Skeptics scoff at claims that Subcommittee is

attacked with diazinon -- even in county meetings.


     There are dozens of commission and committee

meetings every week in Los Angeles County's massive Hall

of Administration, but in only one will you hear serious

discussion of members being slipped a mickey through air-

conditioning vents.

     At meetings of the Ritual Abuse Task Force, a corps

of well-meaning men and women use the clout of county

authority to warn of satanic abuse they claim forces

thousands of young people into unholy rituals including

human sacrifice, torture and orgies.

     On Monday, several task force members repeated their

longstanding claim that satanists are poisoning them and

other satanic abuse survivors-and their therapists-by

exposing them to a toxic pesticide pumped into their

offices, homes and cars.  One woman claimed she was even

poisoned during a task force meeting.

     The supposed victims say they suspect satanists of

slipping diazinon, a chemical compound used in bug sprays

and powders, into air-conditioning vents to silence them.

     "I can't believe I'm sitting here listening to

this," said Paul J. Papanek, chief of the county's toxics

epidemiology program.  "This is outrageous."

     Task force member Stephanie Sheppard had asked

Papanek-and members of the media-to attend Monday's

meeting.  Sheppard then called on the alleged victims to

prove their bizarre claims or keep quiet and stop

wasting  taxpayers'  time and money".

     None of the 43 supposed victims has produced any

medical proof that the ailments-including headaches,

dizziness, numbness and memory loss-are caused by poi-


     "The integrity of the task force is severely on the

line," said Sheppard, an out-of-work artist who says she

is a survivor of ritual abuse.  "If people are making

those statements, they need to back them up."

     Sheppard later added that claims such as those made

by her colleagues do nothing but undermine the already

shaky reputation of the 4-year-old, 14-member task force,

which is a subcommittee of the county's Commission for


     "They are blaspheming the whole ritual abuse thing,"

she said.  "It's like they've shouted wolf too many


     Indeed, at a time when the Board of Supervisors has

been meeting just five floors below the task force to

dismantle county health care programs, lay off part-time

employees and cut all other services because of a severe

budget shortfall, some are questioning whether the group-

and particularly its obsession with poisoning-is not just

a little frivolous.

     One county employee suggested that the task force

has not been disbanded because it is one of the few that

actually make money.' Since 1989, the task force-made up

of therapists, alleged victims and religious leaders-has

sold a handbook that outlines the telltale signs of

ritual abuse.  More than 17,000 copies of the handbook

have been sold at $1 apiece, more than enough to offset

the costs of the task force.

     Many mainstream psychologists and law enforcement

officials insist that it is extremely unlikely that

thousands of people have been forced to participate in

satanic rituals, as alleged survivors claim.

     The task force was formed at the request of

Commission for Women Chairwoman Myra Riddell, a psy-

chologist who also serves as chairwoman of the ritual

abuse group.  She said she had noticed an increase in the

number of her patients who recalled experiencing satanic

abuse as children.

     During Monday's meeting, Ridden did not directly

address the poison claims, saying only: "It's not a

question of disbelief.  It's a question of what action we

want to take." She did not return telephone calls later

in the day.

     Others were more vocal, demanding answers about why

there were so many similarities in symptoms reported by

those who believe they have been poisoned.

     "Why is this group feeling so awful and feeling so

awful in the same kinds of ways?" asked task force member

Vicki Graham-Costain, a psychologist who treats people

claiming to be victims of ritual abuse.

     Papanek said Graham-Costain's question was a good

one, but he said he did not think they were poisoned.

     "I certainly did not hear any evidence of diazinon

poisoning," he said after the meeting.  "If you seriously

think you have been poisoned, you don't come to the

eighth floor of the county building.  You go see a


     Papanek said it is possible to become sick by

inhaling diazinon through vents, but usually only if

large quantities are present.

     Several of the alleged victims, who did not identify

themselves at the meeting, said they have seen doctors

but that their cases have not been reported to county

health officials-a violation of the state health and

safety code, if true.

     After the meeting, task force member Catherine A.

Gould, a clinical psychologist noted for treating victim

of satanic abuse, said she would produce lab results

Monday afternoon documenting diazinon poisoning in two

patients.  She had not provided the information by Monday

evening and she said she was "trying to find some people

willing to go public."

     Gould said she was also poisoned after she brought

the issue before the task force in March, and that the

poisoning caused her to experience blurred vision and

failed memory.  Yet, she admitted, she never had a blood

test or went to a doctor to determine what ailed her..

     "I never got tested," she said.  "Everyone said you

can't find this in a work-up."

     But Papanek said diazinon is fairly easy to detect

with the proper tests, and he questioned why supposed

victims rarely sought medical help.  One woman who

claimed to have been poisoned said her doctor told her

that "it was all in my head."






The Ritual Abuse Task Force of the Los Angeles County

Commission for Women was formed in 1988 to deal with what

was perceived as an increase in the number of people who

claimed to have been abused in satanic rituals as

children.  However, many mainstream psychologists and law

enforcement officials dispute the notion that thousands

of people have been forced to participate in satanic

rituals.  Horrible childhood "memories" of such abuse are

likely to be suggestions made in treatment by

psychotherapists rather than actual recollections, these

critics say.


                                      By AARON CURTISS,

                                     TIMES STAFF WRITER


                                       December 1, 1992

                                      Los Angeles Times




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