stage that the children appeared to be lying at times.

Brian Dueck

These false allegations, repeated to a Saskatoon police officer (Brian Dueck) and a therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys, led to charges against more than a dozen adults in a 1991 case known as the "scandal of the century".

It was actually the foster boy, Michael Ross, abusing his sisters, Kathy and Michelle Ross, the entire time.

Most of the people charged are suing justice officials for $10M for malicious prosecution. The trial began in Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench Monday.

"Michael has had a terrible time with lying because he's been covering for him and Michelle and they both threaten Kathy," foster mother Marilyn Thompson wrote.

Thompson sat down with the three children more than 20 times at the family kitchen table in Warman, often until 3 a.m.

She took 90 pages of notes, much of it graphic allegations of child abuse suffered by the Ross children at the hands of their former foster family, the Klassens. The claims also included the Klassens' extended family members.

Carol Bunko-Ruys

Thompson appears to make abbreviated references in her notes to Cpl. Brian Dueck and therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys (right), the two officials who led the investigation.

In one of the pages, Thompson transcribes a story about an alleged baby killing. The kids even demonstrated, tying each other down on the table.

"They appear to be willing to do this demo for Brian, etc.," she wrote.

Most of these allegations were repeated for Dueck and Bunko-Ruys during videotaped interviews at the Saskatoon police station in 1990. In one interview, Michelle Ross enters the room and a large knife is already there, as are stuffed animals and anatomically correct dolls.

There are also notes from Thompson alleging that Michael was repeatedly abusing his sisters, yet the children were not separated.

She details frequent oral sex and intercourse taking place between Michael, 11, and Michelle, 8. Michael won't have sex with Kathy, also 8, "because he says he's afraid Kathy will let out a big scream."

Thompson's husband, Lyle, sat in on some of these kitchen table sessions, but at least once got too sick and had to leave, according to the notes. The Thompsons could not be located to testify at the trial.

McDueck's In her testimony Friday, Michelle Ross, now 22 years old, said she and Michael and Kathy were also taken out to fast food restaurants more than a dozen times by Dueck and Bunko-Ruys.

Michelle Ross appears to have seen the restaurant trips as a reward for her co-operation.

In a letter to Bunko-Ruys, Ross writes she "should get an award" for relaxing on the couch and closing her eyes during a session.

"I would like to know when me and (sister) Kathy are going out for lunch. See you later Carol. Thanks for Everything. Everything! From Michelle Ross."

They went to Taco Time, McDonald's, and various other Saskatoon restaurants, sometimes during breaks from the police station questioning sessions.

Richard Klassen, a plaintiff representing himself in the lawsuit, said the Thompson papers showed Michael was "a pathological liar" from the start, and officials knew that.

Robert Borden, lawyer for the other 11 plaintiffs, said the first week has gone very well. He said they are ahead of schedule and should finish their case in another eight to 10 days.

It's not clear whether the defendants will present any witnesses. Defence lawyers Don McKillop and David Gerrand said they are not making any public comment during the trial.


Dueck's claims doubted: Alberta social workers questioned abuse allegations

A group of Alberta social workers doubted the 1991 ritual child abuse allegations against more than a dozen adults, but the Saskatoon police officer leading the investigation "seemed very certain," one social worker testified Thursday.

"I don't know if excited is the right word, but enthusiastic about his case. He felt he was in the middle of a big investigation," said child social worker Sheila Verwey of Saskatoon police Cpl. Brian Dueck.

The claims investigated by Dueck and made by foster children Michael, Michelle and Kathy Ross included the murder of babies, forcing children to perform sexual acts with animals, and massive orgies.

The claims of the children proved false, and a dozen adults originally charged in the case are now suing Dueck and other officials for more than $10M.

The lawsuit began earlier this week at the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon, and has focused mainly on Dueck's investigation.

Dueck and social worker Carol Bunko-Ruys had been investigating members of the Klassen family and others after the Ross children made the horrific claims.

Some of the Klassens had moved to Alberta for work by this time. Verwey, a provincial social services worker in Red Deer, Alta., testified her office got a call from a social worker in Saskatchewan in April of 1991.

