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USA v. Peterson, et al. Trial, Week 14

Wednesday, December 16, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

From notes by attendees

DISCLAIMER: The following material, based on hand-written notes, is presented for those who may be interested in the writers’ personal impressions of the courtroom proceedings as they happened. Although the writers have attempted to be as accurate as possible, the official transcripts remain the authoritative reference for what actually occurred.

Catherine S. is on the witness stand.

EASTEPP: Yesterday we finished the tape of the conversation between Dr. Seward and Dr. Peterson. Would you like to add anything?

CATHERINE: I read the book, Sybil, and had nightmares.

Catherine said that talked to Seward about the dreams. He told her that she could wake up in the middle of the dream and change the outcome.

EASTEPP: What was the subject matter at this time?

Catherine answered that it was cult activities. She said she was in the band at school and on the honor role. She had two girl friends with whom she shared the information about her therapy.

the conversation. Catherine was told safety issues had come up. Her motherwas frightened and upset. LT was shaken as well. They went home and packed, and checked into SSG.

EASTEPP: Was there any conversation between your parents at that time.

Catherine could not remember. She did remember that she didn’t think she should be in the hospital because she wasn’t suicidal or depressed.

SSG Admission Doc: Catherine S.: Provisional diagnosis was MPD, depression Catherine had been treated for MPD for the past 15 months. She and her mother have been active in a local satanic cult. Catherine appears to be programmed amnesic.

Catherine told Eastepp that she didn’t remember anything like this. She was aware of no cult behavior.

Admission Doc: She had two attempts at suicide and she was in outpatient care. Catherine ran away to be with her mother to escape ritualized abuse from her father. She said she was forced to take many drugs. One hour interview.

Catherine told Eastepp that she didn’t have an interview.

Admission Doc: Catherine felt safer in the hospital. She didn’t need one-to-one observation. Her mood was depressed. She was doing some switching.

Catherine testified that she was told when she dropped her eyes she switched alters.

Admission Doc: The alters job was to kill the body. She has above average intelligence. Complex system of alters. Treatablity doubtful. Not certain what the disposition of Catherine and Karen will be.

Catherine testified that Karen was happy, straight A student, loved choir, and had friends.

2/17/92 Tape Session with Catherine and Peterson

Eastepp asked Catherine after she listened to the tape if she had identified the voices. Catherine said that she did.

(This transcription does not reflect everything on the tape.)

The tape begins with a lot of laughter. A door opens and closes.

CATHERINE: He has no guts. (Somebody?) let me borrow it.

PETERSON: Do you want to show him to Trish? (possibly it was a teddy bear)

TRISH: It’s different.

CATHERINE: I want to get off restrictions so that I can get to know the community.

PETERSON: Who made this interesting history?

CATHERINE: It was Karen. She knows everything.

PETERSON: Everything?

CATHERINE (Some alter is talking): I made up the wording. Catherine wanted to sound intelligent.

PETERSON: You were very helpful

CATHERINE: We went to cult meeting with my mom..He tells me to write some stuff tonight. He won’t come out of the body.

PETERSON: I realize you have some issues. You really can. You must let us know what’s happening. I think you have not been able. Struggle with me. Is that possible? It’s not right but okay.

CATHERINE: They get dependent upon the environment.

PETERSON: You do not have to go back to the cult.

CATHERINE: Dr. Seward said I have to cut the string.

PETERSON: You are old enough to make the decision not to be a member.

CATHERINE: Is it real? Should he talk to me?

PETERSON: What you need to know. If you should need extra help..

CATHERINE: There is a meeting, but he doesn’t know the date or time.

PETERSON: You’re not in trouble?

CATHERINE: They made me watch something about a sacrifice - cut various body parts off and then I had to eat it. They didn’t do anything to Karen. She just watched. It was a Christening ceremony to induct new people.


CATHERINE: I’m here and they can’t find me.

PETERSON: Who else was there in December?

CATHERINE: My family. I recognized kids from school. It is possible he doesn’t know anything. Karen won’t talk about it.

PETERSON: Is it possible that parts of you talk to her parts?

CATHERINE: Everybody says no. She is just herself.

PETERSON: How long? Was it a long time ago?

CATHERINE: I don’t know? Maybe when we came back from my dad’s. He said that the cult could use me to have babies.

PETERSON: ..Do you know why they changed?

CATHERINE: You mean sacrifice my own children? I could never do that.

PETERSON: Would your mother?

CATHERINE: I have never raised my voice to Mom.

PETERSON: Can you ask Richard?

CATHERINE: (Unclear).

PETERSON: What happened in December?

CATHERINE: I don’t remember anything about the cult.

PETERSON: When did you go to cult meetings?

CATHERINE: We went at 2:00 a.m. And stayed until about 4:00 or 5:00 o’clock.

PETERSON: I want to talk to Becky.



PETERSON: This is Trish.


PETERSON: Most people have multiples.

