CALM, COLLECTED, 30-YEAR-OLD GLORIA GRADY WALKED TO THE PROSE cutor’s table while Mike Barnett took a seat in the audience. Though very overweight, Gloria looked pretty that October day in 1989. Her dark blond, curly hair was cut shoulder length, and she wore an obviously new red-and-white cotton sweater, a flared skirt, and red shoes.
Near Gloria sat a dozen people, mostly women, there to buttress her spirits. Behind the table where an attorney huddled with Gloria’s parents were their own supporters-middle-aged people with, in Barnett’s words. “Baptist written all over them.”
Though she’d never spelled it out for him, Barnett, a 30-year-old church piano player, had known for several years that his friend Gloria had accused her parents of abusing her, and of other evil acts, Now, Gloria, represented by a Collin County assistant district attorney, was trying to prevent her parents and older brother from hurting or harassing her. Barnett was scheduled to testify on the Gradys’ behalf.
After Barnett and the other witnesses were sworn in, they were ushered out to wait for their turn to testify. Occasionally, Gloria and her entourage would sweep out into the hallway, her friends glaring at him with undisguised disgust- After Gloria’s testimony, which took an entire day, Barnett saw her gray-headed, plump mother, ashen and visibly shaken, stagger out of the courtroom on the arm of her tall husband, whose face was a grim mask.
For the first time, Jean and Lee Grady had heard the extent of Gloria’s charges against them. They listened as she explained in a composed voice how they beat her. How from the age of 10 until she was in college, her father had raped her, and sexually abused her with a rifle barrel, a pistol, a knife. How her mother had inserted things into her vagina. How not only her parents, but her brother, grandfather, and other family members worshipped Satan, and how they sacrificed her 3-year-old daughter, Mandy, to the devil, cutting her up and throwing her into a fire. How they forced her to undergo five or six ritual abortions and made her eat a portion of the fetuses.
How her father had promised that she would die on May 29, 1990- her parents’ anniversary and Mandy’s birthday.
Shocking revelations from the daughter of a Baptist minister. Gloria Grady said they had been hidden from her for years in the clouds of her memory. But during therapy with a “Christian psychologist” who diagnosed her as having post-traumatic stress disorder, flashbacks of the horrors had come to her, and she had remembered. What she remembered made her never want to see her family again.
As Barnett waited his turn to testify, he, too, remembered. He knew she had cut all ties with her family, with most people from her earlier years. He knew that incest occurs even in the most religious of families. “I believed the old man had done it,” Barnett says. “I would have supported Gloria hook, line, and sinker.”
But that was before she turned her “memories” on him, telling a friend that Barnett had sexually assaulted her and watched during occult rituals.
“I knew I hadn’t done it,” Barnett says. The accusations made him wonder: Were Gloria Grady’s memories of her family real, or were they figments of her imagination? Hallucinations, or concocted fantasies that garnered deeply needed attention? He squirmed under the glare of Gloria’s friends as they walked past, knowing they believed he, too, was a Satanist.
Did Gloria Grady”s nightmarish past really happen? Her therapist believed it. The prosecutor believed it. At least one official of the Collin County Department of Mental Health-Mental Retardation and both the MHMR psychiatrist and caseworker believed it.
But Gloria’s parents say they are innocent, that they are not Satanists, rapists, murderers. They look back over lovingly compiled scrapbooks of Gloria’s childhood and see a happy, sweet young girl. Though she had struggled with a weight problem for years, it wasn’t until Gloria was well into her 20s that her serious trouble began. They say their daughter has fallen under the spell of a therapist who planted the ideas of sex abuse and Satanism in her mind, and they blame that psychologist for turning a relatively normal young woman into a paranoid, suicidal, isolated woman who is unable to function without her therapist/ guardian.
They say they want their daughter back.
GLORIA CRADY WRAPPED herself up in a red coat to brave the snow on January 2, 1985. That morning, she was going to enter a hospital for a few weeks to finally get a handle on her lifelong weight problem. A few years earlier, she had gone on a Nutri-System diet and lost 40 pounds. But since then, she had regained those pounds and more.
The month before, her mother, Jean, had taken her to the well-known Minirth-Meier Clinic, a Richardson counseling service that touts psychological treatment from a Christian perspective. (On religious radio stations, the “Minirth-Meier Hour” features its therapists talking about the treatment of everything from tobacco addiction to serious psychiatric disorders.)
For years, “Christian counseling” meant going to confession, or asking the pastor for help with marital problems. But in the late Seventies and early Eighties, psychologists such as James Dobson, Larry Crabb. and Paul Meier and psychiatrist Frank Minirth began to attract the enthusiasm of the evangelical Christian community with their integration of scriptural teachings and current methods of psychological treatment. The new approach involves Christians who are trained in psychiatry or psychology, disciplines which have often been considered antithetical to Christianity. While the methods used by Christian psychologists are as varied as those of secular therapists, there’s an emphasis on gaining insight into undesirable behavior through psychological methods, then dealing with the behavior “biblically.” For example, a book on insomnia published by Minirth-Meier discusses repressed anger as a possible cause, then cites the admonition in Ephesians 4:26-27 “. . .do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
Minirth-Meier Clinic, which opened in 1976, quickly became one of the holiest concepts in Christian circles, not only in Dallas, but across the country. In 1985. Minirth-Meier seemed to Gloria Grady to be just what she was looking for. They were doctors, they were good Christians, (hey were on KCBI (a Christian radio station); it seemed the perfect place for a 25-year-old Baptist minister’s daughter to put her trust.
