Beware of being a "true believer." Paul Ingram believed, and it cost him his freedom.
The Prosecution Of A False Memory: The Paul Ingram Case
By Daniel Brailey, Founder of the Ingram Organization
This is the story of Paul Ingram, an active charismatic Christian in Washington State, not only admired among his Christian friends at the Church Of Living Water, but also in the community where he was a longtime Thurston
County deputy sheriff and chairman of the local Republican party. In 1988, Paul's two daughters accused him and a number of prominent men in the community of satanic ritual abuse and sexual abuse. There were months of whispered rumors, extensive questioning, and finally, arrest, incarceration, interrogation, and even an exorcism to "cast out" the evil that Paul's pastor was convinced caused Paul to perform such insidious acts. After all this, Paul confessed, pleaded guilty without a trial, and is now serving the eighth year of his lengthy sentence in a state prison. What is especially startling about Paul's case, however, is that neither he nor many people with the most knowledge of the case believe he is guilty. Instead, Paul became a victim of the child abuse and satanic ritual abuse hysteria of the late 1980s.
This hysteria is promoted by Christian publishers popularizing false testimonies, social agendas overindulging in promoting even fanciful tales of child abuse, and a therapy industry riddled with ineffective and even misleading therapies of memory recovery and multiple personality disorder.
Many experts believe that today, almost a decade after the craze began, many judges, law enforcement personnel, journalists, therapists and Christian leaders now recognize the hysteria for what it is. If Paul's case were to occur today rather than in 1988, he never would have been arrested and even less persuaded to make a false confession and be sentenced to prison. Yet Paul is still in prison, his appeals exhausted. His only hope is direct intervention by the Washington State Governor's office. How this twisted experience developed offers fascinating insight into modern social myth making.
THE ORIGINAL CASE
In 1988, his daughters, Ericka and Julie, accused Paul Ingram of sexual abuse and made bizarre claims of satanic ritual abuse. The charges grew out of events at a retreat sponsored by Ingram's church, the Church Of Living Water.
At the end of the "Heart To Heart" retreat, Ericka was found sobbing in a corner. Karla Franko, who claimed to have the gift of prophecy and whose ministry was prominent at the retreat, came to "minister" to Ericka. As Franko put it," I am the one who opened the can of worms, all I know is what the Lord told me." Karla told Ericka that the Holy Spirit had told her Ericka was a victim of sexual abuse by her father.
Ericka mutely nodded her head in agreement. This was the third allegation of sexual abuse Ericka had made at three separate Heart To Heart Retreats. Of the two previous charges, one was made in 1983, against a church counselor, and then in 1985 both girls made accusations against a neighbor. In both cases, no evidence was found and charges were never pursued. Now, however, in 1988, they were accusing their own father, and the social and religious climate reflected the credulity and naive acceptance many people had at the time regarding satanic ritual abuse. Some experts believe this case almost certainly would not have resulted in a conviction if it hadn't happened when it did. Ericka claimed the abuse had been ongoing, but stopped when Paul became a Christian in 1977, Ericka's mother, Sandy, confronted Paul, but he assured her he had never touched either girl inappropriately. Reassured, Sandy went on a long-planned vacation, agreeing to meet with their pastor for advice on the bizarre situation when they returned.
The day Paul returned to his work at the sheriff's office, he was asked into Sheriff Gary Edwards' office. Under-sheriff Neil McClanahan was also present.
Paul acknowledged he knew of the accusations, but couldn't explain them. All he knew was that he was repulsed by the idea of molesting anyone, much less his daughters but that, as he put it, "I didn't raise my daughters to lie."
If this had happened in 1999, there would be an abundance of evidence showing that under the right suggestive circumstances, people can "remember" events that never happened, but which they believe happened. However, the term "false memory syndrome" didn't exist then. Paul's church taught that even a Christian could be invaded by evil. Paul then thought of the only way he could reconcile his daughters' stories and his own ethics and memories: "there must be a dark side of me I don't know about." Sheriff Edwards encouraged Paul to undergo questioning, saying, "I hope you're not going to make these girls go through trial." Paul willingly agreed to talk without an attorney. He was arrested, and throughout the interrogation he kept insisting that he could not remember ever doing anything with which he was charged. The detectives told him it was common for an abuser not to remember and that if he just started to confess anyway, the memories would return.