SOMEBODY: It’s like this. We are all talking to Dr. Seward. He’s going to have us have abreaction therapy. We first have to find out if this is real.

CATHERINE: It’s easy to talk to you guys.

PETERSON: We really are a team. Everything you do gives us information. It is that way we can help you


PETERSON: You don’t have to worry that anything you say will be shared. We don’t go to the police or anything. You really have been some help. What we need to know is that we do not share any cult information. Becky says she is safe. I will check with the others.

CATHERINE: I am safe.

PETERSON: Are there people inside that... You can have the others come out? Okay guys. Will you talk to Catherine?

CATHERINE: When can I get off restrictions?

PETERSON: Thank you very much?


End of tape

EASTEPP: Did you put a dome over alters so they couldn’t hear what the alter who speaking?

CATHERINE: They almost always did that. I never heard Karen talk about alters.

EASTEPP: What were you worried about?

CATHERINE: I was worried that I might kill somebody.

EASTEPP: Was your real abuse ever discussed at SSG?

CATHERINE: It was never mentioned.

1/12/92 Peterson’s records: Trish Taylor, an associate of Peterson’s attended all sessions with Seward. Catherine mainly worked with Taylor and Seward. Patient interviewed by Trish Taylor. Taylor used a dome to create amnesia. Pat. said that she had to lie down in the back of the car with something over her eyes so that she wouldn’t see where the cult meeting was. She talked to a part that was dispirited. If other alters show, she will have to kill herself. Patient was frightened to go home. She had been trained from childhood never to discuss anything or she would be killed.

EASTEPP: What unit were you in?

CATHERINE: The Adolescent unit.

Eastepp shows orders from Seward: Catherine should have no contact with her sister. No eye contact with her.

Catherine said that she was usually on restriction, which meant that she couldn’t go to school. She couldn’t go to the cafeteria, or outside. She spent most of her time journaling about cult activities. She couldn’t see her mother.

Another order from Seward: "Anything labeled as a journal Should not be read by the nursing staff."

Catherine testified that she kept her journal at the nurses’ desk because her roommate read it.

2/2/92 Psychotherapy note: Patient is working with hypnotic techniques, and uses it daily.

Seward records: Patient’s knees were hit with a wooden mallet. Catherine said her mother never did that to her.

EASTEPP: Joint family session early in March. What did you understand about abreaction work at SSG.

Catherine said that she had abreaction therapy at Cypress Creek. She told Eastepp that the issue of restrictions was a constant issue. She was told that she was not safe. She did remember the session.

Tape: Dr. Peterson, Dr. Seward, Catherine S., and Karen G..

CATHERINE: Whom shall I talk to, to her or to you? Do you know why you are here?

KAREN: I don’t know.

CATHERINE: You’ve got to talk to save Mom.

SEWARD: It is to keep you safe. Why don’t you share with Karen so that she can know.

CATHERINE: About Christmas time Mom took us to some meetings. You don’t remember? Is anything coming back?

KAREN: What happened there?

CATHERINE: The sooner you start talking about this, the sooner you will get out of it.

SEWARD: Do you feel she was there? Karen is most concerned because she can’t see her mom.

CATHERINE: She has lectured me, she has cut me, and she’s burned me. Do you understand?

KAREN: I don’t know?

CATHERINE: She has a curl in the middle of her head.

SEWARD: It doesn’t look like a scar to me.

CATHERINE: Do you want to help Mom? Do you know anything at all? Can you remember the little girl? Do you remember the mallet in the kitchen? Mom hit me with it and I think she hit you too. Let me see your fingers. She is safe.

Seward says something? Karen is crying.

CATHERINE: You’ve got to talk soon, so that Mom can stay safe.

SEWARD: Do you want to see Catherine again?

KAREN: I hope so.

SEWARD: She won’t see you again if you don’t talk.

PETERSON: You have to say something or you will never go home. What happens when you begin to remember? Being hurt is real.

SEWARD: Is there anything you’d be willing to tell Catherine that would happen to you if you did talk?

CATHERINE: I’m talking about it and I’m alive and well.

PETERSON: All the sessions where you pretend that all is well is over.

Tape ends


EASTEPP: Prior to this session did you meet with Seward?


EASTEPP: What about the issue of the mallet?

CATHERINE: That came out in outpatient care with Seward.

March 16,1992 CPS notes of an interview with Catherine. Caseworker, Christy Dahl, Seward and Peterson were present.

EASTEPP: Prior to this interview were you aware that she was coming?

CATHERINE: I don’t remember.

Eastepp reads the notes: Child is MPD and may have problems with details. Child explains she had been active in a cult. She had been burned, cut, put into a decompression chamber, many rapes in her life. Today they were mad at her for being in therapy.

Catherine remembered that at this time she believed this was true. She said she Was led to believe this was true by Seward and Peterson. Having sex with her father and his friends she got from an abreaction session. Catherine had seen her sister abused, but not sexually abused. Catherine had been abused many times.