During the visit in December. Gloria underwent a series of tests supervised by Dr. Richard Flournoy. Flournoy had come to Minirth-Meier in 1982 from the state hospital in Wichita Falls, where he had served as chief psychologist for the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation. During his time at the Richardson clinic, he co-authored several books with Dr. Minirth and other therapists. Gloria told her mother that the therapist said the tests revealed she was clinically depressed. That made sense to Jean. Her daughter, normally full of life and humor, had recently seemed withdrawn and sad. At 27. she had no boyfriend, no prospects of marriage and children.
She also had little money. She was working as a medical technician at the OB/GYN office of Drs. Lois and J. Russell Jordan-he had delivered her-and living at her parents’ home in Garland. Though her insurance plan wouldn’t cover most of the hospitalization, she was determined to go into the hospital and deal with her weight problem. Under the care of Frank Min-irth and therapist States Skipper, Gloria was given anti-depressants and med-ication for a thyroid problem.
Allowed to visit occasionally, her parents and brother Jim, who is three years older, talked to her about her experiences with the other patients in her group therapy. Many had suffered from terrible problems-from alcoholism to incest. In this environment. Gloria seemed positively fine. At one point. Minirth called Lee Grady to tell him Gloria was a pleasure to work with, a wonderful young woman.
After five weeks in the hospital, shortly before Gloria’s release on Valentine’s Day, her parents and Jim were asked to meet with their daughter and therapist Skipper. “She was supposed to say what was bothering her.” Jean says. ’”The idea was to help her assert herself.”
Gloria told her family that the only thing that really bothered her was that her dad was always too quiet on Sunday mornings while everyone was getting dressed for church. She talked about moving out on her own, Her parents said they would help her find a place.
She was released owing about $11,000 to the hospital and $5,000-$6,000 to Minirth-Meier; she made arrangements to pay a little each month. Gloria returned to work at the Jordans’ office, but she postponed moving out of her parents’ home, despite the offer of a family friend to help her financially. The woman, Loraine Walker, was convinced that Gloria needed independence. As one move in that direction Gloria began attending Central Park Church in Piano, which had started as a traditional Baptist church, hut had become much more charismatic. It was a break from her parents” staunch Baptist background.
Gloria continued individual and group therapy every week. She formed alliances with the people she had met in her group therapy, her brother says, and gradually, Gloria began to drop her other, more emotionally healthy friends. But she wasn’t happy with her therapy; she told Ginger (not her real name), a woman she had met at Central Park Church, that she never got enough lime or attention from States Skipper.
One day in mid-1985, after about six months of treatment, Gloria came home furious after a therapy session. She told her parents that Skipper had told her she had a lovely bosom, and that if he wasn’t married he would date her.
Gloria went to Minirth and asked to be transferred to Flournoy, who had done her original testing and had a reputation for success with patients with eating disorders. The psychiatrist agreed.
During this period, Gloria spent a lot of time at the home of her brother Jim and his wife. Kathy, frequently discussing her frustrations with her parents. “The worst thing she’d say was they smothered her,” Kathy says. “But she wouldn’t move out.”
Gloria told Jim and Kathy that Flournoy had asked her to write down everything bad that had ever happened to her, and she pleaded for their help in remembering incidents. The list contained the mundane disappointments of childhood and some callous taunts about her weight, but nothing out of the ordinary. “She would write stuff like the RE. teacher made her hang from a bar to see how strong her grip was,” Jim says. “She couldn’t do it.” Another unhappy memory: Her mom and dad wouldn’t let her square dance in the first grade. That hadn’t seemed too traumatic: “She did it anyway.” Jim says.
Concerned. Lee and Jean repeatedly asked Gloria to set up a time they could all meet with Flournoy, She finally agreed; they met at his office. “We started asking questions.” Jean says. “He wouldn’t address us at all. He would say, “Gloria, how does that make you feel?1 She would look to him for answers.” The parents left the meeting knowing no more than they did before.
In search of a better salary. Gloria had found another job working for a neurologist at St. Paul Hospital. But in December 1983. she injured her ankle at work. In January 1986. she had surgery, followed by a long period of recuperation. She lost her job. Not long before, her grandmother died. Those events seemed to send Gloria into a deeper depression-and bring more frequent visits to Flournoy, plunging her more deeply into debt.
By early 1986. Gloria was seeing Flournoy twice a week and attending group therapy twice a week. The therapist had instructed her to buy a teddy bear: she took it to counseling sessions, but refused to talk about the stuffed animal. She began exhibiting wide mood swings. One evening, Jean told Gloria she was saving a pot roast she had cooked until the next night, when Jim and Kathy were coming over, When Jean came into her room, Gloria began yelling. “Don’t come near me.” She seemed increasingly hostile to her family and would often sit across the room, simply watching them.
During this lime, Jim says, he discovered that Gloria was ordering weight loss pills through the mail and having them delivered to his house. He was concerned because she was mixing those pills with diuretics and (he anti-depressants she was receiving from the doctor. She continued to gain weight.
Gloria told Jim over and over that she was getting better, but he saw no signs of improvement. “I told her I didn’t think Flour-noy and all those drugs were helping her.” Jim says. She began flailing at him violently; then, when her parents drove up, she abruptly slopped and began laughing.
When her family questioned Gloria about her therapist, she would reassure them. “Don’t worry,” she said, “he’s a fine Christian man. He’s going to help me.” Still, the dependency was obvious. In late 1986, when her closest cousin’s husband died, she refused to attend the funeral in Miami because it meant being away from Flournoy. Another friend noticed that when Flournoy was out of town. Gloria wouldn’t wear makeup or wash her hair. When he returned, “it was like she got a shot of adrenaline.”
