The Fells Acres Daycare Case
The Fells Acres Day Care Center was a day care located in Malden, Massachusetts. Opened by Violet Amirault in 1966 and run by her family, the facility was at the center of a scandal during the 1980s when several children accused the family of sexual abuse. The first victim was a four year old boy who broke the scandal in 1984.
The boy had his clothing changed by Violet's son Gerald Amirault after he urinated on himself. The same child was then caught playing a sexual type game by his family. When asked about where he learned the game, the boy pointed the finger at Gerald. Police arrested the man and then notified other parents of the incident. They gave the parents a list of behaviors and actions that indicated sexual abuse and asked parents to look for those signs in their own children.
Police interviewed children at the day care center and eventually arrested others including Violet and her daughter Cheryl. They stated that the children all testified to the same type of sexual abuse from the family, including having their naked bodies photographed with a Polaroid camera. Each child was able to describe the camera exactly, despite not knowing its name. They also testified to experiencing the same things by members of the family.
The court found Gerald guilty of rape and assault against nine children and was given 30-40 years in jail. Violet and Cheryl were sentenced to 8-20 years of rape and assault of four kids. The children themselves appeared in court where they testified about the abuse. The kids testified about extreme abuse that included being stripped and tied to a tree, raped with instruments such as sticks and forks and hidden away in secret rooms.
Those against the case claim that the children were coerced into making their statements. In original taped interviews, the children told them that nothing happened. It was only later that they changed their stories and told abuse stories. There was even one case where the interviewer convinced a girl into testifying about abuse by claiming that her best friend already told them the true story.
Resources on the case include:
- The Fells Acres Nightmare : discusses the case from a personal point of view.
- The Fells Acres Ritual Abuse Case : focuses on the things that happened and how the case came to light.
- A Fells Acres Chronology : lists the major events and dates in the case.
- Fells Acres Sexual Abuse Trials : offers information on the courtroom trials surrounding the case.
- Fells Acres Day School : discusses the use of false memories in the case.
- Mass Victims Fight Commutation Plea : focuses on the possible release of one of the convicted people in the case.
- A Darkness in Massachusetts : offers information on the later days of the sexual abuse case.
- Youths Tainted Testimony is Barred in Day Care Retrial : focuses on the later days of the case when the court tossed out testimony of the victims.
- Day Care Workers Get Retrial : discusses the retrial given to the accused.
- Boston Herald : focuses on the victims of the abuse and their own feelings.
Following the case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court released Violet and Cheryl. In 1995 they were released on an appeal that claimed they never had the chance to face their accusers. This was then reversed and while waiting for the next trial, Violet died of cancer. Cheryl was released in 1999 on the provision that she would spend ten years on probation, never talk about or profit from the case and that she stay away from children and the families of her victims.
Gerald's case was sent to a parole board that recommended he be released in 2001. The Governor of Massachusetts turned down their recommendation, but in 2004 he was released from prison early. Today the case is often discussed in criminal justice schools and hotly debated. There are many people who believe the family was wrongly convicted, while those involved closely in the case still believe justice was served.