That worker, who Verwey said she can't name because of regulations, told the Red Deer office about the Saskatchewan investigation, and said the Klassens were also abusing their own birth children.

The worker said Verwey's office would have to help apprehend the Klassens and their children.

A month passed, so Verwey's colleague called the unnamed Saskatchewan social worker back. They were told there was a delay because "they were having difficulty finding a Crown prosecutor to take the case."

Dueck came to Red Deer shortly after and presented the case to the Red Deer social services office, complete with documentation.

The Red Deer staff were "uncomfortable" about Dueck's conclusions, Verwey testified.

Dueck "seemed very certain of what he was dealing with. We weren't coming to the same conclusions," she said.

"I'm not saying it was completely impossible, but the information provided about ritualistic sex abuse -- it covered so many people in an organized way."

Verwey admitted Dueck may have had other information to make his conclusions, but it wasn't shared with them at the time.

Verwey will continue her testimony today.

Earlier in the day, three retired Saskatoon police officers testified, including Dueck's supervisor at the time of the case.

Theodore Johnson supervised 12 officers, including Dueck, in the youth division.

Johnson said he knew "basically nothing" about the Klassen investigation because Dueck did not give him much information.

At one point, Johnson thinks he even asked Dueck to give him a written progress report on the case, but Dueck didn't comply.

"He said he was working with the social workers and the prosecutors," but didn't give any specifics, Johnson said.

Another former officer, Marv Hansen, discussed the importance of written reports and of keeping Johnson informed. It ensured that officers "worked in a responsible manner."

Under cross-examination by Dueck's lawyer David Gerrand, Hansen said it was "incredibly difficult" to assess the credibility of child witnesses.

This was complicated by the fact the department was short-staffed at the time, and child abuse investigators had little training in the area, he said.

"We struggled to learn on the job," he said.

Hansen said he eventually requested a transfer out of the unit because of the stress.

Officers didn't want to charge innocent people with child abuse, but they also didn't want to let real child abusers get away with it, Hansen said.

Hansen detailed certain interview techniques used on suspects in abuse cases. It was common to lie or at least mislead suspects in an effort to elicit a confession, he said.

If the suspect is convinced "the jig is up," they may confess, Hansen said.


Video details horrific claims at trial: Officials failed to investigate brother for abuse, victim says

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.

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 $10M 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."


'I'm not guilty,' Klassen cries:
video: Woman repeatedly sought lawyer during interrogation, tape shows

Anita Klassen repeatedly asks for her lawyer while being accused of sexually abusing her foster children, but Saskatoon police Cpl. Brian Dueck continues to question her for nearly an hour, court witnessed Tuesday when a disturbing video of the 12-year-old interview was played.

"I believe (the foster children) are telling the truth. Do you want to tell me the truth?" Dueck said to Klassen.

"I didn't do nothing wrong. I'm not guilty," she answers, sobbing loudly.

She asks for her lawyer for the second time, but Dueck continues his questions.

"I don't want to hear it. I want to talk to my lawyer," she repeats.

Klassen is one of 12 people suing Dueck, Crown prosecutors, social workers, and other justice officials for malicious prosecution in a case known at the time as the "scandal of the century." They were all charged in 1991 with sexually abusing Klassen's foster children -- Michael, Michelle, and Kathy Ross -- as well as other children.

The charges were stayed against all of them as part of a controversial plea bargain which saw Anita Klassen's father-in-law, Peter, plead guilty.

All three Ross children have since admitted to making up the allegations against the 12 plaintiffs, as well as those against Peter Klassen. Michael was actually abusing his sisters repeatedly.

Dueck showed up at the Red Deer, Alta., Dairy Queen restaurant where Anita Klassen worked on June 25, 1991.

He told her she was being detained for questioning, and they conducted a videotaped interview at the Red Deer police station. That video was played Tuesday in Saskatoon's Queen's Bench Court during the second day of the $10M lawsuit.

Still wearing her red and beige work uniform and light grey running shoes, Klassen sits down on a couch with her arms folded and legs crossed.

Dueck begins by outlining some of the allegations against her.

