The Huber Heights "sex hysteria" case of 1985
File created: 2-14-96
Mary Jenny Wilcox Robert Dale Aldridge
In 1986 Mary Jenny Wilcox and Robert Dale Aldridge were sentenced to life in prison for the alleged rapes of several children in a Huber Heights apartment complex where the couple lived.
No medical evidence was presented at the trial and the convictions were based solely on the testimony of children who described Wilcox and Aldridge forcing them to have sex with several adults.
But after Aldridge and Wilcox had been in prison for a decade, three of the children, now adults, came forward and recanted their earlier testimony. In a 1996 hearing to determine whether the convictions should be overturned psychologists described the case as an example of "sex hysteria" in which children can come to believe in rumored and imagined stories.
On 3-7-96 their convictions were voided by the court.
Who's who:Defense lawyers at the 1985 trial: Laurence Rab and Thomas Hanna
Prosecutor: Angela Frydman
Trial Judge: John Kessler
Judge in 1996 hearing: Visiting Judge Richard E. Parrott of Union Co.
Witnesses: Six children, unidentified at the time. The three who later recanted were brothers, John, Jason and Justin Chronopoulos.
Police officer who interrogated the children: Jennifer Bazell.
Wilcox-Aldridge laywers in 1996: Harry Reinhart of Columbus, and three others.
Chronology:8-31-84 --Wilcox, 23, and Aldridge, 20, were arrested by Huber Heights police, who said the pair "orchestrated sexual experimentation" among the children.
1-11-86 -- After less than four hours of deliberation the jury found Wilcox and Aldridge guilty on multiple counts of rape and gross sexual imposition.
1-14-86 -- Judge John Kessler ordered Wilcox and Aldridge to serve multiple consecutive life sentences, one for each count of rape (five for Wilcox and six for Aldridge).
2-13-96 -- Now adults, John and Jason Chronopoulos testified that they lied in their original testimony. The brothers said they felt pressured into giving false statements. They said they themselves had been the subject of wild rumors alleging sexual deviance in the summer of 1984 -- until the blame was deflected to Wilcox and Aldridge. The Chronopouloses said they did not even know the couple in 1984 and could only point them out because prosecutors told them where they would be seated.
2-14-96 -- Dr. Richard Ofshe, a Berkeley professor who is an expert on police interrogations, testified that Huber Heights police used coercive tactics to get the children to testify. He said police, prosecutors and other officials used rewards, punishments and threats to get the three brothers to "comply" with the case against Aldridge and Wilcox.
Thomas Hanna, who was Aldridge's lawyer in 1985, testified that he was not shown all of the prosecution's evidence in preparing for the trial. Also, Dr. John J Peterangelo of Fairborn testified about his examination of one of the alleged victims on Aug. 30, 1984. Although the girl said she had been sexually assaulted by five adults, he said he found no physical evidence of that during his examination.
2-15-96 -- In the final day of testimony Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a University of Washington psychology professor who has written 19 books on memory and suggestibility, testified that false memories can be created in the minds of children by suggestive questioning.
Also, Melvin J. Guyer, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, identified numerous "red flags" in police and court records of the case. Among them:
- Parents did their own investigation and held community meetings, sometimes with children present.
- No recordings or written notes were made during child interviews, which were done repeatedly, resulting in wildly changing stories.
- The stories included incredulously long series of names and events.
- The list of suspects and victims alternately grew and shrank throughout the investigation.
Jenny Wilcox weeps as she and Robert Aldridge are processed out of the prison system at the Montgomery County Jail on March 8, 1996.
DDN Photo by Jim Witmer
3-7-96 -- Judge Parrott voided both convictions and ordered Wilcox and Aldridge released on $10,000 bond. Bond was required because the original indictments remained in effect. Prosecutors will decide whether to seek a new trial.
3-8-96 -- Wilcox and Aldridge walked out of jail free for the first time in 11 years.
3-14-97 -- The Ohio 2nd District Court of Appeals refuses to re-instate the convictions of Wilcox and Aldridge.