FMSF NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - May 21, 1992 - Vol. 1, No. 5, HTML version

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F M S   F O U N D A T I O N   N E W S L E T T E R
May 21, 1992 (transliterated into ASCII for record purposes)
3508 Market Street suite 128,  Philadelphia, PA 19104,  (215-387-1865)

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000

Dear Friends,
  Over one hundred families and almost as many professionals have
called the 800 number in the past few weeks. In our wildest dreams, we
did not predict such a large response in such a short time. The calls
are the result of stories about FMS Foundation members that have
appeared in Utah, Ohio and Toronto. In each case, the families sent
their stories to local reporters. We thank the writers of those
stories and the reporters who found them compelling enough to retell
even when colleagues warned, "That's a politically sensitive
issue. You're crazy to touch it," and "How do you know they're not
guilty?" We appreciate the fact that these reporters were willing to
ask in return, "How do you know they are guilty?"
  Over 400 families have now told us stories of their "adult-children"
who have recovered memories during some sort of therapy, decided that
they were incest victims, confronted parents and then cut off
contact. Running through all these stories is the refusal of the
therapists to consider evidence such as lie detector test results,
childhood medical reports or the possibility that the memories might
be confused. In most cases the therapists refuse even to meet the
parents. In a huge number of cases, the book Courage to Heal has been
mentioned. The stories we hear are amazingly similar. An example of
how similar they are was brought home to us when a parent from Canada
related that his sister had angrily accused him of going public
because of the story that had appeared in the Toronto Star. This
parent had never told his own family story to a reporter or anyone
  It is increasingly evident that the press, the mental health
profession, the public are all terribly confused about issues of
memory and repression. Many people have the mistaken notion that
memories are stored like pictures or like data in a computer. That is
  People do "remember" unusual things, do have false memories. This
week 100,000 mental health professionals received a booklet called,
"Unusual Personal Experiences," in which Dr. John E. Mack, a professor
of psychiatry at Harvard urges readers to believe patients who recover
memories of abuse by space aliens. The booklet tells us that a survey
by the Roper Organization indicates that over 2% of the American
population now remembers being abused by space aliens. Where is the
evidence? Memories can seem very real to the people who have them, but
that does not mean that those memories are necessarily accurate.
  Questions that we are asked over and over again are, "Why would
people have these memories if they were not true? Why would people
make up memories that are obviously so painful to them?" We do not
pretend to have an answer to the questions. We suggest, however, that
the enclosed April 30 article from the Pittsburgh Press which
describes the legal victory of a falsely-accused family in Pittsburgh
sheds light on strongly held assumptions that some therapists bring to
doctor-client relationships. It also describes processes that could
lead a patient to believe in memories that are not true. This is a
very important case. We trust you will have your own conclusions about
why a patient might recover false memories after you read the article.
Office News
  Your FMS Foundation office is about to go into full operation. Today
we set up a computer system and next week we will transfer the 800
number to Philadelphia. Booklets of information are being printed.
Parents have volunteered to prepare the packets for mailing. When
these are ready, we will send out a press release to announce formally
our existence.
  We thank each of you who has helped to make this possible. We thank
all the families that have called and told us their stories because
that is how we can document the scope of this phenomenon. We thank
those of you who have received and completed the survey. (More will go
out soon.) We thank each of you who has sent us dues and additional
contributions to pay for the newsletter and the telephone and the
office. We thank you for sending articles and keeping us informed of
what is going on around the country so that we can share it with
  There are not words enough to thank Holly Wakefield and Ralph
Underwager at the Institute of Psychological Therapies for the loving
professional support that they have given to the FMS Foundation to
help us become an independent organization. We would not exist without
them. Their courage in speaking out, their willingness to use their
resources to help us with the 800 number and with the survey have made
it possible for us to do what we have done and what we must continue
do to put an end to this phenomenon.

/                                                                    \
|                    For Help Call  1-800-568-8882                   |

                               WHAT IF?   

   One of our members wonders if the "adult-child incest survivor"
phenomenon is undermining the very situation it purports to address --
namely trying to stop the sexual abuse of children. Desperately needed
legal, financial and mental health resources are being drained in
cases in which no children are in danger and in which it is highly
probable no abuse ever existed -- given what is known about
memory. She wonders if the motivation of the "adult incest survivor"
movement as described in its bible, Courage to Heal, is not
"misguided" rather than an effort to address the very real and very
serious problem of child sexual abuse. Newspapers report that
incidents of child abuse are ever increasing in spite of all the
  "Statistics on health care, day care, income level, and educational
opportunities for children indicate that as a nation we really do
abuse our children," said our parent. We deplore that and we deplore
the fact that far too many children are also physically, sexually and
emotionally abused. Our parent wondered what might be accomplished if
instead of focusing on the "recovery of the repressed memories" of
highly educated financially successful "adult-child victims," the
resources of lawyers, judges and courts, the resources of law
enforcement agencies, the resources of psychiatrists, psychologists,
social workers, therapists, and counselors, and the resources of
television talk-show hosts and reporters were focused on preventing
abuse that is verified to be taking place to children in our country
right now. "Is it because children can't pay for long-term
psychotherapy or for lawyers?" the parent asked. We thought that the
parent raised interesting points.