Klassen says she tried to care for the kids "to the best of my abilities." Her distress begins to show, as she places one hand over her face.

"I didn't do anything wrong to them. I took care of them," she says.

"Why would they make up those kinds of things?" Dueck says.

"I don't know. . . . I couldn't control them," she says.

Later, Dueck says he has interviewed more than 200 children in other cases and "they don't lie about things like that."

After requesting her lawyer for the third time, Klassen is crying loudly and almost screaming.

She stands up and walks off camera to a different part of the room, still sobbing.

"Anita, come and sit down here," Dueck instructs.

"Ohhhhh, God!" she screams.

"C'mon. Sit down. Anita? Anita? Come, sit down," he says again.

"Ohhhhh, God, ahhhhh!" she screams repeatedly.

After more than a minute, Klassen sits back on the couch and curls up in the fetal position with her head facing away from Dueck.

She stands again and paces, then kneels on the couch looking away from Dueck.

Dueck asks how she is doing, then asks her again to reveal what she did to her foster kids.

"Maybe it was fun for them," Dueck says.

"Maybe they enjoyed it. Did they enjoy it?"

She begins to sob again.

"Nooooo. I didn't do nothing," she says.

Dueck tells her that prosecutors and other American experts have viewed tapes of the children's allegations, and "we've all come to the conclusion that these kids are telling the truth.

"I think it's time you face reality. It's up to you now, whether you want to help yourself."

Eventually, after asking several more similar questions, Dueck ends the interview.

During the playing of the video Tuesday, Klassen sat in the witness box and stared at the floor. Many of her supporters and other plaintiffs cried or shook their heads during the testimony.

Dueck, who has since been promoted to the rank of Saskatoon Police Service superintendent, sat alone in the back of the courtroom.

Dueck declined an interview, saying he doesn't want to try the case in the media.

Klassen said she felt "caged in this little room and (pressured) to talk and say I did it when I didn't.

"I asked to speak to a lawyer quite often and I felt that I wasn't able to go talk to a lawyer," she told reporters outside court.

The incident has harmed every aspect of her life. She doesn't trust people, and worries about being arrested every time a police officer comes to her workplace.

Klassen also testified Tuesday about the problems she had with Michael Ross in her home.

He would sneak into the girls' room at night and touch them, she said.

They bought a buzzer that would alert the family when he entered the girls' room, and tried other measures, but he found ways around it.

She told the Department of Social Services to remove Michael from her home, partly because he threatened to kill her own newborn baby.

But it was nearly a year before Michael was removed.

Two other witnesses testified Tuesday. Both are plaintiffs in the suit but cannot be named because they were youths at the time of the charges.

The one woman said she was pressured by therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys to admit her parents abused her, even though they had not.

Bunko-Ruys, who is also named in the lawsuit, told the then girl she'd lose her job unless the girl admitted her parents abused her. The girl repeatedly denied the allegation.

Testimony continues today, and is expected to last several weeks.


'Clear our name,' Klassen matriarch implores daughter on her death bed

The last words of 56-year-old Marie Klassen before she died in 1995 were, "Clear our name," says her daughter, one of 12 people suing justice officials for wrongly prosecuting them on child sexual abuse charges.

"There's a lot of resentment that she can't be here today, that she can't see the best part today," daughter Pam Shetterly said outside court Monday.

"If my mother could have defended herself, she certainly would have. It is now our responsibility and we will do that."

The $10-million lawsuit in the case once dubbed the "scandal of the century" began Monday in Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench.

Under questioning from the various lawyers, Pam Shetterly -- formerly Pam Klassen -- talked about her mother's blindness, partial paralysis, and other afflictions.

Marie Klassen could not walk without assistance as a result of being dragged by a horse as a child. She couldn't bathe herself, and needed help with other tasks.

But she was alleged to have chased a boy down the street, dragged him back to her house and abused him. Another allegation charged that she laid the children in the bathtub and then laid on top of them.

Shetterly said it was obvious that her mother could not have committed the alleged acts of abuse, given her condition.

Shetterly was also charged with abusing the children. There were bizarre allegations of sexual parties, where the various Klassen family members and other adults would abuse children. There were allegations of "sex with bats, eating of babies, drinking of blood -- that sort of thing," Shetterly said.

