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'Throw-Away' Children Worry Members Group Keys on Franklin Abuse Charges - July 25, 1989 - Omaha World-Herald

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July 25, 1989 'Throw-Away' Children Worry Members Group Keys on Franklin Abuse Charges; [Sunrise Edition] Robert Dorr. Omaha World - Herald. Omaha, Neb. pg. 17

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(Copyright 1989 Omaha World-Herald Company)

A committee was formed Monday to press for continued investigation of possible physical and sexual child abuse committed by people linked to the defunct Franklin Community Federal Credit Union.

The group, called Concerned Parents, will have seven members - parents, clergymen and social workers - said Mary Lyons-Barrett, who helped organize a meeting Monday at Holy Family Catholic Church.

At the meeting, one woman said she has talked to three girls who said they were victims of child abuse by people involved with the Franklin case. "I know the kids, and I know they're telling the truth," she said.

Same Neighborhood

The woman, who declined to give her name, said she and the three girls lived in the same neighborhood at one time. The girls "had no reason to make up stories," she said.

Ms. Lyons-Barrett said "20 to 30 children that we know of" have been abused in connection with activities involving people related to the Franklin case. She said she bases that estimate - which she said might be "very conservative" - on her talks with social workers who interviewed girls who said they were abuse victims. She hasn't interviewed any victims herself, she said.

Some of the victims may be children of illegal aliens, said Ms. Lyons-Barrett, who formerly directed a housing program for the working poor and is the mother of two children.

"Many of these allegations have been verified by agencies," she said. The children have passed lie-detector tests administered by the State Patrol, she said.

Bonnie Cosentino, a professional artist and mother of one child, said some of the youngsters supposedly abused are thought of by some as "throw-away children" because they don't live in normal homes.'Terrible Thing'

"That term - throw-away children - makes me sick," said Ms. Cosentino, who helped organize Monday's meeting. "They are the ones subjected to this terrible, terrible thing."

State Sens. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, committee vice chairman, and Jim McFarland of Lincoln, a member, have resigned from the Legislature's special committee investigating all aspects of Franklin's failure, as have special counsel Kirk Naylor and special investigator Jerry Lowe.

Several people among the approximately 60 who attended the meeting said they hope the two state legislators and the two staff members can be persuaded to return to the committee.

The resignations are "of grave concern," said Kathy Moore, executive director of Voices for Children, a non-profit child advocacy group.

"If there is even a shred of evidence to indicate a possibility that crimes against children occurred, then the aggressive investigation must continue," she said.

Others said they are concerned that the focus of the special legislative committee will shift from child abuse.

Witness Cooperation

Chambers, Naylor and Lowe said comments by Sen. Loran Schmit of Bellwood, committee chairman, indicating that investigators couldn't verify any allegations of child abuse have discouraged witnesses from cooperating with the committee. There still were leads to follow, they said.

Schmit responded that he never intended to downplay the child abuse allegations. He said he believed following financial records would more quickly lead to proof, if any exists, of some of the allegations.

Anne Boyle, wife of former Mayor Mike Boyle, urged those attending Monday's meeting to write letters to members of the Legislature's Franklin committee.

She said a large group of people expressing concern about abused children would have an effect on public officials.

"Throw-away children are human beings," Mrs. Boyle said.

Cece Zorinsky, wife of the late Sen. Edward Zorinsky, also attended, but didn't speak. She said afterward, "I'm concerned and interested." She attended to become informed, she said.

Turned Up Nothing

Nicholas O'Hara, special agent in charge of the FBI in Nebraska and Iowa, and Robert Wadman, acting Omaha police chief, have said their agencies thoroughly investigated child-abuse allegations and turned up nothing of substance.

Naylor, the former committee counsel, said the State Patrol was the only agency to adequately investigate the child-abuse reports. He said he knows that because he had access to police, FBI, State Patrol and other records.

Schmit has said reports he received from Lowe, the committee investigator, after a July 7 meeting of the legislative committee indicated Lowe had turned up nothing to substantiate the child-abuse allegations.

Lowe said Monday that the reports he gave Schmit were only the last two or three he had written, not all his reports on child abuse.

Lowe characterized his full file of reports on child abuse this way: "There is evidence, there is verification of some of the child-abuse allegations."

He declined to disclose the nature of the verification. "I don't feel comfortable discussing specific details, and I have a concern about compromising future (investigative) efforts," he said.

Credit: World-Herald Staff Writer

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