The court-appointed therapist, Richard Peterson, affirmed the assertion that a lack of memory by abusers was common, that suspects tend to be in a "state of denial," and that if Paul started to confess, the memories would likely start flooding back. Paul asked for his pastor, John Bratun. Bratun had been counseling the girls and told Paul the abuse did happen, and that Paul was "eighty percent evil." Bratun conducted an exorcism on Paul to rid him of the demons Bratun believed were shielding Paul's memory. Bratun told Paul that if he prayed to the Lord for his memories to return, the Lord would not give him a memory that wasn't true. He used Jesus' analogy about the Holy Spirit from Luke 11:11-12 to make his point -- just as a father won't give a stone to a child who asked for bread, so God would honor Paul's prayer. Paul prayed diligently, and in his mind he began seeing flashes, pictures, images -- images of him abusing Ericka and Julie. The detectives continued to encourage Paul to visualize a detailed picture of the alleged incidents. They asked him to describe a room, and he complied. They asked him to mentally find a calendar on the wall, provide the date of the alleged incident and he would.
They asked him to visualize a watch or a clock, and what time it was, and he would provide a time for them. Paul compliantly gave them as much detail as they requested -- for events that were allegedly as much as twenty years old.
Although the assumptions, procedures, and results were completely contradicted by the broad spectrum of academic and laboratory research on human memory, Paul and his accusers were convinced this was the pathway to truth.
Encouraged by the detectives, pastor, and therapist, Paul struggled to meet their expectations, but still couldn't quite match his visualizations with historical reality. Instead he described the alleged abuse scenes in subjective terms, "I would have done this," or as though he were an observer, "I see this" or "boy I feel like I'm making this up" or "I feel like I'm watching a movie." The detectives, pastor, and therapist all assured Paul that these were accurate memories of real history.
Over the next days, the girls' claims grew more bizarre. They claimed they were raped in more than 800 satanic rituals and given abortions by their father. When they were pressed to describe what happened at the rituals, all they could say was that the group "chanted." They accused more than thirty members of the sheriff's department of involvement in the satanic abuse circle. Years later, on a national tabloid television talk show, Ericka claimed she had been given an abortion during a ritual, then forced to eat chopped-up pieces of her dead baby. Ericka claimed she was impregnated many times during these rituals, but she could not provide anyone to verify that they had ever seen her pregnant. Both girls claimed their bodies were covered with scars from the long-term abuse. Julie claimed she was so scarred, she couldn't change her clothes in front of people in her gym class because she would be embarrassed. Ericka said she spent "half my life" in hospitals because of the abuse, that doctors were shocked at all her scars. When the detectives told the girls there was no way the abuse could have been that pervasive, severe, and long-term without their mother knowing, they accused Sandy.
Two of the men they had accused, Jim Rabie and Ray Risch, were arrested and charged. Rabie was arrested because of a date Paul provided from one of his "memories." When Rabie was able to prove he was out of the country on the date Paul had visualized, the detectives simply went back to Paul and got him to visualize a different date. Rabie and Risch's attorneys convinced the court to order medical exams for both girls. The medical reports showed the girls' bodies had only one scar between them -- Ericka's well-documented appendectomy scar. Both girls told the medical examiner they were not sexually active and had never had abortions. The female detective who took the girls to the exams was so concerned about the outcome of the examinations that she decided to examine the girls herself. Detective Loreli Thompson submitted her report. She found no scars.
At the sheriff's department, the girls drew maps, marking locations where they said they had witnessed more than thirty murders and burial of the corpses. The sheriff's department hired an anthropologist to excavate the Ingram properties. None of the far-reaching, intensive investigations turned up a shred of physical evidence to corroborate the girls' accusations or Paul's "memories." Anthropologist Dr. Mark Papworth's lone find was one cow bone.
Finally the sheriff's department decided to hire an expert in "cult behavior." Perhaps world-renowned expert, Dr. Richard Ofshe, from UC Berkeley could unlock the key that would make the case provable. Dr. Ofshe repeatedly and carefully interviewed the girls and Paul. He became convinced that the girls were not telling the truth, and that Paul had been manipulated into making false confessions.
Ofshe decided to test his belief. He met with Paul and described an event for him that he said the girls told him about. Ofshe told Paul that the girls said Paul forced one of them to have sex with one of their brothers while Paul watched. In actuality, Ofshe was careful not to include anything the girls had reported. Ofshe asked the girls if anything like this ever happened. They both told him it had not. Paul told Ofshe he couldn't "remember" the incident. Ofshe told Paul to return to his cell to "pray about it," just as he had with "recovering" his other memories. Paul was in a jail cell with the light on twenty-four hours a day for eight months. He was only allowed to have his bible and his legal notepad so he could write out his recovered "memories."
That afternoon, Paul told Ofshe that he was starting to "remember" the incident Ofshe had described. Ofshe quickly told Paul to go back to his cell and write down every thing he recalled. The next day Paul returned with a three-page written confession ... a confession to an event that had only existed in Ofshe's mind. Ofshe submitted his report to the sheriff's department, warning them that, in his expert opinion, they had set the stage to convict an innocent man. The Thurston County prosecutor Gary Tabor told Ofshe that wasn't the type of exculpatory evidence he was looking for, and he refused to turn the report over to the defense. Ofshe complained to the presiding judge of the court and the judge agreed to make the report available to the defense attorneys.
