Where are they now?

National | What's new for the subjects of five past WORLD stories

Issue: "Fighting Cultural Ebonics," Feb. 1, 1997

**red_square** The trials of Wenatchee (Nov. 18, 1995)

Authorities in Wenatchee, Wash., used the inconsistent, often-contradictory testimony of a few children to arrest 46 men and women in 1994. They were charged with--and many were convicted of--taking part in a bizarre, ritualistic sex ring, molesting hundreds of children thousands of times. In the three years since the investigation by what a police department review concluded was an ill-trained and volatile detective, 24 citizens of Wenatchee either accepted plea bargains (under pressure from their public defenders) or were convicted.

No real evidence was ever found. The sex-ring theory began unraveling when two alleged leaders of the ring, pastor Robert Roberson and his wife Connie, were acquitted in late 1995.

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Now, the young girl whose testimony launched the prosecutions has recanted--on videotape. The girl ran away from foster care and called Mr. Roberson, saying she wanted to tell the truth. So the pastor, his attorney, a county official, and a television news reporter taped her story, in which she detailed the physical abuse and coercion of the investigating detective, Robert Perez (who was the girl's foster father), and the coaching she received from prosecutors and social workers.

So far, the reaction of some in the Wenatchee justice system to the recanted testimony has been to threaten Mr. Roberson, his attorney, and everyone else who was present when the girl recanted, with prosecution on charges of harboring a runaway and even kidnapping. But the tape will be used in Mr. Roberson's civil suits against the county government and against the detective, which should go before a Seattle judge this year.

**red_square** Roe without Roe (March 10, 1996)

Norma McCorvey, known as &quotJane Roe" in the Supreme Court case that legalized abortion, became a convert to Christianity and to pro-life activism in 1995. Operation Rescue National moved into the Dallas office complex where Ms. McCorvey worked in an abortion clinic, and over the course of months, God softened her heart through the ministry of Christian activists she often verbally abused.

When she announced her conversion, pro-abortion leaders were quick to dismiss her as impressionable and downplay her importance to the abortion movement, and predicted the pro-lifers would tire of her soon.

They haven't. Miss Norma, as they call her, still works at the OR National office, and, she told WORLD, &quotI hope I never have to leave." She spent Christmas with her daughter and family in Amarillo, Texas, and this year she says she wants to &quotget a little better at sidewalk counseling."

**red_square** A reason to live (March 23, 1996)

A year ago, two bullets to the head in a drug deal that went sour left a Texas woman a quadraplegic. Unable to move or speak, &quotLaurie" (that's not her real name) communicates with eye movements. One of the first things she communicated was that she wanted to die. Now it's up to the Supreme Court to decide whether people have a constitutional right to die and to a physician's help to carry it out.

Laurie was befriended by Julie Grimstad, who heads the Center for the Rights of the Terminally Ill. Mrs. Grimstad's care helped lift Laurie out of her despair and deplorable living conditions. Laurie is &quotdoing pretty well," Mrs. Grimstad reports. She's been in and out of the hospital and is still living in a Texas nursing home, but she's been given a computer to help her communicate and was able to spend Christmas with her son and her ex-husband's family.

**red_square** Foundation of lies (March 10, 1995)

There's encouraging news from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, a group that has helped the scores of ministries and non-profit groups swallowed up in the New Era scandal. When New Era officials filed bankruptcy in May 1995, it became increasingly clear to authorities that this foundation was actually a ponzi scheme (that's where early &quotinvestors" are paid off not by interest, but by funds collected from later &quotinvestors"). In all, 180 Christian ministries, schools, and other non-profits lost a total of $135 million, according to court documents.

Now, according to ECFA head Paul Nelson, charities and their creditors have reached a settlement, resulting in between an 85- and 90-percent payback of money lost. All the creditors have agreed to the settlement, and checks containing the first 20 percent of the losses are literally in the mail, Mr. Nelson says. The rest should be sent out by the end of the year.

New Era founder John G. Bennett Jr. was indicted in September on 82 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. Now under psychiatric care, he has pleaded innocent and will use insanity as his defense.


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