At one point, Saskatoon Police Service Const. Brian Dueck told Shetterly she and her family members would be charged with sexual assault.

Dueck told her that her brothers, who were also being charged "could run but they could not hide," she said.

"I told him it was impossible. I told him it was ludicrous," she said.

Shetterly's foster children were removed from her home, as was another boy whom she had adopted. Even after the charges were stayed against her and most of the others, she was not allowed to be a foster parent again, she said.

After testifying, Shetterly told reporters life has been "dreadful" since they were charged in 1991.

"The anguish, the fear, has been resurfacing," she said.

"We have to touch the most painful part of our lives for a courtroom that we didn't feel held any justice for us 13 years ago.

"We hope that times have changed."

Shetterly was one of three witnesses to testify on the first day of the lawsuit Monday. The suit is expected to run for several weeks.

Justice George Bayton said there are a number of "complex and convoluted" issues that are sure to surface, and his task will not be easy.

He asked all parties to focus on speaking during the court process "not in public demonstrations or in the media."

Bayton noted that there has been national public and media interest in the case. He's allowing the assembled media to audiotape the proceedings. The tapes will not be allowed to be broadcast, but will assist media in taking accurate notes, he explained.

And Bayton allowed one of the plaintiffs representing himself, Richard Klassen, to have his assistant sit at his counsel table, even though she has no formal legal training.

More than 30 witnesses are expected to testify, including prosecutors, police, and various other justice officials.

The charges were laid against these 12 and others in July 1991. The group went through a pretrial hearing and was committed to stand trial. On the eve of the trial, a contentious plea bargain was reached.

Marie Klassen's father, Peter, who had previous child-abuse convictions, pleaded guilty in exchange for the remaining charges against his family members being stayed.


Lawsuit in 'scandal of century' begins today

A $10M lawsuit filed in 1994 by a dozen people wrongly accused of ritualistic child abuse begins today, reviving a case once known as the "scandal of the century."

Richard Klassen, one of the plaintiffs and drivers of the lawsuit, said he can't believe he'll finally get the chance to show people what really happened.

"My guts are turning. I'm confident we have a very strong case for malicious prosecution," said Klassen, who now lives in Outlook.

"We'll finally be able to tell our stories."

Six weeks have been set aside to hear the lawsuit at Saskatoon's Court of Queen's Bench. Police officers, social workers, prosecutors, and judges are among those expected to testify.

Klassen, his wife and others were accused of abusing three Saskatoon-area foster children in 1991. The allegations included acts of satanic worship, including claims they forced the children to eat feces and drink urine.

Eventually the allegations included almost every adult the children had known. In 1991, police arrested 16 people. 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.

All three children have since admitted they made up the stories under pressure from prosecutors, social workers and police. In reality, the older boy was abusing his two sisters.

Klassen has developed relationships with all three of his young accusers, now in their 20s. His actions have led to a criminal-libel charge and prompted some of the defendants to counter-sue him.

The lawsuit claims justice officials "encouraged the children to make up stories of sexual abuse."

Social workers, police and others intimidated the children, selectively reinforced certain responses, and even suggested answers to questions, the suit alleges.

"They knew we were innocent. This was deliberate," Klassen said. "This prosecution was out of control."

The arrests in 1991 came around the same time as those in the Martensville sex abuse case. Saskatoon police officer John Popowich, who was wrongly accused of child abuse in that case, was given a $1.3M settlement and an apology from the provincial government last year.

Then-Justice Minister Chris Axworthy pledged to move quickly to settle the outstanding suits in the Martensville case, and Klassen also hoped a settlement and apology were near for him and the others.

But none of the other Martensville plaintiffs have reached a settlement, and Klassen said the government has not approached him with offers.

Klassen's case has wound through the court process slowly as both sides have filed countless motions against the other.

Klassen, with a Grade 7 education, has represented himself and has spent most of the past nine years researching the case. Saskatoon lawyer Robert Borden represents the other plaintiffs.

Government lawyer Don McKillop declined to comment on the case.

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