Flournoy left the Minirlh-Meier Clinic sometime in late 1986 and went into private practice. Gloria, too, left the clinic, though Minirth had been prescribing drugs for her. Frightened by the changes they were seeing in Gloria. Jean and Lee had a conference with Minirth. They asked why Flournoy left. “If he and I saw eye to eye, he’d still be here,” Minirth told them. They asked him if he could get Gloria away from Flournoy. He agreed to try. but told them that their daughter was so dependent on Flournoy, he didn’t know if it would work.
Another sign of that growing dependency came when Flournoy wrote to Gloria claiming that Minirth was frying to lure back his patients. Gloria later came to her parents complaining that Minirth was not the good Christian man she had thought. She refused to have anything more to do with Minirth-Meier. Another psychiatrist began prescribing her drugs.
On January 1,1987, two years after her therapy began, Gloria moved into her own apartment with Jana, a woman she had met in group. Jana had made elaborate arrangements to hide out from her parents; Lee and Jean say they felt Jana was suspicious of them as well.
By this time, Gloria was carrying her teddy bear everywhere. She also had bought a child’s punching bag so she could vent her frustrations. She rarely called her parents, and in March, she wrote them a letter saying she wanted no visits or phone calls for a while.
“I am dealing with some very hard issues, some of which involve my childhood and the way 1 perceived different situations,” she wrote. “Because of this, it is necessary for me to set some boundaries which involve you. . .I can’t tell you how long of a period this will be, but it won’t be forever. .. I just have to get well and this is part of the process.”
On Wednesday. May 7, 1987, Gloria dropped by her parents’ house, When Lee told her she looked tired, Gloria said, “I’ve told you. I have to get worse before I get better.” Then she hugged him and told him, “No matter what happens, always remember how much I love you and Mom.”
The next night, Gloria called Jim to borrow money for her medicine. By now she was taking sleeping pills as well as weight loss pills, diuretics, anti-depressants, and thyroid medication. They met in a parking lot in Garland, where she was living. He gave her $20. “She looked terrible,” Jim says.
Gloria had said she might come by that Sunday. Mother’s Day. Late that night, after not hearing from her all day. Jean called Ginger, Gloria’s friend from Central Park Church, Ginger’s husband told her that Gloria had been admitted the night before to the psychiatric unit of Richardson Medical Center after taking loo much medication.
It was the first of a handful of incidents Gloria called “hurting herself,” says Ginger, “She would call and say. ’I just got out of the emergency room. I just tried to hurt myself.” She would take a lot of pills and call her doc-(or, or a friend, or drive herself to the emergency room.”
Frantic, Jean called the hospital. In tears, Gloria explained that she hadn’t told them because she was ashamed of having to go back into the hospital. “Don’t worry.” she said, “these are fine Christian doctors. They’re taking care of me. It’s best not to see me for a while.” She told her mother she’d mailed her a Mother’s Day card. “Pay attention to the message.”
The next day, Jean got the card, a sweet message about a loving mother’s hands, signed “I love you! Gloria Jean.” Her next correspondence, two weeks later, was a short, terse note dated May 25. It said that she was “committed to know the truth and be set free.” The Gradys were confused.
On July 24, after Gloria had been in the hospital almost two months, the Gradys received the letter that sent them reeling.
“In the course of my stay. I’ve uncovered many horrible memories of my childhood that relate to the three of you as well as other family members.” Gloria wrote. “The pain has been so unbearable at times, that I could hardly stand it-that I’ve literally wanted to die at the remembrance of abuse suffered at your hands… Because of these horrible memories, I find it necessary to remove myself from our family system-a system that denies the hurtful and painful memories that have haunted me for many years.”
Lee, Jean, and Jim were stunned. What memories was Gloria talking about? Flour-noy never discussed the charges with the Gradys. When Loraine Walker asked Gloria why she and Flournoy didn’t confront her father. Gloria had a ready answer. “My therapist says Dad would be violent.”
She frequently called Mike Barnett and other friends with reports of “flashbacks.” As Gloria told friends about the abuse she had suffered, she frequently grilled them: Did they believe her? “She wanted your total and complete support and belief.” Loraine Walker says. When Walker’s belief didn’t seem strong enough. Gloria cut her off.
But while Gloria was telling her friends all about what her family allegedly had done to her. the Gradys were still in the dark. It would be months more before they would know how serious-and how bizarre-were Gloria’s charges against them.
WHEN GLORIA GRADY DROPPED OUT OF THE church choir a month before its Christmas program. Bill Caffey, the senior pastor at Central Park Church, was concerned. She seemed to be cutting herself off from all activities except her individual therapy with Richard Flournoy, and her “group,”
Gloria had begun attending Central Park soon after her first hospitalization. Caffey recognized that Gloria was depressed, that she felt hopeless and helpless. In many ways, he believes, she was struggling to grow up.
“At age 27, she was probably 15, emotionally and socially.” Caffey says. She seemed extremely compliant, suggestible, insecure.
Caffey knew Gloria had isolated herself from her family; church secretary Bobbie Schmidt and Ginger had acted as go-betweens, delivering messages and cards to Gloria from her family. Though Gloria had severed the ties to her family. Caffey believes she had merely transferred her dependence on her parents to Flournoy.
“It was as though she could not make a decision without his approval,” Caffey says. “She became totally dependent on him. I’m not saying that’s his fault, but it’s his fault he didn’t do something about it.”
During the fall of 1987. Gloria told Caffey that Flournoy was helping her remember her childhood. At first, she said only that she had been sexually abused by her father. Caffey had no reason to doubt her claim. He knew from his own experience as a counselor that even pastors could be guilty of incest.
