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USA v. Peterson, et al. Trial, Week 10

Monday, November 9, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 30 of trial -- Dr. Miller’s testimony

Dr. Gary Miller, a Houston psychiatrist testified on Monday November 9, 1998 at the criminal trial of five mental health workers at the former Spring Shadows Glen hospital. The federal government charged psychiatrists Gloria Keraga and Richard Seward, psychologist Judith Peterson, therapist Sylvia Davis and hospital administrator George Jerry Mueck with mail fraud and insurance fraud by using hypnosis, drugs, isolation and other techniques to prolong hospital stays in order to collect insurance payments.

Dr. Miller testified that he was "astonished" by the length of time former patient Mary Shanley had been a patient in the hospital. He said he was concerned that therapists induced her multiple personality disorder. Miller, who served from 1982 to 1986 as commissioner of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation, said "This particular case astonished me, the duration of hospitalization."

Miller also testified that he had never see a true multiple personality patient. He said that the diagnosis has harmed both patients and the reputation of psychotherapy.

When cross-examined, Miller said that he had examined Shanley three times after she was discharged from the hospital and that he did not have access to all her medical records. While it might have been useful to have this information, Miller doubted that it would have altered his diagnosis. Miller will continue testifying on November 10.

This summary is based on a Houston Chronicle article by Mark Smith, "Therapists’ diagnoses disputed in testimony: Disorder possibly induced, psychiatrist says.

Monday, November 9, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Trial Proceedings, Day 30 -- 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.


Witness: Nurse Julie Fannon

Rusty Hardin begins the cross-examination by asking Julie Fannon if she had a chance to meet with the government attorneys over the weekend. She said that she had met with them for about an hour to talk about the redirect.

Hardin asked if Fannon knew Karen G., Katherine S., and Kristi Carl. Fannon said that she knew almost nothing about Katherine. She did know Ryan Shanley.

Fannon said that she met Ryan on the children’s wing. She thought he was there about a month. She knew that his mother was in the MPD unit and that at some point Shanley was supposed to have abused him. She had seen Shanley once or twice. Fannon thought Ryan was there for evaluation, and thought he might have been there for two weeks or a month. Ryan said, "they suspected he was in a cult."

HARDIN: Do you understand it’s what you know, not what you think? Was Ryan there for treatment or evaluation?

FANNON: Ryan had a session with Dr. Peterson. I had not attended the session.

HARDIN: You do not know why he was there. How many times did you see Ryan?

FANNON: two weeks.

HARDIN: Did I misunderstand that you were upset about Karen’s restrictions, yes or no?

FANNON: I can’t answer yes or no.

HARDIN: Does that mean you did not object to her restrictions?

FANNON: The restrictions got progressively worse as time went on.

HARDIN: Were you upset in early June 1992 about restrictions on Karen because she didn’t deserve it? Were you concerned when you made your anonymous report? Can you say that from February to June you had concerns about restrictions?

FANNON: Restrictions were not the focus of concern.

HARDIN: Had you attended staffing meetings about Karen?

FANNON: I don’t believe so, but I had attended a therapy session.

HARDIN: By the middle of June or before June 1992? Does that mean you don’t know? You looked at some nurses’ notes didn’t you? Karen was being pressured. You take it upon yourself to judge when you hadn’t remembered whether you had attended a therapy session. I am trying to understand what you based your opinions on. You hadn’t attended a therapy session by the time you sent in your anonymous report.

FANNON : I had seen Davis talking to Karen as you would talk to a little child. I had a lot of hours in training.

HARDIN: How many hours?

FANNON: I did not attend therapy sessions because it was not appropriate.

HARDIN: In three and a half years you hadn’t attended a therapy session. How does that qualify you as an expert?

FANNON: It was the way it was going. Davis talked as a little child.

HARDEN: Have you ever attended other therapists sessions to compare this to?

FANNON: I based this on common sense.

HARDEN: Do you recall that Dr. Peterson asked you to attend therapy sessions?

FANNON: She asked the nurses who were disagreeing about the type of therapy.

HARDEN: The fact is that you were not attending therapy sessions when you were invited.

Hardin continued his rapid-fire questions. Nurse Julie Fannon had not attended therapy sessions to find out what was wrong with Karen. She had not attended any staffing meetings on Karen. She had not asked any therapists about Ryan. She had not talked to his mother.

HARDIN: You only asked the patient. You didn’t go to any professionals. I’m trying to find out what you based you opinions on.

HARDIN: On June 4,1992 you wrote, ‘Spiders in her head’ a dream or a memory. Was Karen frightened when she talked to you?

FANNON: I figured I would end up in a court room. I wrote what I heard and saw not what I felt. Karen was pressured to work deep in her therapy.

Hardin says that Karen had been found in a fetal position, she was writing about spiders in her journal all at the same time. Fannon said that it might or might not be relevant.

HARDIN: Do you think that when she was writing in her journal that she was lying?

FANNON: It was a possibility.

HARDIN: You hadn’t talked to therapists, or doctors. You hadn’t attended any therapy sessions.

FANNON: It was not routine for nurses to sit in the therapy sessions. They were unapproachable.

HARDEN: You disagreed with the modality so much that you wouldn’t see for yourself. Had you even seen the scratches on Kristi?

After Fannon said that she didn’t think so, Hardin shows her a nurse’s note on the chart that said, "Patient has superficial scratches from therapy sessions."

Hardin established that by January 1992 Fannon had read maybe four hours about MPD.

Chris Flood, Dr. Seward’s lawyer, takes over the cross-examination.

