MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. -- The Virginia McMartin Pre-School was torn down Tuesday, more than a decade after alleged child molestations at the nursery sparked the most notorious sex abuse case in U.S. history.
Construction crews in bulldozers razed the one-story property to make way for a three-story office building and an underground parking lot.
The once-prestigious school was closed in January 1984 and has not been owned by the family of school founder Virginia McMartin for years.
Danny Davis, the lawyer for former preschool teacher Raymond Buckey, the sole defendant remaining in the case, acquired the property as part of his legal fees. He then sold it to the current owner, developer Arnold Goldstein.
Goldstein for the last several weeks has been allowing a group of parents sympathetic to the alleged victims in the case to conduct an excavation for additional evidence in the case. Tuesday's razing officially ended that search.
On Friday, a private investigator working with the parents and an archaeologist said the excavation uncovered a 'subterranean opening' and what may be an underground tunnel where some children said they were molested.
'We definitely have a subterranean opening under the foundation of the west classroom,' said Ted Gunderson, a former head of the FBI's Los Angeles office.
In a separate finding, Gunderson said the excavation uncovered what 'may be a tunnel' beneath the school's front bathroom. But he said plumbing pipes were found in the possible tunnel and that may mean it was dug by a utility company.
The alleged victims in the case have said they were molested in secret underground tunnels beneath the school. A similar excavation conducted by the District Attorney's Office several years ago found no evidence of secret tunnels.
The district attorney's office, which is retrying Buckey on eight molestation counts stemming from the alleged sexual abuse of three girls from 1979 until 1983, said the excavation is unrelated to its prosecution.
Jackie McGauley, the parent of a former McMartin student who has remained active in the case, said Tuesday she has mixed emotions about the demolition of the school.
'I'm grateful that it'll be something completely different,' she said. 'Getting rid of this school is like having a boil removed. They'll have to dig way down to remove it. It'll be painful. But, in the end, it'll be gone.'
In another development in the case Tuesday, Joanne Farr, the mother of a former McMartin student, said she formally asked the state Bar to investigate District Attorney Ira Reiner for allegedly trying earlier this month to privately contact Superior Court Judge Stanley Weisberg, who is presiding over Buckey's retrial.
Reiner has said he had an investigator telephone Weisberg in New York merely to set up a conference call with all parties in the case to discuss news reports of plea bargain discussions in the case. It is a violation of legal ethics for one side in a case to communicate with a judge without the other parties being present.
Buckey, 32, and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, 63, were acquitted Jan. 18 of 52 other molestation counts at the first trial in the case. Jurors deadlocked on the eight counts on which Buckey is being retried.
Buckey has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
The first trial, which involved the alleged molestations of 11 children, lasted nearly three years and cost more than $13 million, making it the longest, costliest criminal trial in U.S. history.
The retrial, now in its second month, is expected to last less than a year.
When first filed in 1984, the case also was the largest sex abuse case in U.S. history. But scores of charges and five co-defendants were dismissed prior to the first trial on grounds of insufficient evidence.