After a few more sessions with Flournoy. Gloria told Caffey that her brother Jim had also sexually abused her. Soon after that. Gloria claimed that her father had an altar to Satan in their home, where the family wore black robes and practiced satanic rituals.
After each therapy session, the allegations grew more and more bizarre. Gloria added her grandfather to the list of abusers; she told Caffey that at age 13 or 14 she had conceived a child through an incestuous relationship and that the baby had been sacrificed. She had been forced, she said, to eat its flesh.
By this time. Caffey was skeptical. He knew the life of a Baptist preacher at small churches-a life led by Lee Grady since his graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1964. He knew the committee meetings, the deacons’ meetings, the constant flow of people through the pastor’s home. How could they have hidden a satanic altar?
And what about the gossip? Nobody lives under a more intense spotlight than a pastor and his family. Caffey made a few calls to churches where the Gradys had served. Surely, if Gloria had given birth to a child at age 14. somebody would have noticed she was pregnant.
He could find no one who could remember seeing the teenager pregnant. She was chubby, but not obese enough to disguise a pregnancy. There were no months unaccounted for when she might have been at a home for unwed mothers. In all those years. there had never been any hint of gossip about the Gradys’ behavior; to the contrary, they were seen as rigid Baptists who tolcrated little straying from the straight and narrow way.
“When Gloria passed the point of believ-ability, I had to wonder if any of it was true.” Caffey says. “I also had to question the therapy”
The Gradys’ background was checked not only by Caftey, but by Tom Griffith, a Tyler private detective the Gradys later hired to find Gloria. “I told the Gradys. if I found out they were guilty of anything. I’d go straight to the district attorney.” Griffith says. “It didn’t faze them.” He found nothing that indicated they were guilty of any abuse.
An independent investigation by D Magazine-including interviews with members of every church pastored by Lee Grady during Gloria’s childhood-indicates the Gradys are the victims of a hodgepodge of lies and fabrications perpetrated by their emotionally disturbed daughter. Nobody interviewed remembers a single complaint from Gloria, prior to 1987. about any abuse or dark rituals. Time and again, Gloria’s friends portray her as a happy girl, though definitely overprotected by her parents.
Friends do paint a picture of a naive, gullible child and teenager. “Gloria was very sweet, loving, appreciative, open, and honest,” says Terry Haire, whose husband, Richard, was Gloria’s youth minister at their church in Harlingen, where they lived during the period Gloria claimed to have given birth to a baby. “But she would apologize profusely for even thinking a bad thought- She came and apologized to me for being mad at me. I didn’t even know she was angry.”
At Baylor University, Gloria had an opportunity to cut the apron strings and find herself. But she attended classes only two and a half years before dropping out. “Gloria wasn’t very responsible,” says Cindy Rector, a former roommate. “She would go to classes, but she didn’t want to do the work.”
Gloria rarely dated at Baylor. When it came to sex. there was no way she was going to let a guy gel away with anything. Rector says. “She was a straight-laced, by-the-book Christian girl, I think she was angry at her parents. But I think she wasn’t mature enough to be responsible and handle her own life.”
It seemed to Bill Caffey that Gloria was using her accusations of abuse as a way to continue to put off growing up. During a December 3, 1987. meeting, when Gloria brought yet another “revelation” of her parents’ satanic activity to him, Caffey sensed she was creating a new crisis in order to maintain the level of attention she was getting, not only from Flournoy and the group, but also from her church friends. He suggested gently that these “memories” might not be true. Gloria’s face immediately clouded up. “It was like I had uncovered something she didn’t want me to see.” Caffey says. “She could see I didn’t believe her.”
Disturbed, Caffey wrote to Flournoy on December 8. Following biblical teachings, he told the psychologist, he couldn’t give credence to Gloria’s accusations unless two or three witnesses came forward to confirm some aspect of her story. Caffey offered his help in working with Gloria.
When Flournoy didn’t respond, Caffey followed up with another letter, passing along a lengthy missive Jean Grady had written about her daughter’s life. On January 2, 1988, Flournoy finally wrote back, dismissing the letter from Jean as a pathetic attempt to whitewash a troubled family.
“1 feel I must remind you that Gloria is and has been suicidal while working through her process of recovery, and she is unable to handle contact with her manipulative family where she has been threatened with harm and even death!” Flournoy wrote. “The continued intrusion by her family and now her church into her therapy violates her privacy and sense of safety and is unfair to her!. .. She needs to know she can trust 100 percent those she risks to tell of her ordeals and terrors,” Flournoy closed with “Yours in Christ.” Shortly after that, Gloria left Central Park Church, cutting herself off from almost everyone who had known her before she entered therapy.
IN EARLY SPRING OK 1988, JIM GRADY AND his pastor met with Bill Caffey; for the first time, Jim heard some of the charges his sister was leveling at the family. “I was just stunned.” Jim says. “I was in absolute shock.” At the worst, Jim had thought Gloria was accusing her parents and brother of not being supportive enough in her struggle to overcome her problems. Now, he heard she was accusing them of sexual abuse and cultic activity.
In April, mired in financial difficulty, the Gradys sold their five-bedroom home in Garland and bought a smaller home in Mes-quite. Meadowcreek Baptist, the Garland church they had started in 1980, had closed in 1985 when the building began deteriorating and there was no money to replace it. It seemed their world was falling apart.
Lee worked from 1986 to 1988 as a corporate chaplain for area companies such as Cornerstone Bank and Sysco Food Systems. In 1988, he signed on as pastor at Lake June Baptist in Pleasant Grove and took a job supervising troubled students in a school district. Jean began working as an administrative secretary at a social services agency.