FLOOD: Initially you were concerned because Karen was admitted to SSG because of safety. You had never reviewed any of her records. You are not a doctor. It is not your job as a nurse to diagnosis. Dr. Seward’s job is to make an evaluation. Safety issue, mother’s allegations, Karen’s makeup must be considered. Katherine S. had been a patient of Dr. Seward for a year before she came to SSG. You didn’t know that if Karen had not admitted she would have been left with LT Abney. If you believe in the satanic cult she would be in danger. If Seward believed in satanic ritual it would be dangerous."

FANNON: You would have to believe this.

FLOOD: There was a conflict that the nurses were not charting how the patients were doing.

FANNON: They were not charting what the doctors wanted them to.

Flood spends the rest of his time showing that Karen’s restrictions came after she acted out, and not before. Fannon said that Karen was put on restrictions to encourage her to act out, as more of a punishment.

Larry Finder, Jerry Mueck’s lawyer, cross-examines.

Finder establishes that Fannon was staying in a hotel. She had met some old friends, who had no connection to SSG. She worked with the government attorneys about an hour on Sunday, to go over the redirect. He asked Fannon when she had her last contact with SSG. She answered sometime last year. Finder read a long list of people who worked at SSG. Fannon had not talked to any of those on the list.

Finder puts a three-page document on the projector. It was the minutes of a meeting of nurses who agreed to have a committee to improve patient care. Julie Fannon had volunteered to work on this committee. There were four meetings in September 1992 and Fannon had not attended any of these meetings.

David Gerger, attorney for Sylvia Davis, cross-examines.

He establishes that Julie Fannon had worked with about two dozen kids while she was at SSG. "You have to rely on doctors to make the diagnosis. It is against the Texas law for a nurse to diagnose." Fannon said that she hadn’t read the Texas law.

Gerger asks her about reading a list of journals, "MPD Psychiatric Review", "American Journal of Psychotherapy", and several others. She had not read any of them.

GERGER: You didn’t come to be a robot, but had a mind of your own.

(I think I must have missed something. I don’t understand the robot reference.)

Gerger then reads a list of nurses and asks if they were robots. He doesn’t give Fannon time to answer. Passes the witness.

Quincy Ollison re-directs

Julie Fannon didn’t go to meetings because she worked at Babies and Children Hospital in the daytime. On September 4,1992 she attended a meeting where Jerry Mueck asked all the medical directors to attend therapy sessions. Only Dr. Waller attended.

Rusty Hardin re-crosses

HARDIN: You are basing your impressions on the nurse’s charts. Did you ever go see Peterson, Seward, Keraga, or Davis?

FANNON: They were unapproachable.

Chris Flood re-crosses

FLOOD: The psych. tech. encouraged Karen to go into her deep alters.

David Gerger re-crosses

GERGER: Often journals discussed in progress notes. You are not a therapist. Separate domain.

Dr. Gary Miller, psychiatrist private practice, takes the witness stand.

Larry Eastepp asks Dr. Miller about qualifications.

Gary Miller graduated from University of Texas in 1966. He graduated from the UT Medical School in Galveston. He had three one-year psychiatric residencies in prestigious universities across the country. Dr. Miller was Commissioner of Mental Health in New Hampshire, and in Georgia. From 1982 to 1988 he was commissioner of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. In 1998 he went into private practice. He has done some teaching of the public, and some teaching in universities. He has a general practice.

Herb Bateman referred Mary Shanley to Dr. Miller. He saw her on the day she was released from SSG. He has a copy of the clinical record from his private practice. This is what he uses for all new patients.

Eastepp asks him what he does when he first sees a patient.

MILLER: Why is the patient coming to see me? Where has she been before? I need some history to know where to go. General medical history, for the mind and body are not separate. I go through all of the systems, respiratory, circulatory, etc. Mental status examination, mood, logical speech, hearing voices, persecuted, memory, call for things we talked about previously, marriage status, family, depression, alcoholism, brain tumors. All of these things shed light on the patient. I do the notes in real time. I don’t rely on my memory. I use actual quotes whenever possible. I am looking at the patient while I am writing.

Dr. Gary Miller reads from his clinical record for Shanley:

Page l. June 23, 1993 referred by Herb Bateman from Texas Mental Health and Retardation. Mary Shanley was a female with a 12-year-old son. She has a husband. She had been in SSG since May 27, 1991. (He said, "No one stays in the hospital for two years.") Her diagnosis was polyfragmented MPD.

Miller said he had seen 5 or 6 cases of MPD in his practice in 1993. He has seen more since then. Dr. Peterson, expert in cult deprogramming, was her psychotherapist at SSG.

EASTEPP: Did you know what a deprogrammer was?

DR. MILLER: No

Miller continues to read from his clinical record for Shanley:

Peterson was seeing Shanley five days a week in therapy. Shanley had been at Rush hospital before she was at SSG. She had been told in her abreaction work that she had abused her son. (Miller said, "I had never seen anything like this before or since.") She had been taking anti depressants since the 1960’s, and switching drugs in 1985. She had marriage counseling around husband’s alcoholism, depressed. Panic attacks started in her 20’s, and 30’s. Diagnosed panic disorder. Shanley had spontaneous sweating, dizziness.

Some of her symptoms were manic-depressive, some bipolar. (Dr. Miller talks about all of the drugs Shanley was taking.) Shanley knew what she was taking and how strong each medicine was.

What were the problems before Rush? What symptoms? Shanley had some memories of abuse. She had been locked in a closet. Her mother had stuck things in her vagina. She was depressed and tearful. She felt she had MPD and was suicidal. She put pills in a cup, but didn’t take them.

