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'No Substance,' Say Police, FBI Evidence Called Lacking To Link Franklin, Abuse - Feb 5, 1989 - Omaha World-Herald

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Feb 5, 1989 'No Substance,' Say Police, FBI Evidence Called Lacking To Link Franklin, Abuse; [Sunrise Edition] James Allen Flanery. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 1.A

Full Text (2039 words)
(Copyright 1989 Omaha World-Herald Company)

The FBI and Omaha police say they have been stymied in their efforts to find evidence of child abuse in connection with the Nov. 4 collapse of the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union.

In December, State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha said he and other members of a special legislative committee investigating Franklin had received reports of physical and sexual abuse of children. The FBI said then it also was investigating.

In an interview last week, Nicholas O'Hara, special agent in charge for the FBI in Nebraska and Iowa, said, "At this point, I'm satisfied there is no substance to the allegations as far as federal criminal statutes go. We are almost at the end of that point in the investigation."

Omaha Police Chief Robert Wadman said he also had concluded there is "no substance" to the allegations. Another investigator, Nebraska Attorney General Robert Spire, said he has not reached a final conclusion.

July Report

Chambers said, "We'll pursue our investigation without regard to what the chief (Wadman) or the FBI says."

Allegations of physical and sexual abuse of children - including reports of a teen-age girl being transported to parties in other cities - have circulated since the credit union failure.

Many of the allegations arise from a July 20, 1988, report by the State Foster Care Review Board. The report was submitted to Spire - with a copy to Omaha police - on July 25, 1988. The board asked Spire to investigate.

The Legislature's special committee subpoenaed a copy of the report Dec. 19. The FBI and Nebraska State Patrol also have obtained copies.

In an attempt to find out what basis there was for the speculation about child abuse, The World-Herald obtained a copy of the report, including two enclosed documents - former Boys Town assistant community director Julie Walters' March 1986 account of abuse alleged by two teen-age sisters and a February 1986 State Department of Social Services juvenile petition request pertaining to the teens' family.

In its report, the Foster Care Review Board said it had received allegations - from an attorney in Blair, Neb., a state social services supervisor, and a psychiatric hospital worker - of a "child exploitation" and "child prostitution ring" and "inappropriate activities by Larry King."

The report identified 11 children as reported victims of the alleged ring.

'Hearsay, Garbage'

"It's all hearsay, and it's all garbage," Lawrence E. King Jr., former chief executive officer and manager of Franklin, said in an interview Friday.

"Those girls (the teen-agers) have been in . . . court . . . for no-good stuff. This is smut. A lot of agencies will find out they (the allegations) are not true."

The account of Mrs. Walters, now a juvenile probation officer in Ohio, contains specific allegations about King and alleged abuse of children.

The account is based on Mrs. Walters' interviews with the teen-age sisters on March 16, 18 and 20, 1986. Mrs. Walters has said she conducted the interviews because of an allegation that Boys Town youngsters had been abuse victims. Mrs. Walters has said she could not verify that allegation. But she has said she generally believed most of what the sisters told her.

At the time of the interviews, one sister was 16 and the other was 15. Mrs. Walters' account includes the girls' descriptions of parties they said they had attended in 1984 and 1985 at which sexual activity allegedly had occurred.

The older sister alleged that King arranged for her to fly to parties in Washington, D.C., and other cities where men engaged her in sexual activity.

"---- said that at these trip/parties, which Larry hosted, she sat naked, 'looking pretty and innocent,' and guests could engage in any sexual activity they wanted (but penetration was not allowed) with her."

Mrs. Walters' account also quotes the older sister as saying King arranged for her and her younger sister to attend parties at his Omaha home, where "there was a lot of sexual activity between young people and adults."

Girls Adopted

At the time of the alleged parties, Mrs. Walters' account indicates, the girls were living as adopted children of Barbara and Jarrett Webb, who reside just north of the Washington-Douglas County line near Nashville, Neb.

Mrs. Walters says in her account that "Larry King is Barbara Webb's cousin." She identifies Jarrett Webb as a Franklin board member.

"All I know is they (the Webbs) are relatives of my family," King said. "I've never been with any of their children."

Mrs. Webb said: "They (the teen-age sisters) are not telling the truth. We don't know anything about this. We have not been charged with anything."

State Social Services Director Kermit McMurry said the state suspended the Webbs' foster-care license in June 1985. McMurry declined to say why. Mrs. Webb said it had nothing to do with the girls' allegations.

Mrs. Webb also said the teen-agers were lying about another allegation in Mrs. Walters' account - that they and other children were abused in the Webb home.

Mrs. Walters says in her account that former Washington County Attorney Pat Tripp also did not believe the allegation when he was made aware of it in 1986.

The account says Tripp felt the older teen-age sister had "fantasized those stories to the point that she believed they were true."

Contacted in Omaha, where he is now an attorney in private practice, Tripp said, "I would have no comment. It was a juvenile case."

Polygraph Tests

According to Mrs. Walters' account, the older sister "was given four polygraph tests administered by a state trooper at the State Patrol office on Center Street in Omaha. The state trooper, after ----'s testing was completed, told (another foster parent) he tried to 'break ---- down' but he was convinced she was telling the truth."