Jim, a residential and commercial real estate agent, was also undergoing difficulties. In 1985, when the real estate market collapsed, Jim and Kathy began struggling to meet their financial obligations.
At the end of May 1988. Lee and Jean again met with Minirth and told him what their daughter was saying. Jean says that the psychiatrist seemed to think there was little they could do. He cautioned Jean to accept the estrangement from her daughter “for your own well-being.”
Angry and confused, Lee and Jean left the meeting and went to a nearby cafeteria for an early supper. As they were unloading their trays, Gloria walked up behind them, a glazed look in her eyes. It was the first time they had seen her in more than a year. They didn’t know where she was working or living.
Jean tentatively asked if she could hug Gloria. “Yes. but I’m in a hurry,” Gloria said. “I’ll be late for group.” Jean hugged and kissed her daughter and told her she loved her.
“I love you, too,” Gloria whispered. She refused Lee’s offer to pay for her dinner and walked out the door. But it was clear to them that, if she had wanted to, Gloria could have left the cafeteria without speaking to them.
During the fall of 1988, they heard from Ginger that Gloria was again hospitalized after “misusing” medication. This time she would spend three weeks at Terrell State Hospital. Ginger had spent long hours commiserating with Gloria. But in late 1988, Gloria abruptly cut Ginger, too, out of her life. When Ginger asked Gloria what she would do if she became sick or if there were a family crisis, Gloria replied, “Dr. Flour-noy will let me know what I need to know.”
That Christmas. Lee and Jean visited Floumoy’s office to leave Christmas gifts for Gloria. A man at the office told them they had five minutes to get out before he called the police. They left in tears.
In April 1989. a great-aunt, who had been close to Gloria, passed away. They wanted to let Gloria know, but no one seemed to be in contact with her. A telephone operator would not give them her unlisted number, but agreed to call Gloria herself. She tried for two days and nights, but got no answer.
Jim wrangled Gloria’s address and place of employment from a nurse who had worked with her. He went to Gloria’s efficiency apartment off Greenville Avenue, where a maintenance man let him in. There was little in the room except a single bed, an old couch, and a black-and-white TV. The bedroom suite she had saved up to buy and her grandmother’s large TV were gone. It was obvious she hadn’t been at the apartment for a while.
Their fears mounting, the Gradys contacted a laboratory where they were told Gloria was working. A supervisor said that she had stopped coming to work two weeks before.
Desperate. Jim called Mike Barnett, the piano player at Central Park Church. He had helped Gloria in the past, buying her a used car when hers was repossessed, paying off her hot checks, taking her out to dinner. At first, still suspicious of the Gradys, Barnett said she was “someplace safe,” then finally said she had again been hospitalized. He added that Gloria now claimed to have “medical proof that they had abused her.
The Gradys could get no further information; they later found out that this time she was in HCA Willow Park Hospital in Piano for four months.
Jim Grady left a note at Flournoy’s office on May 23. He tried to distance himself from his parents, hoping that the therapist would relent and see him. Minirth had suggested several times that the Gradys try to contact Flournoy themselves, but Flournoy always refused to see them, once writing in response to their letter: “Your daughter does not want her family involved in her treatment, and as her therapist, I will respect (his request.” But this time was different; the next day, Flournoy called.
The psychologist began attacking him verbally, Jim says. “You are uncovered, exposed! ’ Flournoy said that both he and Gloria had told everybody they could who and what the Gradys were, and what they had done to her. “He shouted that if we ever called or came by his office again he would call the police.” Jim says.
But it was Flournoy’s final words that chilled Jim: He said they would never see Gloria again.
Terrified. Jean called Minirth again. The psychiatrist expressed alarm. “He told me he felt it was a very dangerous situation, and that we needed to do whatever was necessary to find her.” Crying, Jean couldn’t continue the conversation; Jim called Minirth right back.
“1 have a gut feeling it’s life and death.” Minirth told him. “I cannot emphasize strongly enough how critical this is. You have to do anything you can to get her out.”
Frantic, the Gradys talked to an attorney, who recommended they hire a private detective to find Gloria. They finally located Gloria at what they later learned was an MHMR subsidized apartment in McKinney.
The Gradys also began to investigate an option that they couldn’t have imagined even a few months before: hiring a “deprogramming” specialist from Houston to kidnap Gloria, a technique sometimes used by parents who believe their children are (rapped by mind-control cults. It was expensive-$5,000 for the snatch, $10,000 for the deprogramming. The “experts” told them how to do it themselves, but the Gradys ultimately decided against it. For one thing, it was illegal. But mainly they feared such a move could be dangerous to Gloria, given her fragile mental condition.
They decided to try a gentler tactic. They persuaded Gloria “Gogi” White, Gloria’s favorite aunt, to fly from Miami to assist them in approaching her.
On September 1. 1989, Jean and Lee, Kathy and Jim, and Aunt Gogi drove to McKinney with a small birthday gift and family pictures for Gloria, who had turned 30 on August 17. They parked and watched as Gloria took her clothes to the laundry room. The five of them prayed, and Lee said he felt they should just try to talk to her. Aunt Gogi and Jean went to the door and knocked.
“Oh, hi.” Gloria said as she opened the door. A( first she seemed almost glad to see the two women. But as they talked, Gloria began repeating, “How did you find me? It’s important that I know who told you. This is not right, this is not right,” Abruptly, she grabbed her car keys and bolted past them. Lee saw her coming toward the car and waved. She swerved and ran across the street to a building that they later learned was a halfway house for MHMR.