When she went to Rush she was taking 1500 units of Inderal, which was way out of line. She was also taking 140 mg of Prozac, which is also out of line.

At SSG she was threatened by her therapist, Dr. Peterson. She was told that she must go. Mary was scared to get out. She didn’t know the city. Her mood was flat, she was sleeping okay, not suicidal. She was enjoying her freedom. She wanted to get off of Inderol. If you drop too quickly you can experience panic. She has no panic now. She has no chemical dependency. No neurological diseases were listed, no manic depressive disorder. She is very articulate, earnest, sincere, bewildered, neatly dressed.

EASTEPP: Why didn’t you discuss MPD?

MILLER: I don’t believe in MPD. We had a psychotherapist, Sophia Baker, who worked in my office.

July 20 Shanley came out of therapist’s office. Dr. Peterson informed Mary’s husband that Mary was going to see a cult doctor. Mary wanted to see her son. She was fearful of the cult.

July 21 Telephone call from Mary saying that she was having a panic attack. She had an appointment with Sophia Baker. Mary was experiencing withdrawal symptoms from Benzil. Dr. Miller gave her a slightly higher dose. He requested her records from SSG. The records were 2 inches thick and had been pared down.

August 30 an office visit. Shanley is going to Illinois. Jittery today. Angry over all the time lost. Miller gave Shanley 6 weeks of drugs, which should last until she finds another doctor.

EASTEPP: Any signs of MPD?

MILLER: Mary Shanley was a rational sincere person, and I liked her.

Hardin cross-examines witness, Dr. Gary Miller

HARDIN: Were you ever on TV with Dr. Peterson?

Dr. Miller said not that he remembered. He had his own TV show with Dr. Richard Noll and his nurse Nancy Parker.

HARDIN: Do you remember Trudy Chase, the author of "Analysis in Practice"

MILLER: I remember that woman who had 200 personalities. I don’t remember being on TV with Dr. Peterson.

HARDIN: How many times have you been interviewed on TV about psychiatry?

MILLER: I was interviewed on Good Morning Houston.

HARDIN: You disapproved of MPD?

MILLER: I don’t think it was a legitimate diagnosis then, and I don’t now. It was becoming more frequent in the 1980’s because of hospitals like Spring Shadows Glen. Some diagnosis is questionable. An element of objectivity always has been controversial. How valid and how reliable is this?

HARDIN: Are you being paid to be a witness?

MILLER: No.

HARDIN: Did you ever offer Dr. Peterson a job?

MILLER: I do remember talking to Dr. Peterson, but not about a job.

HARDIN:(inaudible question)

MILLER: Psychotherapy is very important, and medication is very important. It depends upon the patient.

Miller corrects Hardin when he uses the term "affective disorder." It is now called mood disorder. Miller said that Mary had major depression. She was not having enough panic to have panic disorder. In the 1996 DMS4 it says that all treatment has to be individual treatment.

HARDIN: Have you ever testified in court?

MILLER: Many times in civil cases.

HARDIN: Have you ever testified in a malpractice suit?

MILLER: I testified concerning mental retardation law.

HARDIN: Did you testify under oath that, "Drugs are more important the psychotherapy."

MILLER: I did not testify that. There were two of us testifying and the judge misunderstood what we were saying.

HARDIN: Is it true that the judge thought you said, "Drugs are more important than psychotherapy."

MILLER: I did not say that. Some judges are not too swift. Present Company is not included. I have never seen a patient who I thought had MPD.

HARDIN: On June 23,1992 after a one hour interview with Mary Shanley, you referred her to a lawyer. You made that diagnosis on what she told you.

MILLER: Certainly I trust what patients tell me. I don’t come with paranoia.

HARDIN: It’s your not your job to investigate?

MILLER: I would try to get her medical records. She has been in therapy for four years and four periods of hospitalization. You can see at the bottom of page 2 I have some information from Alexia hospital where they changed her medication.

HARDIN: You don’t get to shut down because I’m asking the questions.

MILLER: The issues in the first hour are handled first.

HARDIN: Is it all you do is ask the patient if she is suicidal, and if she says no she can go home and hang herself?

MILLER: I have never had a patient commit suicide.

MILLER: There is no one who can talk to you and know what you will do in the future. If she was telling doctors that she was burning herself and a member of a cult, where do you get those ideas? In my years of practice these are the products of therapists who believe in this stuff. Do you know what you said in 1990, partly a little guess and some memory. Do you know what Mary told me? I would have raised the issue of where she got the ideas.

HARDIN: Before she went to doctors she had experiences of burning her hands. You reached the conclusion after one hour. You had no access to what happened to her before June, July, and August. Two hours and you come up with diagnostic treatment.

MILLER: My initial diagnosis of depression was correct.

HARDIN: It was at the request of her husband that she not contact him.

MILLER: If the hospital forbid her to make contact with her husband that would be a serious problem. She was there on his insurance policy and he didn’t want her bugging him. What if the father was harming his son? The hospital should not restrict her phone calls.

HARDIN: You said that you were astonished that a child would be in a hospital for a year?

MILLER: Yes

HARDIN: Would you agree with me that it isn’t a crime for people to diagnose a patient differently than you?

Tuesday, November 10, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 31 of trial - 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.


Dr. Gary Miller is on the witness stand.

He was given a list of doctors that had worked at SSG and was asked if they good doctors. Dr. Miller stated that he didn’t know any of them well enough to say one way or the other.

