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Margaret Kelly Michaels Trial and Appeal: 1987 & 1993

From Questions To Indictments

On April 30, 1985, a four-year-old boy who attended Wee Care visited his doctor. During an examination, the nurses took his temperature with a rectal thermometer. "That's what my teacher does to me at nap time at school," the boy said. The teacher he was referring to was Kelly Michaels. The boy's comments prompted his mother to call the New Jersey Division of Family and Youth Services. The boy was also questioned by Assistant Prosecutor Sara Sencer McArdle, head of the Essex County Child Abuse unit.

In that interview, the boy said that Michaels had touched other boys as well. Subsequently, these children were also questioned. One said Michael had touched his penis. A few weeks later, parents of the children attending Wee Care were told by New Jersey authorities to watch for "danger signs" of abuse. Later the parents were instructed to record their observations in a journal. Soon, a deepening pattern of alleged abuse evolved. In June, Michaels was indicted on six counts of child abuse; she pleaded innocent to all charges.

Sexual abuse experts questioned the children, letting them demonstrate with anatomically correct dolls. The children used the dolls to indicate where they had been touched. The charges against Michaels continued to grow including accusations that she played "Jingle Bells" on the piano while naked; she made the children take off all their clothes and roll around on kitchen utensils spread on the floor; and she licked peanut butter off the children's genitals. By December 1985, the indictments reached 235 counts of abuse against 31 children.

Michaels continued to assert her innocence. She noted that none of the children had ever lodged complaints against her while she worked at Wee Care. And she had never spent enough time alone with all the children to carry out some of the more unusual practices she had allegedly committed. Michaels also passed a lie detector test when she was first questioned by police. Still, prosecutors believed the children's stories and pressed on with the case.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988Margaret Kelly Michaels Trial and Appeal: 1987 1993 - From Questions To Indictments, Michaels On Trial, A Legal Rescue, Suggestions For Further Reading