Dejected, the Gradys left, stopping at a pay phone to call the private detective. He recommended that they go back to try to speak to someone in charge. But shortly after Gogi and Jean knocked on the door of the halfway house, two police cars drove up. An officer got out and told them they had to leave. The directors of the halfway house were requesting a protective order, he said.
Four days later, the Grady’s were served with papers prepared by Collin County Assistant District Attorney Beverly Lawson. Gloria Jean Grady was requesting a protective order prohibiting them from “committing family violence,” directly communicating with her in a “threatening or harassing manner,” or coming within 50 yards of her residence or place of employment.
Clearly. Lawson believed Gloria was telling the truth. The papers said that she had been sexually and physically abused by her parents and her brother over a period of many years. “Both parents have threatened to kill applicant, and applicant believes that their threats should be considered serious because of the bizarre and intense violence in the past. . She believes that she is in danger both because of the history of family violence, and because her father has told her that 1990 would be her year of death.”
The Gradys were astounded. But not as astounded as they would be in the courtroom on October 5.
IN THE LAST DECADE, THOUSANDS OP people, mostly women, have claimed- usually after undergoing intensive therapy- to be the victims of Satanic cults. “But 99.9 percent of them have absolutely no evidence,” says Sherrill Mulhern, an anthropologist at the University of Paris who has extensively studied American “SRAs,” or satanic ritual abuse survivors. Mulhern believes they are victims of delusion, not Satan. She calls it “the myth of the blood cult conspiracy,” one of mankind’s oldest legends.
Mulhern stresses that she is not talking about teenage dabblers, serial killers, and incidents such as the Matamoros murders, in which a drug dealer abducted strangers to sacrifice in Palo Mayombe or Santeria rituals. These patients, many of whom report experiences similar to those Gloria Grady describes, claim to have been victims of large covert groups that span several generations, usually of family members, and that practice human sacrifice, cannibalism, and ritual sex abuse.
The Cult Crime Impact Network, which takes the reports seriously, has estimated that if the alleged survivors’ claims are accurate, as many as 50,000 human sacrifices are being carried out each year in the United States. But after 10 years of vigorous investigations by various law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, no evidence of a massive-or even a small-Satanic conspiracy has ever been found. Despite the conspicuous lack of evidence, many therapists continue to believe the claims, says Mulhern, who has written an article called “Satanism and Psychotherapy,” included in the new book The Satanism Scare. She wondered: Where were the stories coming from? Why were they so believable? Her questions might well have been asked of Gloria Grady.
Mulhern interviewed a number of therapists who had dealt with such patients and found four reasons why these professionals believed their patients were reporting events that had really happened in their childhood. Therapists cited the violence of patients’ reactions when re-living recovered memories; the abundance of vivid detail; the consistency of their stories with reports of “survivors” from other areas of the country; and “body memories,” such as the spontaneous appearance of bruises, bleeding, and marks on the skin.
Her conclusion? “What really happened, happened in therapy,” Mulhern says.
Dr. George Ganaway, director of the Ridgeview Center for Dissociative Disorders in Smyrna. Georgia, agrees. Ganaway calls the phenomenon “literally an epidemic” that may be promulgated by delusional patients and by therapists networking in seminars, group therapy, and through the media. He has worked with a number of patients who have made such claims after undergoing therapy with other counselors and points out the similarities of SRA reports and “memories” of UFO abductions, past lives, or “pre-birth” events. Ganaway also shows how some therapists interact with patients to create or reinforce their patients’ delusional “memories.”
One explanation for the reports could be “screen memories,” says Ganaway-memories that cover other, more mundane but factual and painful memories and that provide a sense of importance, especially if the therapist perks up his ears and acts fascinated. He points to SRAs’ frequent grandiose claims that they were in training to be high priests or priestesses.
But some of these reports appear to be iatrogenic. or induced by the therapists, though perhaps unwittingly, Ganaway says. A major problem is that many therapists view memory like an “intrapsychic tape recorder,” Ganaway says. All therapists must do is find the right switch-such as hypnotism or “age regression”-and the facts about the past simply spill out.
But memory doesn’t work that way. says Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, a professor at Washington State University who is one of the preeminent experts on memory in the country. Her book, Witness for the Defense, discusses the inaccuracy of memories of eyewitnesses to crimes.
“Therapists are saying, ’You know, a lot of my other patients have these symptoms, and they were sexually abused. Were you?’” Loftus says. Often patients will say no, but later return with reports of dreams, which the therapist urges them not to ignore. Or they will undergo hypnosis or relaxation sessions where they are urged to get in touch with those childhood memories that were supposedly so painful they were blocked off.
The problem, says Loftus, is that there is no good evidence that these so-called memories are in fact true. Even short-term memory is often unreliable. Loftus says that while “body memories” can be very convincing, there is no evidence they are accurate. One of the most convincing “body memories” she has seen in years of testifying at criminal trials was during a rape case, when a victim became hysterical when asked to view the man she had identified as her rapist. The man’s conviction, based to a large extent on her testimony, was overturned when another man confessed to the rape.
Dr. Richard Gardner, a widely respected child and adult psychiatrist at Columbia University and author of Sex Abuse Hysteria, says it’s unlikely that a patient wouldn’t remember a traumatic event such as rape or forced intercourse. And it’s even more unlikely if the patient is a 30-year-old woman who, like Gloria, claimed not to remember, until treatment, memories of events as recent as her college days.