                             REACHING OUT

  We welcome the assistance of all our members, but we ask that you
please check with the office before taking action on our behalf. Not
only is it important for us to know what is taking place, but we may
also be able to help guide you in your efforts. At all times our
collective efforts should reflect the dignity of our position.
  We know how important you feel that is to reach out to other
families who may think that they are alone in this tragedy. It is FMS
Foundation policy that this be done through appropriate media. A
notice in a newsletter or a paper is appropriate. Flyers on personal
property are not. Thank you.

                           A MOTHER'S STORY

  My 26-year-old daughter, while attending a prestigious university
several years ago, became very ill and was eventually diagnosed as
having "chronic mononucleosis." A doctor associated with the
university looked at her medical records and confirmed she did indeed
have a severe case of chronic mono. As months went by, she did not
return to her normal health and she had difficulty functioning.
Refusing to accept what we were told, that she might never be better,
we started seeking alternative cures. She was tested and found to have
some food and other allergies. There was a slight improvement with her
new diet.
  With limited activity my daughter managed to graduate and began her
career in another part of the country. Her job was stressful and
required extremely long hours. During this time she met her fiance but
they had some difficulty getting along.
  My daughter called home almost every day, usually crying. I
encouraged her to seek counseling, which she did. The therapist there
suggested that some traumatic incident in her childhood must be the
cause for her depression. She called home often asking about her past.
Her condition became worse and we talked her into flying home. We took
her to the hospital for tests to explore a chemical imbalance. She
tested normal in everything. Her physician recommended a
psychiatrist. Neither of the doctors believed that the chronic mono
exists due to a lack of scientific evidence. In most of their
patients, they explained, it turned out to be an emotional problem.
  In the following weeks the doctors prescribed Lithonate, Klonopin,
Wellbutrin and Prozac all with extreme negative reactions. After the
second week of outpatient care, the doctor called me into his office
and informed me that he thought my daughter should be admitted to the
hospital immediately.
  I visited her nightly and soon was met with anger and hate. Her
fiance flew in each weekend. Through talks with him I learned that the
doctor had advised my daughter that her condition was a result of how
we had raised her. He said I supported her career because it fulfilled
my needs and that I had used her. He said that she and I were
codependent and should attend CODA meetings. It was suggested that if
I didn't I might never get to have a relationship with her again. He
told me I needed therapy. I asked him how did he know since he had
never talked to me. The social worker at the hospital called me and
told me I needed therapy.
  It was suggested I bring childhood pictures to the hospital for them
to review since my daughter was having trouble remembering. The doctor
told her he could tell by looking at the pictures that she had been a
depressed child.
  My daughter told us "I didn't know what you guys were doing to me
until it was explained." "I've gotta get tough with you guys." And
regarding the mounds of bills we were paying.."they got me this
way..they should pay for it."
  The doctor told me she could never get well if she stayed at our
house and encouraged her to seek a place of her own. She found a room
nearby the hospital but was desperate about how she was going to pay
for it. She was unable to work and was scheduled to enter the hospital
program. We were told not to call or contact her.
  Her fiance quit his job in another city and moved here to take care
of my daughter.
  The doctor diagnosed her fiance as having the same problem as my
daughter but said he would not need hospitalization. He gave them
Bradshaw videos, had them attending CODA, Adult Children of Alcoholics
(we don't drink) several times a week. Her fiance called his mother
blaming her as they had me. He suggested that his mother had been too
  Nearing the end of my daughter's hospitalization she appeared to be
having drug withdrawal. The doctor and staff told her it was a result
of repressed anger that she felt toward her mother.
  Only two weeks before she began therapy with the psychiatrist, she
had written me a note telling me how much she loved me and that she
considered me her best friend. She loved coming home between jobs. Her
excitement at being home filled the house.
  For over a year now, my daughter has been estranged from her
family. The family is devastated but that is not the utmost
concern. Our concern is how confused our daughter must be to think her
family, the ones who love and care for her, is the reason for her
illness. My daughter was loved, protected and cared for properly. I
want her to receive the proper medical treatment before it is too
  Recently she became depressed again. The psychiatrist is sending her
to a hypnotherapist .. still searching for the traumatic event that
his sodium amytal interview did not reveal.
  Who can help my daughter?
                                                     A mother 

                         MORE SURVEY RESULTS

  What are the actual things that families have been accused of doing?
The following information is based on 112 responses to the question
"Please describe the specific accusations." Because this was an open
ended question, the responses were coded. The coding categories were
determined by a group of five adults. Two people then did the coding
with interrater reliability of over 90%. Responses could have multiple
  We ask that professionals who have worked with verified child abuse
cases examine the accusations of the recovered memories of adult-child
victims and compare them with what research has shown to be true about
the behaviors and actions of child sexual abusers.

VAGUE -- One third of the responses (N=37) were coded "vague." 33% of
the people responding really didn't have much of an idea of what it
was they were supposed to have done.

* "We don't know - daughter will not see or talk with us until we
admit we abused her. Her words over phone to mother "Until you stop
your pattern of denial or divorce your husband, I will have no contact
with you."

* "Incest is claimed but our attempts to secure details have been
denied. We do not know the specific accusations. She claims father
threatened her to 'keep our secret.'"

* "We have not been accused of abuse. In October '90, our daughter
told us we could have no contact with her. She had a manic attack
which she said was a result of our relationship with her. She stated
we did not allow her to grow up."