In response to questions from defense attorney Dan Cogdell, Dr. Miller reviewed his 2-hour meeting with Mary Shanley. The session was in August 1993 and Mary Shanley stated that she was leaving the next day for Indiana. She told Dr. Miller that she would seek treatment when she got to Indiana. Dr. Miller said that he had no recollection of Dr. Laura Miller. [Dr. Laura Miller was the next psychiatrist that Shanley consulted. Dr. Laura Miller testified earlier in the trial.]

Dr. Miller stated that he asked Shanley a number of questions to determine if she was suicidal. He stated that in his experience if a patient is suicidal they are forthright about it. His conclusion was that she was not a suicide risk. When presented with the conclusions from Dr. Rosenstadt which indicated that Shanley was suicidal, Dr. Miller stated that a person can be suicidal at one point in their life but this does not mean that she would be suicidal at other times.

Dr. Miller stated that he accepted Mary Shanley’s history as she gave it to him. He noted that Shanley was given an inordinate amount of Inderal at Rush but the medication was withdrawn at SSG. According to Dr. Miller, Inderal was given to prevent switching. He said that the heavy medications prescribed at Rush were reduced at SSG and the dosages at SSG were reasonable in amount and the type of medications given at SSG were appropriate.

Dr. Miller reiterated that he did not think MPD was a legitimate diagnosis.

Dr. Miller stated that when he was head of TDMHMR [Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation] there were 26,000 permanent employees plus an additional 6,000 contract employees and at that time there were 8 state hospitals. Dr. Miller stated that there were patients that had been in the hospitals a long time but patients admitted when he was head of TDMHMR stayed 3 months or less.

Defense attorney David Gerger took over the questioning at this point and resumed questioning regarding MPD. Dr. Miller acknowledged that MPD was a recognized diagnosis in DSM-III and DSM-III was developed by APA. Dr. Miller said that he was a Fellow in APA. Dr. Miller stated that DSM-III had a lot of diagnoses that were not accepted by all members of the APA. He said that some of the diagnoses were "political" and were put in to represent groups within the organization.

David Gerger asked Dr. Miller if he could name any of the leading proponents of MPD. Dr. Miller could only name Dr. Kluft. Gerger then goes through a list of names that that are associated with treatment of MPD. He asks Dr. Miller if he has heard of the names on the list. In almost cases Dr. Miller was not familiar with the names. Gerger then brought out his box of MPD books and the books are removed from the box slowly one by one Dr. Miller is asked if he had read the books and in all cases Dr. Miller stated that he had not. The same was true for journals and articles related to MPD. [Gerger has gone through this exercise earlier in the trial with Sally McDonald.] Dr. Miller said that he was not familiar with ISSD and the journal published by ISSD.

David Gerger came up with a list that he called the "hockum" list that consisted of notable names in MPD that were unfamiliar to Dr. Miller.

David Gerger finished his review of the MPD literature by showing Dr. Miller a 73-page bibliography of MPD articles. Gerger stated that he believed he could have brought a bigger box [to contain published material on MPD] Dr. Miller stated that he was sure that he could have.

Gerger then asked about hospitals where Dr. Miller had worked that had patients that were MPD. Dr. Miller could only recall a few MPD patients and thought all the MPD patients were admitted by Dr. John Dale.

The witness was excused with the statement from the defense: "The point being that reasonable minds can differ."

SSG School teacher Jerry Hilbert

Jerry Hilbert, a school teacher from the Spring Branch School district, was the next witness. Hilbert has 10 years experience as a school teacher. In August 1992 he was assigned to the campus at SSG. At SSG he taught social studies and biology to students in the age range from 12 - 18. At the time he was there were 4 teachers and 2 aides who worked with about 15 students. The class size was 6-8 students. He indicated that there was usually one MPD patient in his classes. Among the students in his classes were the MPD patients Karen G., Catherine S., Kristi Carl and B.J. Carl.

Hilbert described Karen as a wonderful student who seemed like a normal 13-year-old. She did good work and was there about 80 percent of the time. He stated that he never saw any behavior that is associated with MPD.

Hilbert taught Catherine S. in a 10th grade history class. He said that Catherine was bright but her contributions were often off topic and she had to be redirected. He said that she was preoccupied quite often. She was sometimes preoccupied with personal issues. Hilbert said that Catherine’s work was excellent. He saw no behavior in Catherine that is associated with MPD.

Hilbert did not remember much about B.J. Carl. He said that B.J. functioned in the classroom as a normal student. B.J. once refused to come to his advanced reading class when he found out that his sister was going to be in the classroom. Because of things coming out in their therapy B.J. and his sister were kept isolated from each other. Hilbert testified that he didn’t see B.J. dissociate, switch personalities, or show signs of being suicidal.

Hilbert stated that Kristi Carl was an 8th grade student and she did well at first but the quantity and quality of her work declined as time went on. In September she was working independently at her grade level and was making A’s and B’s. By the following February she was a C student, her work had declined, she was not very well groomed and her physical condition seemed to be deteriorating. She was on unit restrictions quite often. Hilbert saw no signs of dissociation, triggering, changing personality or suicidal behavior.

In the defense cross-examination Hardin called attention to a notes in school record for Catherine S.. The record indicated on 8/28/92 - she does not always feel safe. Another note stated that a teacher had found two comic books depicting violence and sexual behavior in Catherine’s folder.

Lack of school attendance was associated with unit restrictions. Karen attended class more often than the other MPD patients.

Lucy Abney starts her testimony

Shortly after lunch Jerry Hilbert finished his testimony and Lucy Abney was brought to the witness stand.

