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USA v. Peterson, et al. Trial, Week 4

Monday, September 28, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 8 of trial - Shanley testimony continues

The criminal trial of USA v Peterson et al. continued after two days’ delay caused by the illness of a juror. Five former professionals affiliated with the Spring Shadows Glen private mental hospital in Houston have been charged with 60 counts of insurance and mail fraud and for knowingly misdiagnosing patients with multiple personality disorder in order to keep them in the hospital. Defendants are psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, therapist Sylvia Davis, and former hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck. Defense attorneys have argued that patients received appropriate care at Spring Shadows Glen because they had already been diagnosed with serious mental illness before they arrived there.

The testimony of former patient Mary Shanley continued as she explained that when she asked therapists at Spring Shadows Glen for dental treatment for a painful abcessed tooth in September 1991, she was not taken to the dentist until December because her husband had warned therapists that a satanic cult had placed a transmitter in one of her fillings. Shanley said the infection was so bad that she was put on antibiotics and a soft-food diet and that she eventually lost five teeth because of the lack of treatment.

Peterson’s medical notes were introduced. These included a quote from Mary, "If there is any justice in heaven then Dr. Peterson should go straight to hell...I don’t have little Satans inside me." The notes also said that Shanley herself feared she would be "re-triggered" by the cult if she went to the dentist. In her testimony, Shanley said that she did not remember saying this.

Shanley also testified about her desperation when therapists told her that she had abused her then 9-year old son Ryan. She said, "Part of me knew there was no way I wouldn’t remember abusing Ryan," but that she knew her son did not lie. When Shanley expressed doubts about doing this, the therapists told her that she was in denial and resistant to therapy. Mary Shanley reported herself to Child Protective Services after Peterson had called them on the telephone and handed the receiver to Shanley. Shanley was never charged with child abuse.

Shanley testified that therapists responded to any doubts about her memories by telling her that the cult implanted the doubts to damage her therapy. They told her that the reason she didn’t remember the cult-related activities was because her alters had "amnesia."

The prosecution played a tape recording of a November 20, 1991 therapy session in which Peterson could be heard telling Shanley that she was a murderer and that she might spend the rest of her life in prison. Shanley testified that Peterson told her that she was the only mother at Spring Shadows Glen not working to save her child.

Shanley said that the therapists "always encouraged me to believe the memories were real. Never once did anyone say:‘You’re probably right. This does sound pretty crazy to me.’"

This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Woman testifies psychiatric hospital refused to treat tooth" 9/28/98

Tuesday, September 29, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 9 of Trial -- Shanley testimoney continues

Mary Shanley continued her testimony on day nine of the criminal trial U.S.A. v Peterson et al. Five former employees of the private psychiatric hospital Spring Shadows Glen in Houston (now Memorial Spring Shadows Glen) are defendants in a 60-count indictment including mail fraud, insurance fraud and knowingly misdiagnosing MPD in order to keep patients in the hospital. Charged for their activities in 1991 and 1992 are psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck.

In May 1991 Mary Shanley went to Spring Shadows Glen with her then 9-year-old son Ryan because her Chicago therapists, including Roberta Sachs, believed they had been programmed by a satanic cult. Judith Peterson at Spring Shadows Glen was said to be an expert in "deprogramming." Ryan was sent back to Illinois after a few weeks at Spring Shadows Glen but Shanley was kept in the hospital until June 1993.

Shanley testified that therapists told her that she must identify alternate personalities and recover memories of cult activities in order to save her son from practicing murder, cannibalism and torture as a cult member. "I couldn’t give up on my son," she said.

Shanley said that she gave the therapists lists of colors, nicknames and toy animals that she was told might be keys to deprogramming her son. She said the defendants feared that a children’s book, "Cars and Trucks and Things that Go" had been used by the cult to program him.

Eventually Ryan told Chicago therapists he remembered being abused by his mother and father and other family members. When Mary Shanley in Houston did not recover the same memories, she was told that she was resisting therapy and prohibited from writing or drawing for several months because therapists believed that such activities re-triggered her cult programming. Eventually, Shanley testified, she recovered memories of cannibalism and human sacrifice.

The prosecution played an audio tape of a therapy session that took place on May 18, 1992. On the tape Peterson told Shanley, who had been a teacher in Illinois, that she would never again teach or work with children.

Defense attorneys argue that the defendants gave appropriate care to patients at Spring Shadows Glen. They say that the patients had already been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses before they arrived.

The trial will resume on Thursday October 1.

This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Ex-patient tells of bid to save son after cult diagnosis by therapists." 9/29/98.

Thursday, October 1, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 10 of trial - Shanley testimony continues

Day 10 of the federal criminal trial against five workers at the former Spring Shadows Glen private mental hospital in Houston continued with testimony from Mary Shanley, who had been a patient there from May 1991 to June 1993 at a cost to her insurance companies of more than $1 million. Psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck have been charged with insurance fraud, mail fraud and knowingly misdiagnosing multiple personality disorder in order to keep patients in the hospital.

The prosecution played a tape of one of Shanley’s therapy sessions in which the former Illinois schoolteacher could be heard screaming, "I hate you. I hate you cult... never again are you going to hurt my family." Mary Shanley testified that during that session she was banging with a plastic bat.

Shanley also testified that she was told by the therapists that she must identify her alternate personalities and recover memories from her experiences in the cult that practiced murder, torture and cannibalism if she were to save her son Ryan. Mary and then 9-year-old Ryan were both referred to Spring Shadows Glen by psychiatrists in Illinois. Ryan was sent back to Illinois after only a few weeks and there he began to recall memories of cult abuse by his mother, father and family. Shanley had no such memories -- initially. Therapists at Spring Shadows Glen told her that she was resistant.

In June 1992 Shanley’s husband came to Houston to participate in one of his wife’s therapy sessions. During a tape of a June 19, 1992 session, Shanley "dissociated" into various "alters". One of Shanley’s "alters" told therapists that her son was her "ticket into the cult" and that he was supposed to be trained by them to kill. She said her husband was a breeder for the cult. Peterson could be heard challenging the truthfulness of Shanley’s comments telling her that she had other alters who were killers in the cult. Shanley’s husband could be heard too, saying "If Ryan can do it, you can do it." He encouraged Shanley to recover more hidden memories.

Shanley now says that she never abused her son. She was never charged with abuse. She remains estranged from Ryan and is divorced from her husband.

Defense attorneys argued in opening statements that the defendants gave appropriate care to patients at Spring Shadows Glen. They say that the patients had already been diagnosed with serious mental illnesses before they arrived. They questioned the likelihood of a scheme to defraud that involved so many people in different parts of the country. Some of Shanley’s Illinois therapists have been named as unindicted co-conspirators. Psychiatrist Bennett Braun and psychologist Roberts Sachs of Illinois were both consulted in Shanley’s case and are among the named co-conspirators.

The Department of Professional Regulation in Illinois has brought a complaint against Bennett Braun, M.D. saying that he mistreated at least three patients. Hearings in that case have begun, with the next scheduled for November 9, 1998.

This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Jurors hear taped shrieks of patient under therapy: Former patient testifies in case of therapists accused of insurance fraud." 10/1/98.

(The complaint against Bennett Braun and a summary of the preliminary hearing can be viewed at the FMSF web page, USA v. Peterson, et al.)

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