* "Tore up Christmas check "From your Little Girl" - a book on incest
with chapter on father/daughter marked - a telephone call, "Don't
pretend you don't know what I'm talking about - Ha Ha. YOU know -

* "I have never been told who was abused, what was the abuse, where
the abuse occurred or when the abuse occurred. I was just told to

SATANIC RITUAL ABUSE -- 15% of the responses (N=17) included
accusations of ritual abuse.

"She had flashbacks seeing father, mother, grandparents in hooded
black robes. Blood letting, forcing her to drink blood and urine.
Grandfather raped her while father put penis in her mouth and
grandmother and mothers watched. Grandmother without underclothes sat
on her face. Father kicked her with black boots and hung her by
heels. Mentioned hot poker, furnace and freezer and washer-wringer.

WITNESSES -- 13% of responses (N=14) mentioned that witnesses were
present. This is in addition to the satanic accusations which are
always group activities. More than 28% of the alleged abusive
activity, then, involved more than one person seeing what was going

* "Mother accused of abusing sister's children. Father and older
brother of incest; Brother-in-law and uncle of rape; Aunt of observing
and permitting; Sister of observing and permitting."

* "Father and step-mother participating in group sex. Siblings
participating in group sex. Father attempting to drown
daughter. Step-father beating with bow and arrow and razorstrip, etc..

* "Father "choked and smothered..sodomized and raped" Mother "saw my
obvious pain and terror and did nothing to protect me."

PENETRATION - 31% of the responses (N=35) included penetration.

* "Oral, vaginal and renal intercourse every Saturday in her
room. Being tied to her bed so this could take place."

* "Father had intercourse with accuser at age 2 with the violation
continuing until age 10 with mother having full knowledge of what was
going on."

* "As therapy progressed, allegations became more violent - oral sex -
choking - shaking - pulling hair - and eventually daughter decided her
father was a pedophile"

"As a result of being forced to have sex with neighbor's dog, she had
a baby that was half dog. Forced to have sex with brother, bit part of
father's penis off. Was touched or fondled by grandfather. Sexually
abused by mother with husband."

"Father had oral sex when she was 2 in her crib every night. Sisters
fondled her constantly. Hazy - brother sexually violated her at 3

  Other categories included fondling, masturbation, emotional abuse
(having to have ballet instead of skating lessons) and pornography.

  After reading the vague, improbable, bizarre accusations our "incest
surviving adult-children" are making, perhaps the responsible
professional community will better understand why parents have been
sufficiently alarmed to feel the need to form the False Memory
Syndrome Foundation. There appears to be a mindset among avery large
group of therapists and adult-children that classifies the world into
those "in recovery" and those "in denial." There appears to be no
rational middle ground for doubt or discussion. That alarms parents.

/                                                                    \
|                   Where do 413 families live?                      |
|   AK(1)   AR(1)   AZ(6)   CA(32)  CO(5)   DE(1)   FL(7)   GA(4)    |
|   IA(2)   ID(2)   IL(9)   IN(8)   LA(2)   MA(4)   MD(3)   MI(15)   |
|   MN(4)   MS(1)   MT(1)   NC(4)   NJ(18)  NV(3)   NY(15)  OH(25)   |
|   OK(5)   OR(5)   PA(96)  SC(2)   TX(11)  UT 46)  VA(2)   VT(1)    |
|   WA(12)  WI(20)  DC(1)   Canada -  ON 33)  BC(5)    ABROAD(1)     |

                         RECOMMENDED READING

I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional,
  by Wendy Kaminer, Addison-Wesley, 1992.

                          SUPPORT IS NEEDED

  Your membership dues have gone a long way to get us up and running
but our needs will continue to grow. If you know of anyone who would
like to make a charitable donation -- perhaps your friends or extended
family or interested professionals -- please ask them or let us know
and we will send them information and extend the opportunity to
donate. FMS has applied for non-profit organization status to which
all contributions would be tax-deductible.

False Memory Syndrome Foundation
Annual Membership $100.

Checks may be made to 

FMS Foundation 
3508 Market Street

This address and the phone numbers have changed as of July 15, 2000
Suite 128
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104

Philadelphia area - Volunteers Needed

  If you can help with basic office assistance in mailing, telephone,
filing, copying, etc., please send us your name, address and phone
number or call the office at 387-1865. Special help needed for
preparing packets for new families, getting out the newsletter and
working with all phases of the survey.

                          MEETINGS SCHEDULED

May 28 , 1992
6:00 P.M.
for information call Renee at 718-428-8583

Saturday, June 27, 1992
1:00 P.M.
Holidome Inn West
Meridian and Highway # 40
Oklahoma City

Persons may make own reservations
Ask for FMS Foundation Southwest rooms
($49. outside of Holidome, $59 inside)

Agenda being developed.
Lynn, one of the young women who has restored her real memories, will
share her experiences.

Meeting is being planned.

