‘Sex kindergarten’ story ‘made up’
IT WAS salacious and it sent the tabloids into a frenzy.
The story being told by the tiny victims of an alleged child sex ring dubbed "sex kindergarten" were drugged, made to dance and have sex with one another. At least that's what police were told.
"Largest child sex ring scandal hits Texas," one newspaper headline read.
The story sent shockwaves through the small community in the early 2000s and sent four people to prison. But the "victim" claims it was all made up.
One of the accusers, a young woman named Gabby, now says she was forced to tell a detailed lie so complex she believed it herself. "It never happened," she says. But the damage is already done.
'TAKING SILLY PILLS TO MAKE HER DANCE'
In an interview with Texas Monthly, Gabby told reporter Michael Hall that she was too young to understand what happened when she was pulled out of her family home and planted in the middle of a nightmare scenario that pitted her against her biological parents.
"I was nine years old," she said. "I enjoyed being the centre of attention."
Her world was turned upside-down one morning in 2005 when, aged seven, she was taken into Child Protective Services after a complaint was lodged with police.
She was rehomed with a deeply religious woman named Margie who dedicated her life to fostering children and had 27 recorded adoptions under her belt. Gabby says that same woman poisoned her brain and made her do the unthinkable.
Gabby, along with two nieces and a nephew - all aged between four and eight - told police during a series of prolonged and exhausting interviews, that they were part of a "sex kindergarten" where they were forced to wear costumes and dance at a swingers club. They said they were given "silly pills that made their potties feel funny".
Their stories were remarkably similar.
The children named Gabby's parents, Jimmy and Sheila, as well as a number of other locals as those responsible. A man named Patrick Kelly, also known as Booger Red, was supposed to be the group's leader.
For their testimony, the adults were sent to prison. They were offered a deal that meant they would plead guilty but would not be registered as sex offenders and could be free by 2011. Four of them, including Gabby's mother and father, took it.
The children tried to move on with their young lives, convinced they'd done the right thing. But for Gabby, she never kicked that lingering feeling of uncertainty.
She had trouble with remembering anything that was supposed to have happened to her. The whole thing "was a big blank in her mind", Hall wrote.
In 2014, she tracked her father down on Facebook. Part of his plea meant he could not reach out to her. She asked him simply: "Is this the Jimmy whose daughter was taken away?" He responded quickly and the pair met up.
She asked him whether he did it and why people said he did. He said 'no' and she told him she was "sorry for lying".
"It wasn't your fault," he said. "You were a little girl."
'WHEN AN ADULT TELLS YOU SOMETHING, YOU BELIEVE IT'
Reflecting now, Gabby says her foster parents "blew up my mind".
"They literally ... planted stuff in it. I'm furious about it. They lied to me. They used me. They screwed up my life."
Margie and her husband John - who were fostering the other accusers at the time the four adults were sent to prison - never explained their side of the story.
They were accused in 2013 of mistreating children in their care and had those same children taken from them. They fled to California when Gabby left to reconnect with her parents.
Gabby says they made up stories, poisoned her mind and should be held accountable.
Her parents were framed, she says. It's a sentiment shared by defence lawyer Bobby Mims who told The Monthly: "In my thirty years of practice, I've never seen anything like that - an absolute, honest-to-God frame-up."
Hall's investigation inspired local filmmakers to create the film Booger Red, which premiered in October 2015.
The film is described as a "hybrid narrative/documentary that examines the convergence of memory, sexuality and the legal system through the investigation of purportedly the largest child sex ring of a true Texas 'crime'". Many of the characters are played by themselves.
At a screening for the movie in Texas last year, Gabby told those in attendance she had rekindled her relationship with her parents and was moving on.
She explained how children are vulnerable and how, with the right amount of pressure, will say whatever they think is the right thing.
"When an adult tells you something happened, you're going to believe it, especially if they tell you over and over," she said.
"It must have happened, because an adult told you it happened. That was how they did it."