Tape Interview with Page Johnson: (Flood objects because it is hearsay. Objection overruled.)

CATHERINE: I didn’t tell her everything that I can’t talk about. It is too personal.

JOHNSON: You talked about shocks to Seward? I wondered why you didn’t say that? Was it intentional on your mother’s part?

CATHERINE: I mean, but, some information, but..

JOHNSON: They could be hurt, twisted, but not broken.

CATHERINE: You are not going to do anything?

JOHNSON: The purpose is to document what happened. Specific things. You talked about the brother-in-law sacrificing the infant.

CATHERINE: (Unclear)

JOHNSON: I’m getting the impression that you are not believing this? What do you have as evidence? How, when, who, what did he do? Put his penis into your vagina? Make it really specific, down to the last pubic hair.

CATHERINE: I do not like to tell certain things. I don’t blame my mother, because she didn’t know what was going on.

JOHNSON: He perpetrated.. That’s very important to hear, because I suspect in the next years, it will have to be more specific. But if kids...

CATHERINE: I can’t say why it is. People on TV shows. There are no child actors.

JOHNSON: Fragment that lends.

CATHERINE: If I had been in this unit before 1992 it would be different. Is it possible that I might not be multiple?

JOHNSON: Possible but not probable. What happened after you saw Dr. Seward?

CATHERINE: I asked him why I was being brainwashed? I got that from school. I would like to go to Walmart and spend my $2.00.

JOHNSON: Tell me what happened.

CATHERINE: He knew because one of my friends beeped my Dad and told him. (Missing segment) Catherine says something about dieting.

JOHNSON:..Something about keeping Catherine on restrictions. There are some conflicts going on here. When a father shows concern for you, you reject it. He always wants to talk to you. If he is in the cult we should tell him. It takes time to get to know it. I should bring this out in a few weeks.

CATHERINE: What about Mom?

JOHNSON: What I am saying is we have to have some documentation. I do suspect, but I don’t know. You could stop doing it. We’ll have to teach you how to be very controlled and self-reliant.

CATHERINE: Maybe I could go back home. (Segment missing)

JOHNSON: I don’t think that will happen. Something about a daughter in the cult.

CATHERINE: I’m scared. I don’t want to go home.

JOHNSON: Will you go home if your mom is there?

CATHERINE: No. It is still the same people.

JOHNSON: If Mom is out of the picture would if be safe for you to go there?

CATHERINE: I just don’t trust him to be alone by myself and my sister.

JOHNSON: Because?

CATHERINE: I just don’t. I want to stay here.

JOHNSON: I think you can. I will help you build up your defenses. There are a lot of people you can trust. CATHERINE: What am I going to do?

JOHNSON: If you do have to go

CATHERINE: She’ll find out somehow, she always does.

JOHNSON: I can’t say, because you know everyone there.

CATHERINE: So where can I go?

JOHNSON: I am not saying go back home. There is no evidence of abuse, no documentation. So I guess they will have to send you home. They can’t say your father perpetrated you.

CATHERINE: Mother didn’t tell me that I was going to have to stay in the hospital. I don’t think she believed it.

JOHNSON: They are trained not to react.

At the end of the tape, Judge Werlein dismissed the jury. It was 3:30.

Thursday, December 17, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Week of December 14

Catherine S. C. is the 28th witness to testify for the prosecution in the federal trial against psychologist Judith Peterson, psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck. The defendants all worked at the former Spring Shadows Glen private mental hospital in Houston and are charged with mail fraud, insurance fraud and knowingly misdiagnosing multiple personality disorder. They are accused of using hypnosis, drugs, isolation and other techniques to prolong hospitalizations so that they could collect insurance payments.

Catherine, who was a teen-ager when she was hospitalized at the same time as her mother Lucy Abney and her sister Karen G., is the last member of her family to testify. Last week her step-father, L.T. Abney testified that he was falsely accused of being a member of a satanic cult because of the memories his family developed while under the care of the defendants.

Catherine testified that when in the hospital she was told that her headaches or upset stomachs were caused by alternate personalities. She said that she was told to map the locations of her "alters" on a paper outline of her body during her therapy sessions at Spring Shadows Glen. She said that while in the hospital she came to believe that she had given birth to two children and had had at least four abortions.

The jury has now heard over 40 tape recordings of therapy sessions. They heard tapes of therapy sessions in which the Abney family participated. They heard L.T. Abney confronted with the allegations that he was a member of a cult.

Prosecutors claim that the defendants caused or reinforced patients’ beliefs that they had multiple personalities and other disorders as a result of being abused in a satanic cult.

The defense attorneys claim that many of the patients have already been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder and already believed they had endured abuse from the cult before they arrived at Spring Shadows Glen.

The trial will recess for the holidays and is scheduled to resume on January 5, 1999. U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. estimates that the trial will last until early March.

This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Witness says she was told ailments called by ’alters’," December 17, 1998.

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