For details call
Paula, 705-522-2809

Meeting is being planned

For details call
Chuck, 206-364-4711


Thursday evening June 25
 Speaker: Dr. Raskin

Call Helen at 801-537-7401 for details

Saturday, June 13, 1992
1:00 P.M.
Same location as past meetings. 
 Call office if you need a map.
Committee Updates
Guest Speaker


                           By Bill Moushey
                       PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE
                            April 30, 1992
                       Reprinted with permission

  Rick Althaus and George Stipetich met under the worst of
  The first time they encountered each other, the two men say, was
last August in the Mr. Lebanon Police Department, after both had been
arrested on charges of sexually abusing Althaus' daughter Nicole.
  Stipetich, a self-made millionaire who lives off his fortune and
spends much of his time throwing parties at his Upper St. Clair home,
said he was dumbfounded at the charges.
  While freely admitting he has made videotapes of sexual activity
involving him, his wife and other people, he said that child abuse is
a crime he abhors, and he adamantly denies ever having met Nicole
Althaus, who is now 17. He even wondered at first whether the
Althauses were planning to try to blackmail him, something he later
realized was untrue.
  Rick Althaus,42, seemed the antithesis of the free-wheeling
Stipetich. Althaus was known as a hard-working government employee
whose home life seemed much more like "Ozzie and Harriet" than the
film "sex, lies and videotape."
  But on the night of February 21, 1991, Mt. Lebanon police got him
out of bed and charged him with repeated, long-term sexual abuse of
his daughter.
  By last summer, Nicole Althaus had accused her father, Rick; her
mother, Cheryl Renee, 42; Stipetich, 48, and his wife Heidi, 32; and
several others of having sex with her, forcing her to prostitute
herself with strangers, and torturing her over a long period of time.
  But last week, the Allegheny County district attorney's office
dropped all charges against Stipetich and the Althauses after Nicole
Althaus said she would not take the stand to testify against them.
  The case fell apart, though, only after months of ever-more-
grotesque stories of sexual abuse.
  By the time pretrial hearings began recently, Nicole Althaus had told
prosecutors that she had given birth to three babies, that one had
been killed in a demonic ritual, that she had undergone two abortions,
and that she had seen her parents kill an elderly woman, dismember her
and bury her in their back yard.
  Police and prosecutors did not believe many of these tales.
  But they decided to press ahead with the case anyway, District
Attorney Bob Colville said because they had been told that sexual
abuse victims often fantasize some instances of abuse, and because
they felt there was enough independent evidence to proceed to trial.
  "No one in my office could convey to me that without a doubt we
should pull the plug," Colville said last week. "They all told me that
if we do, we're abandoning this kid."
  In the end, with Nicole Althaus unwilling to take the stand,
Colville's office was forced to drop the case.
  But on that night eight months ago in the Mt. Lebanon police
station, Rick Althaus and George Stipetich had no way of knowing that.
  Stipetich and Althaus say today that despite what happened to them,
they agree with the law's goal of protecting children from sexual
abuse. But in their case, they feel that the law and its agents marked
them as guilty until proven innocent.
  "This whole mess is based on rumors," Stipetich said recently.
"Rumors that I am a drug dealer. Rumors that I am into pornography.
Rumors about why a guy can live in luxury without working. Nothing
ever has been substantiated, but all of these rumors put me and my
family and friends through hell," Stipetich said.
  Added Rick Althaus: "It is one of those cases, unfortunately, that
you always hear about from others -- [but] this could happen to you."


  Until their family was wracked by crisis in 1990, the Althauses
seemed like a million other suburbanites - people who were trying to
move a few rungs higher on the ladder of success than their parents
  Rick Althaus, a native of Riverdale, Md., was a career government
employee. Through a willingness to relocate and hard work, he had
risen to his present job of supervising support services for the
U.S. Bureau of Mines Pittsburgh Research Center, near South Park.
  Althaus met his wife, Cheryl Renee of Natrona Heights, when the two
were attending West Virginia Wesleyan University in the late 1960s and
early 1970s. They married shortly after she graduated in 1972. She has
a degree in elementary education; he, a degree in history.
  Nicole, their first child, was born four ears later. A son, Bryan,
was born in 1979.
  The Althauses said they lived a fairly staid life. Neither Rick nor
Renee Althaus smokes, and Renee does not drink. Rick said he limits
his drinking.
  The Althauses moved several times over the years as Rick was promoted
by the federal government, eventually arriving at their two-story home
in Mr. Lebanon in 1987.
  They liked Pittsburgh because it was close to both their families,
and because it seemed like a good place to finally settle down.
  After moving here, Renee began working toward a master's degree in
education at Duquesne University. After having worked several years as
a substitute teacher, she won a full-time job in 1988 as an
elementary teacher in the Mt. Lebanon School District.
  The children seemed active and happy before the crisis.
  Nicole, an excellent student, was active in school plays, singing,
softball, swimming and track, She loved to read and go shopping.
  Bryan was not as good a student as Nicole but was also very active.
He enjoyed soccer, baseball, collecting baseball cards, and ham radio.
  The routine of their lives was shattered in 1990.
  First, Rick's mother, who was one of the relatives closes to their
daughter Nicole, was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer. She
died later that year.
  Then, Renee developed breast cancer, and eventually, one breast was
surgically removed.
  The illness, she now says, began to consume all her attention, and
made her introspective and reclusive.
  One of the victims of her turning inward, Renee said, was Nicole,
who already was upset over the death of her grandmother. The prospect
of her mother possibly dying too may have become too much for her,
Renee and Rick now theorize.
  Whatever triggered her problems, Nicole needed solace, and her
mother said she was too enmeshed in her own battle with cancer to meet
her daughter's needs.
  Nicole told her parents that she thought she would be the next one
to die of cancer. She began to seek support elsewhere -- in particular
from Priscilla Zappa, her World Cultures teacher at Mt. Lebanon High


