Woman who started McMartin case found dead

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- The mother whose accusations launched the McMartin Pre-School molestation case was found dead in her home, a possible suicide, authorities said.

Judy Ann Johnson, 42, was found dead Friday after a neighbor asked police to check on the woman because she was worried.


'There's no trauma, no forced entry. It doesn't look like she was killed,' said Sheriff's Lt. Robert Bauder.

Asked if Johnson had committed suicide, Bauder said, 'anything's possible,' but stressed that investigators were awaiting the results of an autopsy scheduled today.

Earlier Friday, Superior Court Judge William Pounders denied bail to Raymond Buckey, the last of the original seven McMartin defendants still jailed on grounds there was reason to believe Buckey still poses a threat to child witnesses and their parents.

But citing recent admissions by prosecutors that they withheld evidence of Johnson's history of emotional instability, and thus her credibility, the judge said, 'Mr. Buckey's freedom may be as close as the next turn of the cards.'


A hearing on a motion to dismiss the remaining charges because of the withheld evidence is to resume Jan. 5.

Bauder said Johnson, who lived alone and was not in court Friday, had probably been dead for at least a day. She is divorced and her children live with their father.

Jackie McGualey, another McMartin parent, said Johnson was under 'unimaginable' pressure and she was 'surprised she lasted this long.'

Buckey, 28, has spent 33 months in a one-man cell in the County Jail since he, his mother, sister, grandmother and three others were indicted in March 1984 on 324 felony counts of child molesting.

Buckey and his mother, Peggy Buckey, 60, are to stand trial on one count of conspiracy and 99 counts of molesting children at the Manhattan Beach pre-school founded by his grandmother. Charges against the other five defendants were dismissed.

Pounders said his decision to deny bail was influenced by the 'repeated testimony of several child witnesses' who said during the preliminary hearing that 'they feel Mr. Buckey will carry out threats to kill their parents if they talked.'

'I do find the substantial likelihood that the release of Raymond Buckey would result in the substantial likelihood those threats would be carried out,' Pounders said.


Buckey -- in his first statement in nearly three years of court proceedings -- told the judge he is innocent and wants to go to trial to clear his family's name.

'I have never harmed a child, nor can I comprehend how anyone would believe I would or could or did,' he said.

'I do not fear the truth,' Buckey said. 'The truth ... will set me free.'

Buckey's mother was released on $500,000 bail earlier this year.

Defense attorneys are trying to have the remaining charges dismissed on grounds the evidence against the Buckeys is no stronger than that against the five defendants who were cleared.

In what became the longest and most expensive preliminary hearing in state history -- 19 months and $4 million -- the seven defendants were ordered to stand trial on a total of 135 charges.

But last January District Attorney Ira Reiner shocked many close to the case by dropping all charges against Virginia McMartin, 79, her granddaughter Peggy Ann Buckey, 30, and teachers Mary Ann Jackson, 58, Babette Spitler, 38, and Betty Raidor, 67.

Reiner maintained hehad enough evidence to convict Raymond and Peggy Buckey, but the evidence against the others was 'incredibly weak.'


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