A Feb. 7, 1986, request for a juvenile petition written by two State Department of Social Services workers and also included in the report to Spire says that the older sister took a lie detector test Jan. 30, 1985.

"Results of the polygraph test revealed that ---- had been truthful in her statements regarding the sexual abuse," the juvenile petition request says.

Lori Aman, one of the authors of the petition request, declined an interview. Also declining interviews were Mrs. Walters and Carol Stitt, director of the State Foster Care Review Board and author of the July 1988 report.

Ms. Stitt wrote in the report that her executive board ordered her Jan. 25, 1988, to review "all children known to have been in the Webb foster home."

The Department of Social Services licensed the Webbs as foster parents in 1973. McMurry said the Webbs took foster children whom they intended to adopt.

McMurry said that no state wards had been placed in the home since 1985, when the license was suspended.

McMurry said the suspension meant removing some youngsters from the Webb home who were in the process of being adopted.

The two teen-age sisters were not removed because they had been legally adopted and the department no longer had authority over them, McMurry said.

'Uncontrollable'

In November 1985, the older teen fled the home, according to the juvenile petition request by two of McMurry's protective services workers.

In early 1986, according to Mrs. Walters' account, the Webbs voluntarily relinquished rights of guardianship over both teen-age girls.

The Webbs "no longer wanted" the girls in their home, the petition request indicates. "They (the Webbs) alleged that the girls' behaviors were uncontrollable . . . (and) wanted to terminate the adoption."

Allegations in the review board report were first made public in December, when the Legislature began its investigation.

Dec. 19, Chambers said Omaha police and the Attorney General's Office had "sat on" the report since receiving it July 25.

Wadman and Spire disputed Chambers' charge.

Wadman reiterated last week that his department "followed up" immediately on allegations in the report but found "no substance."

He said the allegations were vague and, in terms of one possible criminal charge - contributing to the delinquency of a minor - untimely. The statute of limitations on a contributing charge is one year following the alleged offense.

Wadman also said one alleged victim was "in a mental institution for a variety of problems." He said the teen-age sisters were living at the time in Washington County - outside his department's jurisdiction.

"We have not closed the book on this," Wadman said. "If there is additional information out there I can act on, I need to be aware of it."

'Still Being Studied'

Spire said last week, "We have not yet received completed reports from the various agencies doing the investigation" of alleged abuse.

"Until we do receive the reports, we can't reach a final conclusion. As far as we're concerned, the matter is still being studied."

O'Hara said the FBI had "one or two follow-up interviews to conduct." But, he said, after "dozens of interviews, it does not appear that there is any substance to the initial allegations."

One state official involved in investigating the Franklin collapse said corroborating witnesses for the teen-age girls' story have been found. Another investigating state official said no corroboration had been found.

Kirstin Hallberg, a Washington County woman who works with emotionally disturbed children, said she talked with the teen-age girls in March 1986.

She said they also told her King had arranged for them to attend parties in Omaha and other cities where sexual activity had occurred.

Interviews with 25 Omahans said to be acquainted with King turned up four people who said they had attended parties he had hosted. All four said they had not witnessed any sexual activities at these parties.

'Prince's Baby Sitter'

In her account, Mrs. Walters quotes the older teen-age girl as saying sexual activity occurred at half of King's parties in Omaha. The teen also is quoted as saying King never made sexual advances toward her.

The account says the older girl told her that she had "accompanied Mr. and Mrs. King and Prince (the couple's son, Lawrence E. King III) on trips to Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., beginning when she was 15 years old."

"She missed 22 days of school almost totally due to these trips. ---- was taken along on the pretense of being Prince's baby sitter."

"---- says she didn't receive any money or gifts," the account says. "While on the trips though, she did earn $0 a day for baby-sitting Prince."

At other out-of-town parties, the account says, "Larry had local prostitutes (in their 20s and 30s) there to entertain his male guests."

After a customer had paid several hundred dollars for the teen's services, the account said, he would be talked into "a more experienced" girl.

"At these parties, ---- said every guest had a bodyguard and she saw some of the men wearing guns. All guests had to produce a card which was run through a machine to verify the guest was, in fact, who they said they were. And then each guest was frisked down before entering the party."

'No Choice'

In Omaha, the account says, "Larry King either called or sent invitations" to the two teens and an adopted teen-age boy in the Webb home "to attend parties at his home, which are held about every other week.

"This began about two years ago. . . . ---- said the kids had no choice about whether or not they would attend."

"At the parties, there are usually about 30 adults (males and females) present, more white than black guests because, according to Larry, 'blacks get ignorant when they drink and tighter with their money, and whites spend more money when they're drunk.'

"Also present were some prostitutes (age unknown but not teen-agers) and boys ages 16-22, and ---- and ----- - about 20 kids total.

"If a man was interested in a young lady he held out a folded $0 or $00 bill in front of them and whispered something in their ear. Then they went upstairs or to some other area of the house. . . .

"The sexual activity was not always behind closed doors or confined to the upstairs rooms, and sometimes involved more than two people. Couples engaged in sexual activity were same-sex as well as opposite-sex."

Said King: "None of it is fact. None of it is true."

Credit: World-Herald Staff Writer

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