  According to court record in the Althaus case, Zappa was known to
begin her class each year by informing her students that she had been
a victim of child abuse.
  She didn't ask students if they were having problems themselves, the
records indicate, but she made it clear that she was available to
help anyone who needed it.
  Nicole was drawn to Zappa.
  As their friendship developed, Nicole spent more and more time with
Zappa, who was married and had two children of her own.
  Nicole would spend time with the Zappas, dine there, go to movies
and other events with them. She stayed overnight at their home
occasionally and was soon treated as another member of the family.
  As Nicole and Zappa became closer, the Althauses became increasingly
wary, but did little about it other than to start limiting how much
time the two could spend together.
  She definitely overstepped her bounds," Renee now says of Zappa.
but concedes she let it occur.
  "Call it poor parenting or whatever, but I felt at that point that
Nicole needed attention and [Zappa] was giving Nicole attention. I
trusted a fellow teacher. I knew her, and even though I started to
limit the time with her, I could see her drawing close to my
daughter," Renee said.
  To deal with her depression about her cancer and mastectomy, Renee
Althaus began attending therapy sessions at Magee-Womens Hospital.
  A social worker named Constance Lappa ran the group. During one
meeting, Renee related how she was having problems with her daughter
because of the ordeal.
  At about the same time, Nicole, who knew her mother was seeing
Lappa, began calling Lappa anonymously, saying that no one loved her
and that her parents weren't physically affectionate toward her.
  As Nicole and her parents grew more estranged over the next several
months, the Althauses suggested sending Nicole to a psychiatrist, but
Lappa, who realized her anonymous caller had been Nicole, told them
she thought she and Nicole could work out any problems that the girl
  It also was around this time that Priscilla Zappa began to provide
Nicole with several books and other publications that dealt with child
abuse and sexual abuse.


  The Althaus lives were in jeopardy during 1990, but they really
began to spin out of control rapidly on Feb. 16, 1991, when Nicole got
into a confrontation with her parents over her first official date.
  Nicole was to attend the Mr. Lebanon High School Snowball Dance, and
got into an argument with her father because she wanted to ride to the
event with a high-school age friend on her date. The Althauses wanted an
adult to drive them to and from the dance.
  The argument ended after Nicole lied to her parents. She told them
an adult was driving her, but kept to the original plans, riding with
young man to the dance.
  After that fight, Renee said she sensed a kind of "arrogant
confidence" in Nicole, a willful disobedience she did not
understand. She even wondered if Nicole might be taking drugs, but
later decided that wasn't it.
  A few days later, Renee was summoned to the principal's office at
Howe Elementary School, where she worked. She was told it concerned
Nicole. Her first fearful thought was that Nicole may have attempted
  In the office, she was confronted by officials of the Allegheny
County Children and Youth Services Agency. They told her they had
reason to believe Nicole had been sexually abused by both Renee and
  Renee denied the accusation, then immediately called Rick who also
emphatically denied any abuse.
  The CYS officials did not believe them. They gave the Althauses two
options. They could agree to put Nicole either in a temporary shelter
or with Zappa. After the Althauses objected to either alternative,
Nicole was placed with Zappa.
  The next night, after the child welfare agency contacted the
Mt. Lebanon police, Rick was roused from his bed at around midnight
and charged with physical, verbal, moral and sexual abuse of his
  In this initial stage of the affair Nicole alleged only that her
father had fondled her, looked at her when she was naked and made
suggestive comments.
  But it wouldn't be long before Nicole Althaus' allegation would
expand and grow ever-more shocking.
  And as she cast a wider net of charges, she entrapped George
Stipetich as well -- a man whom police already had their eyes on.
  After Nicole had been placed in the custody of Priscilla Zappa, she
began to talk regularly with Mary Eichinger, a detective from the
Mt. Lebanon Police Department, Allegheny County Assistant District
Attorney Marianne Mulroy and Allegheny County Police Detectives Peter
Kempton and David Fuchs.
  She also was enrolled in a child-abuse clinic at Western Psychiatric
Institute & Clinic, where she was treted by Dr. Judith Cohen, a
  Over the next few months, her stories of abuse began to become more
and more grotesque.
  She started by accusing her father of having abused her since she
was 6.
  She then said her mother had done the same thing for several years.
  Nicole then said her parents had forced her to have sex with strange
men, who afterwards gave her parents suitcases full of money.
  She said she had borne three babies, one by Caesarean section, and
had undergone two abortions. One of the babies was killed in a demonic
ritual, she said. Her father, she said had drugged her and prostituted
her to his friends and to people in his office.
  She then accused Renee's mother of the same charges.
  Finally, George and Heidi Stipetich were drawn into the picture when
Nicole began talking about "the pretty place" and "the bad place."
  The "pretty place," she said, was a large mansion-like dwelling in
the South Hills. There, she said, she was drugged and forced to have
sex with many people, including her mother, father, the "boss," his
wife and several others. She could not identify any of the other
people by name.
  She also said she witnessed the "boss" shoot a man 10 times and kill
him in the home during a party.
  The "bad place," she said, was a North Side home where she said her
7 1/2-month-old baby was tortured and killed. Among other things,
Nicole said she was forced to walk on hot coals and broken glass and
was repeatedly raped by her father and others at this place, where she
said demonic rituals were practiced.
  She also said her father once fondled her in front of a West
Virginia Wesleyan College recruiter at the David L. Lawrence
Convention Center, and that her father later raped her in the hallway
of a downtown restaurant.
  As soon as these additional stories were related to police, Rich
Althaus was re-arrested at his job in August and charged with much
more serious crimes. George and Heidi Stipetich also were arrested.
  Rick Althaus remembers when Allegheny County police detectives came
for him and told him he was being charged along with Stipetich.
  "I looked right at them and said 'Who the hell is George
Stipetich?'"  Althaus said.
  Stipetich was in a state of disbelief. He said the only thing he
could think of was that he was being drawn into some kind of blackmail
  "I couldn't figure out what was going on," he remembered. Stipetich
soon realized the Althauses were not shaking him down, though.