Fifty one year old Lucy Abney now lives in the Woodlands. She stated that she had lived in Baton Rouge until 1981. Her first marriage was to E. P. S. III. They were married 7 years. They had two children, Edward S. IV and Catherine S.. The marriage ended in divorce in 1976. Lucy’s second marriage was in 1978 to Ronald G. G.. They had one child, Karen G., before their two-year marriage ended in divorce. Karen had no contact with her biological father after she was 18 months old. Lucy’s third marriage was to L. T. Abney [Lewis] in August 1981. Shortly after their marriage the Abney’s moved to Mexico where L.T. did work in the oil field. The two daughters from Lucy’s previous marriages lived with them. L.T. had one son and two daughters from his previous marriage. His children were with their mother Susan Stipple [spelling?].

The Abney family lived in Vera Cruz, Mexico for 8 weeks before they moved to Pasadena, TX. At this time L.T. worked for Humco and the girls were ages 5 and 2. They lived in Pasadena for 1.5 years before L.T. was laid off from Humco. L.T. changed jobs several times and it was necessary for the family to relocate to Porter, TX, Spring, TX, Abilene, TX, and then back to Spring, TX in 1984. Lucy said that L.T. had no set job and he was doing what he could to support the family. Lucy was not working and she was taking care of the children. The family only had one car. In 1986 they moved back to Louisiana. Louisiana was where L.T.’s family lived and he hoped that he would have better luck finding a job.

He started to work for Combined Insurance Company and for a short time he lived in Atlanta without the rest of the family but they were reunited [without Catherine] when L.T. was transferred to Dawson, GA in 1987. Lucy described Catherine as always being strong willed and in 1986 Catherine decided that she wanted to live with her father. Lucy said that she felt that she had no choice but to go along with it.

Lucy said that Catherine and Karen were complete opposites. Karen was a model child and Catherine was a problem. In the 1st or 2nd grade Catherine started to steal things like pencils at school and bring them home. Lucy described Karen as easy going and laid back. Karen was easy to reason with - she had a temper but not easy to set off - she was obedient and pleasant to be around. Lucy testified that Karen loved to sing, had an inquiring mind and had a curiosity beyond her years. She never brought things home from school [that she had stolen].

When Eastepp asked Lucy how about L.T.’s relationship with his children prior to 1984. Lucy replied that L.T. was a staunch disciplinarian - he loved the children but he was hard on them. Catherine did not get along with him.

Lucy and her children were living in Lafayette when Catherine went to live with her father. Lucy stated that Catherine thought she would have more freedoms with her father.

Lucy testified that they were living in an apartment in north Houston when Catherine ran away from her father. Catherine’s father called Lucy and told Lucy that Catherine had run away. A few days later Lucy received a call from a home for runaway girls where Catherine was staying. Lucy learned that Catherine was being raped by a man that lived in the apartment with Catherine’s father. Lucy stated that she was horrified and angry with Catherine’s father that he had allowed it to happen. L.T., Lucy and Karen after the telephone call went that night to get Catherine. Lucy stated that Catherine appeared to be OK both physically and emotionally. She said that they were concerned about her but did not take her to a doctor.

CPS records

At this point Eastepp starts a lengthy review of the 1984 incident that resulted in CPS being called. Lucy stated that incident started one evening when the family was having dinner. Catherine had not wanted to do her homework and L.T. sent her upstairs. She started screaming and L.T went upstairs and he hit her in his effort to get her to stop.

Lucy stated that she became hysterical and the next thing she knew the police were at the door. Lucy stated that the incident was further complicated by CPS conversations with L.T’s ex-wife Susan Stipple who made allegations that L.T. had physically abused the children. On March 17th CPS came to the Abney two bedroom apartment and Lucy denied the allegations from Stipple. Lucy stated that Catherine was 9 at that time and she was having school problems - she wasn’t doing her homework, not bringing materials home to do school work - whatever...

EASTEPP: What was your role?

LUCY: I would correct the children but L.T. was the head of the household.

Lucy then went on to describe problems with Catherine’s behavior and their attempts to control the behavior. In 1984 in Lucy was called by the counselor at Anderson Elementary School in Spring because Catherine was being disruptive in the classroom.

Lucy testified that L.T. would occasionally whip Catherine with a switch to discipline her. Lucy described a switch as a twig off a bush. Lucy stated that she had taken Catherine to a psychologist who put her in a behavior modification program. The program was like play therapy.

L.T.’s children

L.T. had three children from his former marriage - Tray (boy) was the oldest and there were two daughters Cristal and Cathy. Between April 82 and Oct 83 L.T’s children lived with the Abney’s. Lucy testified that Tray became a smart aleck - he sneaked out of the house and said, "I don’t have to mind you."

CPS Records continued

CPS Records: Catherine does feel that her mother and father love her - father does not discipline unless she deserves it - parents proud of daughters and they receive praise for doing good work

Counseling was initiated because of over-discipline.

CPS Records: Mr. Abney did not speak very much - but he would wrinkle his face as if about to cry. I am more comfortable because both parents are agreeable to counseling. I am not comfortable with Mr. Abney because of his rage when he lost his temper. I am not comfortable with Catherine’s emotional state.

The Abneys started counseling at the Hope Center in Houston.

CPS Records: There was a telephone call to CPS from Susan Stipple. Stipple said that she divorced L.T. because of child abuse.

LUCY: I had never heard that.

Lucy Abney said that she had been in contact with Stipple on several occasions and she got along with her fairly well. Lucy said that she had never expressed the child abuse concerns to her. She said that she had not heard about the abusive relationship before.

