This edition of Frontline examines, in exhaustive and appalling detail, a child-abuse case in Edenton, N.C. In January 1989, the State Department of Social Services informed day-care center owners Bob and Betsy Kelly that it had received complaints that several children had been sexually molested at the center. Producer Ofra Bikel shows us how quickly rumors spread in this small town and how the charges grew. After the Kellys and their staff were arrested, for example, Bob was charged with abusing 29 children on 248 counts. (Bob Kelly’s trial is scheduled to begin this June, with the others to follow.)
But in interviewing scores of Edenton residents, Bikel raises the possibility that the case is utterly without merit and that the allegations may have originated with one mother who was displeased with the way the Kellys spoke to her child.
Simply by presenting the facts, Innocence Lost has many important things to say about how the legal system and the psychiatric community deal with child-abuse cases these days. Nearly all of the children involved in this case were interviewed extensively — and intensively — by a team of therapists. One mother who believes the Kellys are innocent asserts that “if the way my son was questioned and badgered and repeatedly asked the same thing is an indication of the way other kids were interviewed, then I don’t find it difficult to believe that these kids are now believing something happened that didn’t.”
The two hours of Innocence Lost fly by faster than any sensational TV movie; watch it and make up your own mind. A