  After interviewing several lawyers, Stipetich chose William
Manifesto as his counsel. The Althauses originally contacted Al
Odermatt, who was joined later by Charles Scarlata.
  The first thing Manifesto did was to hire Stephen Teresak, a former
Pittsburgh police detective who is now a private investigator.
  The unassuming Teresak set out to document every one of the hundreds
of allegations made against his clients that he could.
  As he worked to uncover the worst, though, Terscak found that he
could not verify any of the charges. He also realized very quickly
that no other agency had even asked some of the questions that he had.
  First, he looked for any association he could find between the
Stipetiches and the Althauses. Surely, his detective's mind said,
there had to be some kind of connection.
  He traced their property, vacations, relatives, friends, bars and
restaurants. He said he found nothing then to connect the two
families, and hasn't since.
  Then there was the identification of the "pretty" place and the
"bad" place.
  When he checked to see how Nicole had identified the "pretty" place,
Terscak found from police reports that Fuchs and Kempton had driven
her to Stipetich's home.
  Defense attorneys planned to challenge that and suggested that the
two detectives took her directly to the Stipetich house.
  This led to another dispute.
  Kempton, who had been present when Stipetich's home was raided in
November 1990, said yesterday that he did not coach Nicole into
identifying the Stipetich home, but that she identified the home when
they drove past it.
  Once they ahd arrived at the Stipetich residence, Nicole Althaus
told the detectives that she thought it was the right place, but that
she would have to see the inside first.
  Defense attorneys said they believed that many of Nicole's later
destriptions of the home's interior were based on nearly 90
photographs taken during the 1990 raid, photos that the detectives had
showed her.
  But Kempton said yesterday that Nicole had provided an accurate
description of the home without any coaching and before she was shown
the photos. "I believe she was in that house at some point in time,"
he said.
  While Nicole could identify objects within the home, she was hazy
about what rooms they were in and other striking features of the
  For instance, they said she could not identify large windows that
fill an entire wall of the Jacuzzi room or the view out of them. She
said the Jacuzzi room shower was a normal one, not the ornate shower
area for four, with its nine nozzles and other special features.
  She identified artwork and statues in the house, but even though she
claimed to have been abused at the home during the Christmas holidays
in 1990, she could not remember the 64,000 holiday lights that
Stipetich has had installed each year, or a large wreath hanging in
the foyer.
  She said her father routinely walked her in via the home's back
door, but she could not identify the 58-foot swimming pool in
Stipetich's back yard.
  When Teresak, the private detective, went to the supposed "bad
place" on the North Side, he found a perplexed resident who swore he
had no knowledge of any sexual abuse of children.
  Teresak also was surprised that in several stages of his probe, he
was the first person to interview people or check on many of the
allegations. "Normally, when I go talk to a witness, the police or
district attorney has already been there," he said.


  The prosecution's case at this stage was being handled by Marianne
Mulroy, then an Allegheny County assistant district attorney.
  Mulroy, who had worked in the district attorney's office for three
years, had been handling child-abuse cases for 18 months when she got
the Althaus matter.
  After interviewing Nicole several times, she firmly believed that
she had been abused.
  Bolstering Mulroy's conviction about Nicole's veracity was
psychiatrist Cohen, who was medical director of the child-abuse clinic
at Western Psych.
  Cohen had been seeing Nicole since shortly after she reported her
abuse charges to authorities.
  She testified during pretrial hearings that even though some of
Nicole's stories, like those of most victims of child abuse, were not
true, she had no reason to doubt Nicole's basic allegation that she
had been abused.
  In the end. Mulroy decided to push ahead with the Althaus case
because of four pieces of evidence.

* Nicole had identified Stipetich from an array of photographs as the
man in the "pretty place." The photo had been taken 15 years ago, but
she said the man she knew was older, fatter and balder than in the
  Police say she was not coached in any way before selecting the
photo, but Manifesto said that if the case had gone to trial, he had
planned to note that Stipetich's photo was the only older one of those
shown to Nicole causing it to stand out.

* Mulroy believed the allegations against Stipetich made by Susan
  Again, though, Manifesto said that when he interviewed Lacy recently
in a federal prison at Morgantown, W.Va, she denied or corrected
police reports about her allegations. Lacy could not be reached for
comment for this story.
  Manifesto also said the people whom Lacy identified as participants
in child-pornography activities in Stipetich's home have denied the
allegation, and that the two children who were identified as minors in
Lacey's statements were actually young adults.