Lucy stated that this was a time when L.T. was not making much money and he was probably behind in his child support payments.

Lucy said that L.T. drank beer and wine 2 or 3 times a week. She said that alcohol was not a problem at that time or later.

Eastepp continued to review with Lucy Abney the records from CPS. The records reflected close monitoring of the Abney family counseling and CPS contacted the school periodically to verify from the teachers that everything was OK with the children. Lucy indicated that she had not been aware of things included in the CPS records. In general CPS the records indicated that CPS were pleased with the progress being made by the family.

Court adjourned for the day.

Thursday, November 12, 1998.

Houston, Texas.

Day 32 of trial -- 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.


Lucy Abney is on the witness stand

While Kathy was hospitalized in April 1991 Dr. Seward suggested that the family start family therapy to help Kathy and the whole family. Two weeks after the hospitalization the family sessions start. The records from the family therapy had been introduced previously by the defense and were reviewed in the court at that time. Eastepp reviews the records again with Lucy Abney on the witness stand.

Lucy described the family situation at that time. - L.T. was not making enough money - the family only had one car and L.T. was having to take off work to take the family everywhere. Therapy for the family included Lucy was seeing Dr. Billings once each week and Kathy seeing Dr. Seward twice each week and the weekly family therapy sessions with Debra Aspen. Lucy indicated that the therapists shared information from their therapy. Lucy stated that L.T. never fully understood MPD or issues surrounding it. L.T. would get very angry when SRA was brought up. Lucy said that he didn’t understand it and he didn’t believe. She said that L.T.’s mother cut us down because she wanted no part of the therapy.

Family session note from November 13, 1991: Processed incident of buying shampoo. Lucy stated that they consulted therapist on almost everything that they did. L.T.’s job situation continued to fluctuate. She said it was either feast or famine.

The November 13, 1991 note includes comments about disagreements between Lucy and her mother-in-law related to therapy. Lucy said that she believed 100 percent in therapy and her mother-in-law was against it.

On December 14, 1991 L.T.’s son Tray, his wife and their 3 month old baby show up at the Abney’s because they had no place to live. Tray and his wife were both addicted to crack cocaine. Lucy, Kathy and Karen looked after the baby. As a condition for staying L.T. insisted that Tray go into a drug treatment program. Tray did not do it and they were finally kicked out. At this time Kathy’s band director died. Lucy said that it was hard for Kathy - she cried and talked about it a lot.

EASTEPP: Would you say that there was much stress around the home?

LUCY: Very much so.

Christmas gifts that were sent to the baby included payment receipts. Tray returns the gifts to the store and received money back. On December 28, 1991 his wife, baby and Kathy were in the car with him when he went to a crack house and attempted to buy cocaine with the money from the returned Christmas gifts. Because there were outstanding drug debts, Tray’s wife, baby and Kathy were kidnapped. L.T. got help from the police to get the release of the kidnapped family members. During the incident that lasted several hours Kathy was terrified and she was concerned for the baby. Lucy said that later she handled it well. Tray and his family move out of the house. The baby was given up for adoption and was placed with a family in Lufkin, TX.

EASTEPP: Were there any lingering effects?

LUCY: In January we were all worried about the baby.

Lucy stated that throughout January she was seeing Dr. Billings once per week and Kathy was seeing Dr. Seward twice per week and they had their family sessions.

There was sharing of information between the therapists. Lucy said that her therapy was going well. She had established a good relationship with her therapist and the memories were coming up slowly.

Lucy said that in December 1991 she received a call from Dr. Seward and he stated that Kathy had stopped working. [She had stopped coming up with memories.] Seward said that there was current cult activity going on.

LUCY: I had no knowledge. I asked Dr. Seward how could that be if I knew nothing about it? Dr. Seward strongly recommended a consultation with Dr. Peterson.

Lucy was told that Dr. Peterson was an expert on SRA and working with multiples.

LUCY: We had come so far and I wanted to do everything that I could.

A meeting was arranged to include L.T., Lucy, Dr. Seward, Dr. Billings and Debra Aspen. At the meeting L.T. asked how could this be.

There had been an incident prior to the meeting where Kathy’s socks were found on the front porch of their home. The idea was raised that Kathy was slipping out at night. Lucy stated that her thought process at the time was that she sometimes was awakened by the girls getting up at night. She said that she guessed that there could times when she did not wake up. She said that in the meeting Dr. Billings agreed with Dr. Seward and therapist Debra Aspen didn’t say much of anything.

EASTEPP: How did you feel?

LUCY: Fearful, angry, depressed, horrified.

EASTEPP: Did you do anything?

LUCY: I tried to be more observant and I made an appointments with Dr. Peterson. January for Kathy and February 13 for me.

The kidnapping incident was after the meeting with Dr. Seward. The appointments with with Dr. Peterson could not be right away because of Peterson’s schedule.

EASTEPP: Were you discussing cult issues outside therapy?

LUCY: We discussed cult issues with no one outside our therapy. L.T. did discuss this with his mother. I was not accepting her opinions.

EASTEPP: Did you check to see if these things were possible?

LUCY: I had done so much reading I thought these things could happen.

EASTEPP: Why did you believe?

LUCY: These were the experts that work with these patients.

A video tape is made of the February 13, 1992 meeting with Dr. Peterson. The meeting included Lucy, Dr. Peterson, and Dr. Billings. Lucy stated that Dr. Billings went to the meeting to support her. The video tape was played for the jury.