“Amnesia is not a common thing in post-traumatic stress disorder.” says Gardner, pointing to a frequent diagnosis used to explain buried memories. “The opposite is the case: There’s a preoccupation with the event.” With PTSD, the only amnesia that is common is the inability to remember within a few minutes of the trauma certain important aspects of the event. Ganaway says that the sealing off of traumatic memories is often considered the cause of multiple personality disorder, another common diagnosis for SRAs, but that has not been proven.
Mulhern says that in her research, she found therapists who believed that they had the techniques-such as hypnotism-to get at the real truth of their patients’ problems. But she points out that many of these so-called survivors (especially those who are labeled as having multiple personalities) are what has been described as “Grade 5s,” the five to 10 percent of the population who are highly suggestible and hypnotizable; some spontaneously slip in and out of trances without any guidance from the therapist. And what they describe during hypnosis is shaped largely by cues, conscious or unconscious, given them by their interviewer. Gan-away describes Grade 5s as fantasy-prone, with an exaggerated willingness to trust others, especially charismatic authority figures such as therapists. They usually have excellent memories, particularly for visual detail, and often re-experience rather than simply recall past events, both real and imaginary.
Most importantly, they are eager to comply with the perceived expectations and suggestions of their therapist, often filling in blanks with elaborate and vivid detail. Inconsistencies in their stories are simply explained away. After several SRA survivors were told that no bodies could be found to corroborate their claims of sacrifices, they began to “remember” that undertakers had taken the bodies to their crematoriums. When that too was investigated and turned out to be false, their “memories” changed again, this time to include portable crematoriums. As the memories are rehearsed over and over, they become the new reality, and are often told with more conviction than true memories. In Gloria’s case, a family joke about her father trying on a pair of Christmas boots and waving a pistol, pretending to be a cowboy, became a tale about her father threatening to shoot the entire family.
Stories about SRAs began to circulate in the therapy community in 1980, after the publication of a book called Michelle Remembers. Survivors began to appear on TV talk shows. In 1988, a book called Satan’s Underground, an autobiography written by Lauren Stratford, a pseudonym for a California woman named Laurel Willson, detailed perhaps the most bizarre tale of a survivor of satanic abuse. She claimed, as did Gloria, to be a “breeder” for babies and fetuses to be used in satanic sacrifices. Soon, other women began to report stories remarkably similar to Stratford’s. Assistant DA Lawson referred to the book in Gloria’s trial, using it as “proof” of the tortures endured by ritual abuse victims.
But the book was withdrawn from publication in 1990 after journalists from Cornerstone, a Christian magazine, printed a story revealing that it was a complete fabrication. They could not verify Stratford’s claims of pregnancies, and witnesses reported seeing the author engage in self-mutilation, which she later claimed was perpetuated by the Satanists. (The book was later picked up by another publisher.)
Despite the lack of physical evidence confirming these and other cases. Satanism is an extremely popular subject on the Christian psychology circuit, discussed on such shows as the “Minirth-Meier Hour” on KCBI, and the highly popular “Talk Back with Bob Larson” show, which is carried by numerous Christian radio stations around the country. But while Christian therapists may be more primed to believe stories of Satanism, secular therapists also are buying into the “blood cult myth.”
Ganaway believes that therapists and patients in the SRA movement may find themselves developing into “a cult of their own.” But Gardner has even stronger words of warning for therapists treating such patients. “There are therapists who are very sick people and are on a campaign of finding this in every patient they see.” He says that concerned observers should ask: “How often is this therapist finding this in women who didn’t see it before?”
Flournoy had a reputation both at Minirth-Meier Clinic and at Richardson Medical Center as a therapist who uncovered sexual or ritualistic abuse in a high percentage of his patients. “The impression I was getting was that if you had been “Satanized” or in a cult you got a lot of attention from the therapist,” says a psychiatrist who works with patients at RMC. He asked not to be named. “The underlying message was if you want attention, you better remember some satanic abuse.” Flournoy was “encouraged” to leave Minirth-Meier, says a counselor at the clinic who also asked to remain anonymous. One reason was the noise issuing from his office; he favored “primal-type therapy,” urging pa-tients to express their anger and rage. As shouting and loud obscenities boomed through the walls, the counselor says, “We’d say, ’Flournoy’s at it again.’ The people who tended to stay with him had a certain gullibility. The patient gets permission to take on a victim mentality.”
Gardner says that anyone wanting to evaluate a patient’s claim to remember sexual abuse should search first for independent evidence corroborating the story, then look for secondary gain for the alleged victim. “Is there some fringe benefit for this?”
Detective Griffith says that Gloria Grady found that being the “survivor of a satanic cult” had its advantages. “I think the more she got into the story, the more the sympathy flowed.” he says. MHMR put her in a subsidized apartment. Friends gave her money; her “group” took up a collection and raised $950 for her to buy a car. She could blame all her problems on her terrible family, “It became very advantageous for her to be ill,” Griffith says.
The Gradys believe that at some point, MHMR began paying for Gloria’s treatment with Flournoy. While J. Randy Routon, executive director of Collin County MHMR, said he couldn’t comment directly about Gloria’s case, he confirmed that patients who have little money and no insurance can pay on a sliding scale, receiving benefits that include hospitalization, housing, job training, and subsidies to pay for individual therapy. In effect, taxpayer funds are being used to prop up the delusions of Gloria Grady.
THE COURTROOM LIGHTS DIMMED ON the third day of the protective order hearing. Slides were projected on a screen to the side of Judge Nathan White as Lee Grady, on the witness stand, narrated. Here was Gloria, age 14, a few days before she supposedly gave birth to a baby. Chubby? Yes. Pregnant? Clearly not.