* Mulroy also believed Nicole because her visual description of the
woman in the "pretty place" matched that of Heidi Stipetich.
  She held to that position even after Nicole failed to identify Heidi
Stipetich during a preliminary hearing to which defense attorneys
brought look-alike models into the courtroom.
  The attorneys brought three women who resemble Heidi into the
courtroom.  Nicole identified the wrong person as Heidi even though
she had said she engaged in sexual activity with Heidi Stipetich more
than 50 times.

* The final piece of evidence that caused Mulroy to push forward in
the case was the teen's identification of many specific items in the
Stipetich's home-items the defense said could have been first seen in
the photos shown to Nicole.


  Defense attorneys have harshly criticized Mulroy for being
overzealous in the Althaus case. Mulroy declined to be interviewed for
this story, but her boss at the time, District Attorney Colville, said
he still believed the evidence was sufficient to bring the case to
trial, despite some of its shortcomings.
  "I jumped in at several points, asked people to take fresh looks at
[the case] and talked to several people myself," Colville said. And
even though some county detectives thought the case was weak, he said
he decided to go ahead with it.
  He made that decision even though Marianne Mulroy left the DA's
office to go into private practice in January, before the case was
ready for trial.
  "These things unfortunately aren't nice and clean," Colville said
after the case had been dropped last week. "We could not decide if
[Nicole} was being easily manipulated or what. . . I don't know what I
believe with this . . ., we figured to go forward and let this thing
work itself out."
  He also noted that even though Nicole decided not to testify, she
has never yet retracted her allegations.
  But many of Nicole's accusations -- particularly the ones in which
she said she witnessed murders -- created conflicts within the county
Police Department.
  Nicole claimed to have seen at least three murders; she told police
she had seen Stipetich kill a man in his home; had watched her parents
murder and dismember an elderly woman and then bury her in their
home's back yard; and watched as people in the "bad place" killed her
7 1/2-month-old baby.
  Those charges brought county homicide detectives Robert Payne and
Tom Fitzgerald into the case in September.
  Because she had made so many questionable allegations, Payne was
assigned to interview Nicole Althaus, over the objections of Mulroy,
who felt homicide police knew little about how to treat a child-abuse
  Payne interviewed Nicole on Sept. 25, a day after she testified
against her mother in a preliminary hearing.
  The transcripts make it clear that Payne did not believe many of
Nicole's allegations.
  "There are no bodies buried in the yard, are there?" Payne asked.
  Nicole did not respond.
  "You never gave birth to a stillborn, did you? You never had an
abortion, did you?" he asked.
  No response.
  "In fact, you were never sexually molested, were you?" Payne asked.
  Again, Nicold did not respond.
  Already skeptical, the homocide detectives decided to stake out the
North Side "bad place" because of the seriousness of the allegations
about what purportedly took place there.
  After seeing no unusual activity for more than a week, they went to
see the occupant.
  As Tercsak had found several months earlier, the resident was
outraged over the accusations, and readily allowed the detectives to
search his home.


  In a report he wrote on Oct 16, Lt. Michael Stowell of the county
police questioned what was said.
  "When the tour of the apartment. . .was completed, these detectives
agreed that there were no similarities between what the victim
described and what was actually observed, leading to the suggested
conclusion that Nicole Althaus had never been inside [the home], and
it was not 'the bad place' as she described."
  Stowell, a 20-year police veteran, then went to Mulroy and
questioned the merits of the case. Mulroy was unyielding in her
support of Nicole's story, and the two had several angry
  Mulroy, who is also a trained nurse, felt the homocide detectives
were not familiar with child-abuse cases and did not understand that
victims often fantasize about incidents.
  Soon Stowell and Mulroy no longer would speak to each other.
  Even before that point, county Detective Kempton said yesterday that
he and his partner, Dave Fuchs, "thought this was a workable case, but
we were never allowed to do what we know how to do to prove it or
disprove it."
  A veteran of 13 years of work in child-abuse cases, Kempton said
that once they had learned of Nicole's allegations about murders, he
and Fuchs told Mulroy that they should immediately get a search
warrant for the North Side "bad place" and for the Althaus back yard,
where Nicole said her father buried the elderly woman she had seen
  "That's when we started to say, 'Hey, let's slow down. If these
babies [that were allegedly killed] and this old lady are buried, we'd
better get a search warrant to either prove she's telling the truth or
disprove it,'" he said.
  But he said Mulroy "said to leave those things go, that we'd deal
with them later," he said.
  Then Kempton said that his superiors later ordered him not to do
anything in the case unless specifically instructed to by Mulory.
  "We wanted to do a lot more than what we were allowed to do. If we
could have disproved enough of this stuff, we could easily have put
this to bed a lot sooner than it was," he said.
  "This could have possibly ended a long time before we made any
  Now that the case is over, George Stipetich said that even though he
is relieved by the outcome, he is outraged at the heartache and
embarrassment it has caused for him and his family.
  "I want to know why this was done, why I was ever put on trial," he
said.  "I don't think I can quit until I find out."
  Rick and Renee Althaus say they have looked at their ordeal as a
three-step process.
  "We wanted to clear our names and we've done that," Rich Althaus
said. "Now we want to get Nicole help."
  "Lastly, we want to see that this doesn't happen to others because
we could not have a conscience if we didn't [try to ensure that]."
  Will they leave Pittsburgh?
  No, Rick Althaus said.
  "While this has been emotionally devastating, the people of our
church, friends... precious friends have been great," he said.