On the tape Dr. Peterson tells Lucy that she is a sociopath. Lucy tells Dr. Peterson that she is suggestible. Dr. Peterson makes the assumption that both girls are involved in the cult activity.

Lucy and L.T. met with Dr. Seward after the video taped meeting with Dr. Peterson. They told Dr. Seward that Peterson had confirmed current cult activity. Lucy said that after she got home she called CPS and told them that the children were in danger. She told CPS that she had learned in therapy about the cult activity. Lucy stated that the person at CPS did not believe her. After talking to CPS Lucy then decided to go into the hospital. Catherine decided that she wanted to go to the hospital with me.

Hospital records were put into evidence that showed Lucy and Catherine checked into the hospital that evening. General paperwork was filled out that included general information about Lucy and forms for insurance. The medical insurance was Brookfield Insurance Company through L.T. Abney’s employer. The insurance was unlimited with pre-certification. The form indicated that the hospital did the pre-certification at 10:25 pm that evening.

An Adult background form was filled out prior to the afternoon session with Dr. Peterson. Lucy wrote on the form that she was seeing Dr. Peterson for consultation on MPD. Form question: Have you tried anything that may be helpful. Lucy answered the question with "Therapy." On the form Lucy indicated that her mother was an alcoholic and her daughter had MPD. Under medications she wrote none. A new prescription for Prozac was written for the day she was admitted. Form question: Are you experiencing stress due to financial concerns. Lucy wrote: "Some." In answer to the section listed as Goals, Lucy wrote: "Integration"

Lucy testified that Catherine and L.T. were with her when she was in the admitting office. She had called Dr. Seward and he had arranged for her to be admitted. Dr. Seward was to be her doctor. Dr. Seward thought Lucy had MPD and she could do things without being aware of it. Lucy said she checked in because she thought she was a member of a cult.

EASTEPP: Why didn’t you call the police?

LUCY: The cult was in the police. The cult was everywhere.

Lucy was assigned to Unit D. She said she did not know at that time that Dr. Seward was the medical director for the unit and Dr. Peterson was the clinical director for the unit. Lucy saw Dr. Seward on the 15th. Dr. Seward’s notes included diagnoses MPD - PTSD and anti-social personality. The note indicated there was some danger of hurting self or others.

LUCY: I wasn’t like that.

Dr. Seward note: indicated that Lucy had been diagnosed as MPD for about one year and after consultation with Dr. Peterson it was determined that she was an active cult member. By this time Lucy had come to believe that she was a breeder and had had babies for the cult. Part of her beliefs came from her dreams. She said that she was told by her therapists that her dreams were memories and were true.

Dr. Seward note: mental status - alter Diana, very robotic in her manifestation

EASTEPP: How many were on Unit D when you arrived?

LUCY: Probably 7 or 8. All women. Catherine was on the adolescent unit.

EASTEPP: Can you name the patients that were there? Give only the first names if they are not involved in this case.

LUCY: Mary Shanley, Lynn Carl, Linda, Doris, Amy, Gail, Kelly, Rachel

Dr. Seward had noted that Lucy would get an extensive evaluation to see if she was treatable. The evaluation would last two to three weeks and it would be done in consultation with Dr. Peterson, a nationally known expert. The length of stay would be determined by the assessment.

LUCY: When I saw Dr. Peterson I was not aware of the assessment. I was in the hospital for 50 weeks. It was Feb. 1, 1993 when I checked out.

EASTEPP: How was your hospitalization at SSG different from you previous hospitalization at Cypress Creek?

LUCY: The sessions at SSG were confrontational. There was a constant pull for information.

Eastepp reads nurses note that was written when Lucy checked in. The note indicated that Lucy was well nourished, well dressed, ambulatory and accompanied by husband and daughter. Appears to be no acute stress at this time. Patient feels unsafe - "in hospital to keep from going to cult meetings."

Nurse McKenna note: husband was asked to leave unit because he was identified by several patients as a member of cult.

Dr. Seward’s orders on admission: patient voluntary admission - suicide precaution -unit restrictions - drug test - pregnancy test. Physician’s orders: Prosac continued 2/15/92 - per patients request - restrict visitors to Peterson, Seward, L.T. and Karen

LUCY: This was to prevent contact with cult members who could trigger and reprogram me. I believed this at the time.

LUCY: L.T. visited every day.

LUCY: I was not allowed to interact with Catherine. I did not see her again until the first family session in April. I asked Dr. Peterson and Sylvia Davis for information about her but what I got was extremely scanty.

Lucy said that she saw Sylvia Davis for individual therapy and psychodrama. She started seeing Davis very early. Lucy stated that she was comfortable seeing Sylvia Davis. She remembered her from Cypress Creek. She saw Dr. Peterson 2 or 3 times a week. 2/15/92 - late note - psychotherapy consultation - patient resistant to deeper alters coming out but need at some level of host communicating with some parts. Patient upset that she cannot visit with daughter.

LUCY: I think they were referring to Karen.

EASTEPP: What was Karen’s reaction to you and Catherine being in hospital.

LUCY: Surprised and shocked.

EASTEPP: What happened in regard to your call to CPS?

LUCY: Nothing. I didn’t think about it. I felt that Karen was safe.

Early on Lucy was seeing Dr. Peterson almost daily and she was seeing Dr. Seward with Pat Taylor.

EASTEPP: Were the sessions recorded?

LUCY: All therapists were recording sessions for personal reasons.

Eastepp then plays a 46 minute tape of a therapy session with Judith Peterson. The session was on Feb. 17, 1992.

