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Prosecutors Drop Remaining Charges in Little...

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Prosecutor Nancy Lamb
EDENTON, N.C. (AP) — Charges against the tworemainingdefendants in the Little Rascals sex abuse case will be dropped,prosecutors said today.

Prosecutors are dropping the 99 pending charges against LittleRascals Day Care owner Robert F. Kelly Jr. and seven chargesagainst Kathryn Dawn Wilson, the center's former cook.

Twenty parents and relatives stood on the front steps of theChowan County courthouse while District Attorney Frank Parrish andassistant District Attorney Nancy Lamb made the announcement.

Lamb said the charges were dropped after a review and with theadvice of the parents of the 12 victims. Parents were reluctant tohave their children testify again, she said.

The decision was made to ``allow wounds to heal'' and did notmean that the state had a weak case against Kelly and Wilson, saidLamb, sometimes pausing to contain her emotions.

``I'm at peace with the decision. I don't feel like the systemhas let me down,'' said Susan Small, whose two children were amongthe alleged victims. ``I can't say enough good things about the waythe state prosecuted the case.''

Seven people were charged in 1989 with sexually abusingchildrenat the Edenton day care center operated by Kelly and his wife,Elizabeth.

Only Kelly and Wilson had charges pending against them.

Kelly was convicted in 1992 after the longest and mostexpensivetrial in state history. It lasted nine months and cost more than a$1 million. Wilson was convicted in 1993. Both were sentenced tolife in prison.

Their sentences were overturned by the state Court of Appealsin1995. Part of the court's decision in Kelly's case was based on theinadmissible testimony of Chris Bean. Bean was Kelly's originalattorney. He quit after learning his child was one of the allegedvictims.

Bean said today a new trial would be too much for the children.

``They never talk about it. What they're concerned about iswinning that soccer game and doing well in school. And thank Godfor that,'' Bean said.

Kelly was charged last year with eight new counts of sexualabuse against a girl who did not attend Little Rascals. She was 9years old at the time of the alleged abuse in 1987.

He will be tried on those charges, prosecutors said.

Kelly's defense attorney said prosecutors may have grown tooclose to the alleged victims and their parents.

``I do have some concern that prosecutorial decisions are madeby people who are so obviously emotionally entwined with thecase.'' Gerald Beaver said. ``If justice is going to be served bydismissal of this, then justice would be served by dismissing allof them.''

The Kellys opened Little Rascals in July 1986. A criminalinvestigation began in January 1989 after the mother of one childtalked to a local police officer. The state ordered the day careclosed three months later.

The seven defendants were charged in 1989 with 429 counts ofsexually abusing 29 children.

Critics of the prosecution said Kelly and the others wererailroaded by hysterical parents in a town of 5,200 in rural,northeastern North Carolina.

A defense psychologist for Kelly testified that therapistshiredby the parents planted ideas of abuse in the children's minds.

Children testified about specific acts of sexual abuse. Somealso testified about a magic key, spaceships, a boat trip andswimming with sharks.

Parents and prosecutors said the case was solid and thechildrenwho testified against Kelly and Wilson told the truth in their ownwords.

The Little Rascals case joins other sensational trials of the1980s built on lurid allegations of mass child-molestation atday-care centers which have fallen apart.

In 1984, seven people were indicted in California afterchildrenat the McMartin Preschool claimed they were forced to participatein nude games and other sexual activities. The defendantseventually were found not guilty or had the charges dismissed - butonly after some of them had been jailed for years.

In 1988, New Jersey preschool teacher Margaret Kelly Michaelswas convicted of more than 100 counts of abusing 19 children whileothers at the school allegedly looked the other way. Her convictionwas overturned, but she spent five years in jail.

Prosecutors last year dismissed charges against against threeother defendants in the Little Rascals case after meeting withparents.

Shelley Alyce Stone faced 13 counts of sexual abuse. RobinBolesByrum was charged with 23 crimes. Darlene Harris Bunch was chargedwith three counts, even though she never worked at the center.

Elizabeth Kelly pleaded no contest to 30 felonies and served 30months before being released in 1994.

An acquaintance of Kelly, Willard Scott Privott, pleaded nocontest to taking indecent liberties with a minor in 1995.

Privott spent 3-1/2 years in jail awaiting trial.

By ESTES THOMPSON,Associated Press WriterCopyright ©1997 AssociatedPress. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or distributed.

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