  Even thought the case was dismissed last week, the Althaus
investigation still contains many puzzling questions.
  And none is more puzzling than this one; Why would Nicole Althaus
make up such fantastic stories about her parents and others -- stories
not only of sexual abuse, but of demonic rituals, murders,
dismemberments and burials?
  The Althauses said in interviews that they didn't know the answer to
that question.
  Their defense attorneys have suggested that some of the raw material
for Nicole's accusations come from her foster guardian, Priscilla
Zappa, who declined to comment for this story.
  Nicole Althaus befriended Zappa at Mt. Lebanon High School where
Zappa teaches a World Cultures course.
  Court records indicated that Zappa often told her students that she
was a victim of child abuse, and that she was available to talk with
them if they had problems.
   As Nicole Althaus became estranged from her parents in 1990 after
her mother contracted breast cancer, she spent more and more time with
Zappa, and once criminal charges were filed against Nicole's parents,
she was placed in Zappa's care.
  Among the books Zappa gave Nicole to read was "The Confessions of
Laura Palmer," a tale of a young woman who was abused and tortured
by her parents and about 40 other men.
  The defense attorneys later asserted that there were more than 50
similarities between stories in the book and tales that Nicole told.
  While Nicole Althaus and Zappa had a close relationship, it was
sometimes stormy.
  In fact, just his week, Nicole asked to leave Zappa's home, where
she had been allowed to continue staying after the criminal case was
dismissed last week. Nicole has since been moved to another foster
care site.
  Dr. Marshall Schechter, a psychiatrist chosen by the prosecution to
examine Nicole for the court case, did not talk about whether Zappa
had played a role in some of the stories Nicole told police.
  But Schechter did diagnose Nicole has having a narcissistic
disorder, in which he said extreme self-centeredness is coupled with
serious problems in distinguishing fact form fiction. A person with
this disorder, he said, is extremely open to suggestion.
  Based on that, he said, he believed she would not be mentally
competent to testify.
  That conflicted with the opinion of Dr. Judith Cohen, medical
director of the child abuse clinic at Western Psychiatric Institute &
Clinic, who has been treating Nicole since she made the criminal
  Cohen suggested the elderly Schechter was not up to date in the
field of child sexual abuse.
  But Cohen herself caused controversy by stating repeatedly during
pretrial hearings that it was not her job to determine whether the
stories Nicole Althaus told were truthful.
  Saying that Nicole suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome and
depression, Cohen testified under cross-examination by defense
attorney Charles Scarlata that her job in the case was not to
determine whether Nicole had been abused, but to treat the child for
her emotional problems.
  "It is not my job as her therapist to continually at this point
confront her with the fact that some of her allegations cannot be
true," Cohen said.
  "My job is to deal with her emotional functioning, her symptomatology,
and certainly, eventually, down the line, with why and how these other
allegations have come to pass," Cohen testified.
  Cohen said she basically believed Nicole's allegations that she had
been abused after reading a report prepared by Western Psych's family
intervention center.
  "You believe that she was sexually and physically abused because
someone else told you that, right? You did nothing on you own to
confirm whether that happened or not -- you have told us that 100
times, right?" Scarlata queried at the hearing.
  "I didn't investigate it," Cohen said.
  Common Pleas Judge Robert E. Dauer, who presided at the hearing,
intervened at one point to ask Cohen about the lack of scarring on
Nicole's body, despite Nicole's charge that she had been forced to
walk on broken glass and hot coals at various times.
  Cohen told Dauer that Nicole could have done those things without
incurring permanent scars.
  Neither Cohen nor any other official from Western Psych or the
county's Children and Youth Services agency, which has supervision
over Nicole, would comment for this story.
  The conflicting psychiatric reports on Nicole finally came to an end
after Dauer granted a defense request to let Dr. Gary M. Glass,
a psychiatrist from King of Prussia evaluate Nicole.
  It was after that meeting that Nicole decided not to testify in the
  Glass later testified that Nicole started by telling him that she
knew he had been paid by the defense attorneys William Manifesto and
Scarlata, and that she knew previous psychiatrists such as Schechter
also were paid by the defense lawyers.
  Glass then asked Nicole to wait, and phoned Scarlata, He then
informed Nicole that it was her own psychiatrist, Cohen, and the
assistant district attorney handling the case at the time, Edward
Borkowski, who had chosen Schechter from a list of psychiatrists to
examine her.
  Glass testified that the revelation that Schechter had not been
hired by the defense to discredit her seemed to convince Nicole that
her parents were not against her, and eventually led to her decision
not to testify.
  He also said the treatment Nicole had received from Cohen was
"outrageous negligence," and caused him to be "embarrassed for my
  And he strongly disagreed with Cohen's opinion that it was
unnecessary to investigate the truthfulness of child sex abuse
  "When professionals do not exercise their responsibilities, people
like Nicole become the greatest victims of these tragedies, and other
victims will be less willing to come forward."