The tape starts with a discussion about L.T. bringing a carnation flower to her over the weekend. The flower was discussed as to cult significance.

Lucy on tape: I have been doing a lot of thinking. I am trying to block out this. Some part of me can’t deal with this. The tape voices get much lower.

Later on the tape... Lucy says when the children got involved we were in Virginia - at the time - cousins in Virginia - cousins in Tennessee - rituals - we believe there is a connection - a black man - there is a man we were very suspicious of - I’m scared.

Peterson on tape: Karen is hanging out there unprotected.

Lucy on tape: Karen is not involved.

Peterson on tape: Why can that be?

Additional discussion on tape about Karen

Lucy on tape: She is ...she is important to them.

Lucy on tape: She is being groomed to be a recruiter.

later on tape Lucy on tape: [in reference to Catherine] She has been given lots of drugs. And we have been given lots of drugs.

Lucy on tape: She needs to be in a safe place. [Karen?]

Peterson on tape: Who’s talking?

Lucy on tape: Dorris.

Lucy on tape: They are everywhere.

Later on tape Lucy on tape: crying - I just hate it so. I hate to talk about it so. Can you understand that?

Later on tape Lucy on tape: They make people disappear. They have been killed or taken away somewhere. Lies...deceit

Peterson on tape: What is the prime danger for Karen?

Lucy on tape: Someone will take her. She might be OK but I am not 100 percent sure.

Later on tape Lucy on tape: They watch you very closely and I think they try to find out where we are. They do know where we are.

Lucy on tape: I’m safe here. We feel safe here.

Peterson on tape: What about Karen?

Lucy on tape: They will watch her.

Peterson on tape: Is she programmed?

Peterson on tape: What do you suggest that we do with her?

Lucy on tape: She needs to be safe. Maybe she should be here.

Later on tape Lucy on tape: I think L.T. was supposed to call you at your office about Karen today. Lucy doesn’t know about that.

Later on tape Peterson on tape: You are a cult family and you had better think about that.

Peterson on tape: I suggest that you talk to Dr. Seward.

Lucy on tape: OK

Later on tape: Lucy on tape: Can I talk to you about something else? Lucy can’t pray anymore.

Peterson on tape: Somebody stopping her?

End of tape

LUCY: I don’t recall if this was the first session with Dr. Peterson [after checking into hospital].

Peterson notes from session: Patient describes electroshock, sexual torture, and drugs. [According to Eastepp sexual torture was not on tape]

LUCY: Prior to this session I had not had thoughts that Karen was in danger.

EASTEPP: CPS was called. Were you aware of that?

Eastepp introduced evidence that showed a letter that Dr. Peterson faxed to CPS reporting abuse within the Abney family. In the letter Dr. Peterson says that both daughters were taken to ritual abuse rituals. Younger daughter had been sexually tortured, electroshocked and brainwashed.

LUCY: I had not been aware of the letter.

Peterson’s notes: Catherine reported last night that she had been [involved?] She had seen a baby sacrificed. She was trained to never say no to her mother or her mother would kill her. Both present a classic case of MPD as a result of cult abuse at an early age.

Eastepp stated that Dr. Peterson had also called CPS.

EASTEPP: Did you ever contact CPS while at SSG?

LUCY: July, February and March.

EASTEPP: Did you have a visit from CPS?

LUCY: In March.

The next day [February 18th] therapy session with Dr. Seward. The taped transcript of the session is played for the jury. The voices of Dr. Seward and Lucy are very clear on the tape.

Seword from tape: We are back at one of those decision points.

LUCY: Aren’t you Catherine’s doctor.

SEWARD: We have some decisions to make. In the process of talking to CPS we discovered that there is a big file on the Abney family. We discovered that it was Karen’s 13th birthday.

Skip segment

Lucy: I think she would be best and feel most comfortable with L.T.’s mother. She has a close relationship.

SEWARD: This is her 13th.

LUCY: I don’t know of any activity [cult activity with Karen].

Skip segment

Seward: What about her 13th birthday?

LUCY: L.T. is going to be home. They are going out and eat together and I don’t think he is going to be here tonight and they are going to spend all weekend watching TV.

SEWARD: You sidestepped the question.

LUCY: What are you hearing?

SEWARD: Lucy needs to be far away in a safe place and I need to talk to Doris.

LUCY: What do we need to do about Karen?

Skip segment

Seward: What should we do on 13th birthday?

LUCY: I don’t know.

Skip hard to understand segment

SEWARD: Then I am confused. Things like that happen. [??] Lucy: Because it’s her. [??]

SEWARD: What difference does that make? So why is he going to take her out?

LUCY: To kill her on her 13th birthday.

SEWARD: How?

Skip section

Another female voice: Is there anything else that we need to know about her 13th birthday?

LUCY: She needs to be taken away. Where? Where is it safe?

LUCY: There is no way she...

LUCY: How do you get away from these people? The family has to go away. All of us.

LUCY: She might be safe with CPS for a while.

SEWARD: How is she going to get there? I can’t take her.

LUCY: The only other person that I can think of that might do it is a friend of Lucy and L.T.

SEWARD: How would she be safe with...

SEWARD: There are too many questions. Is it important for Karen to be safe tonight? What are you going to do?

LUCY: There are so few people that I trust.

LUCY: She should come to the hospital.

LUCY: You are confusing me.

SEWARD: It took us 30 minutes to get to the hospital.

Judge stopped the proceedings because of the stormy weather and flooding conditions. He told Eastepp that he could replay a portion of the tape and continue with the rest on Monday.

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