Gloria testified that she had “remembered” her mother attacking her and breaking her collarbone when she was a child. Her parents tried to cover it up, she alleged. Lee showed a slide of Gloria in her walker, explaining that she had tipped over at 9 months old, breaking the bone. It wasn’t in her pediatrician’s records because they had taken her to an orthopedist, Lee said.
Earlier that day Gloria’s pediatrician, Dr. Halcuit Moore, testified that he had observed no scars from alleged cigarette burns around Gloria’s vaginal area, no tearing of delicate tissue from knives or rifles, no sign that she’d been sexually abused. When a skeptical Beverly Lawson questioned whether Moore would have recognized child abuse in the Fifties and Sixties, the physician assured the assistant district attorney that such injuries are not a modem phenomenon.
Gynecologist Lois Jordan told the court that she had examined Gloria from 1979 to 1984. It was her husband, Russell Jordan, Gloria claimed, who had performed ritualistic abortions on her.
Though Gloria claimed to have had repeated sexual intercourse since age 10, to have delivered a baby on May 29, 1974, and to have been subjected to all sorts of sexual torture, Lois Jordan’s records revealed that through 1984, there was no evidence of scarring. In addition, the doctor testified, Gloria’s hymenal ring was consistent with a female who had never had sexual intercourse.
Medical records, photographs, and witness after witness refuted Gloria’s claims. But it became clear to the Gradys during the testimony of Dr. James Patrick McCarthy, a gynecologist who examined Gloria for MHMR, that something had happened to her in the five years since her last examination by Jordan in 1984. He testified that in 1989 she had required treatment for a virus that is usually sexually transmitted. In addition, there was some scarring of the vagina, possibly indicating abuse. And an examination of her cervix revealed she had carried a child to at least the second trimester. But McCarthy couldn’t say when those events had happened-just that they were more than six months old. When Barnett later heard about McCarthy’s testimony, he remembered something Gloria had told him several years earlier. “She told me in some of her lonesome moments that she wished she had a man,” Barnett says. “She said she thought of just finding any ol’ guy.”
Frank Minirth did not testify, though a psychiatrist, a case worker, and an administrator from Collin County MHMR took the stand. The psychiatrist’s record indicated that she based her information on “the patient, who is considered reliable.” But the major surprise of the hearing was that Richard Flournoy never testified; Gloria told the courtroom that she and Flournoy had made a “mutual decision” to part ways just before the trial began.
Judge White denied the request for a protective order, saying that there was no evidence of family violence in the past, or likelihood of violence in the future. The Gradys had won, but their victory brought them little joy, Since that day, they have not seen their daughter.
Don McDermitt, the Gradys’ attorney, blames a series of “neglectful actions” by the health care system for what has happened to Gloria Grady. “At no time was there an independent investigation of Gloria Jean’s claims.” McDermitt says. “All her past medical history was just ignored or discounted by everybody. Beverly |Lawson] believes what Gloria says because MHMR believes it. And they believe it because it’s in the medical record. And it’s in there because Flournoy or his assistant put it there.” But no one-despite Gloria’s claim that a murder was committed-ever did an independent investigation.
Though McDermitt discussed having Gloria committed, the Gradys decided against that, fearful of the mental stress an involuntary stay in the state hospital or Parkland could cause. “The biggest problem with this case is that Gloria is an adult.” McDermitt says. “If the Gradys could be assured she was getting good competent help, they could live with the possibility (hey might not see her for a long time.”
As May 29, 1990, approached-the day that Gloria claimed her father was going to kill her-the Gradys hired Griffith to locate and watch her. Though Griffith found her apartment, she disappeared for those days, then resurfaced a few days later, unharmed.
Since then, the Gradys have known where Gloria lives, and occasionally, where she works. They have not tried to contact her beyond sending birthday and Christmas cards and gifts through Lawson, who quit the Collin County district attorney’s office in July to enter the theology department at Texas Christian University. The gifts have been returned opened but unused. (In the subculture of SRAs, gifts and cards are often thought to have secret meanings, “triggers” meant to cause the victim to commit suicide or hurt someone else.)
D Magazine tried by letter and telephone to contact Gloria Grady about this article. A few days after hearing from a friend that we wanted to talk to her. she abruptly moved out of her MHMR apartment. No one will say where she has gone. Beverly Lawson declined to comment without Gloria’s permission. Minirth declined to comment, as did Skipper and Flournoy, citing therapist-patient confidentiality. A friend of Gloria’s said that she was now seeing an associate of Flournoy’s, Mike Moore.
As Jim Grady talks about his sister, about childhood memories, he begins to cry. Soon, his wife Kathy is sobbing, followed by Jean and Lee. They wonder what has happened to Gloria, if she will ever be happy again.
They remember that the only time Gloria showed any emotion during the trial was when Don McDermitt asked her how much she weighed. She began weeping, imploring the judge. “Do I have to answer that?” White nodded yes.
“268,” she whispered. Years after placing her trust in Christian psychologists to help her lose weight, she weighs more than ever. And Gloria’s memories of her childhood have become distorted into a vision of a hell on earth.
Her aunt Gogi-the only member of the family Gloria didn’t accuse-longs to talk to her niece. She remembers Gloria’s naivete growing up. how she believed almost anything anybody said. “She was ripe for somebody to take over,”’ White says.
White says that if she could talk to Gloria, she would tell her how much she loves her. how much God loves her. “I’d tell her that someone has messed up her mind and emotions, and that none of these things they’ve put in her mind are true. I’d love to help her come to understand what is real. I believe she will be back with us and her mind will be whole and well again.”
Gloria White believes that. But she knowsit will take a miracle.