Paul was completely unaware of Ofshe's report when his Christian attorney, Gary Preble, who had limited criminal law experience, allowed Paul to plead guilty. The day Paul pleaded guilty, Preble told the Ingram family "I think in five years the Ingram family will wake up and realize none of this ever happened."
Paul, not wanting his daughters to suffer through a trial, pleaded guilty, was sentenced, and then transferred to a facility outside of Thurston County.
Isolated from his former colleagues turned inquisitors, his demon-fascinated pastor, and court-ordered Christian therapist, Paul began to doubt that his visualizations were accurate memories. He came to believe that the bread his pastor offered was actually a stone. He hired a more experienced law firm and moved to withdraw his guilty plea. He was too late. The court refused to let him change his plea and he was sentenced to twenty years in prison -- equivalent to life in prison in the state of Washington, and seventeen years longer than the standard sentence imposed in similar cases without the sensationalism and Satanism. No charges were ever pursued against anyone else Ericka and Julie had accused, including Rabie and Risch who had spent 158 days in custody before the charges were dropped days after Paul pleaded guilty. Ericka sued the sheriff's department, accusing them all of being
Satanists because they dropped the charges against Rabie and Risch. The Ingram investigation was the most expensive in Thurston County history, costing close to one million dollars. The county used helicopters with specialized night vision equipment in a fruitless attempt to catch the Satanists in the act in nearby wooded areas. They were only successful at busting up a lot of beer parties. One detective was so spooked he couldn't sleep at night without a light. Another investigator began carrying a crucifix for protection. Still, Sheriff Gary Edwards admitted later that there was no physical evidence -- only the girls' accusations and Paul's questionable confessions.
The head pastor of the Church Of Living Water, Ron Long, transferred to another church and today ministers in Hesperia, California with Karla Franko, who works with children and still "prophesies." Pastor Bratun lost his job and began working in a local grocery store. He has since moved to California.
Sandy left the area with her youngest son, Mark. Even though the girls accused her as a molester of children, she was allowed to raise him. Ericka has made the round of tabloid talk shows, supported and encouraged by Christian Shock Radio host Bob Larson. Paul's parents, still living in Washington State, stand to lose their retirement home over Paul's partially paid legal bills. Julie recently told someone she no longer believes the memories were real but that they were just bad dreams. The Thurston County Sheriff Department continues to tell the public that evidence was found on the Ingram Property, and that the girls' bodies are covered with scars.
Julie visited Paul in prison in 1993, and writes to him, "I didn't want you to be there, I wish I could come and take you away. I'd love to be held by you. I wish Jesus could reunite our family again," and, "I do feel that the decisions I make in my life are wise ones; you didn't raise me wrong did you?
I learned a lot from you and Mom and all other important people in my life."
And Paul? He still is serving his sentence -- 12 years into a twenty-year sentence. Despite the change in social attitude toward the satanic ritual fad, the recent academic and scientific exposés of false memory syndrome, the publication of numerous articles worldwide and one book, Remembering Satan, by Lawrence Wright, 1994, and a series of legal appeals, Paul is still in prison. His appeals exhausted, Paul has only one chance to leave prison before his prison term is over -- direct intervention by Washington State Governor Gary Locke. Paul recently applied for a pardon from former Governor Mike Lowry. Testifying in Paul's behalf at his 1996 pardon hearing were Dr. Richard Ofshe, Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Larry Wright, Daniel Brailey, and others. Unfortunately, the pardons board denied Paul's request.
To that end, those of us who felt compelled by truth and justice to act on Paul's behalf formed a support group, The Ingram Organization. Our goal is to recruit as many people as we can to encourage Governor Locke to give Paul Ingram the justice he deserves. The Ingram Organization represents the grassroots component of this coalition. We are all ages, from all walks of life, and of diverse political beliefs. We have one thing in common -- a shared conviction that justice has not been served in the Ingram case. We believe that a thorough, independent grand jury investigation is a required first step in rectifying a grave injustice. We want to recruit as many people as we can to encourage Governor Gary Locke to give Paul Ingram justice he is due. First, consider sending an email to Governor Locke, asking for a grand jury investigation. You may also call him at 360-753-6780 or fax him at 360-753-4110. Then, please contact us and let us know you contacted the Governor's office so we can add your efforts to our statistics. If you would like, ask us to put you on our postal mail or email lists. Finally, consider sending a donation to the Ingram Organization to defray the hundreds of dollars spent each month out-of-pocket by the all-volunteer staff as they pay for printing and postage costs, encouraging involvement, and working to publicize Paul's predicament. We can't let this case do what it has in the past -- promoting what is false.
© Justice Denied