Picks and Pans Review: Innocence Lost: the Verdict

updated 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/19/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Tues., July 20, 9 p.m. ET)

A

Frontline devotes four hours to an exhaustive, painful account of a North Carolina child sex-abuse case, still ongoing, that seems to have poisoned the town of Edenton (pop. 5,268). It began in 1989 with one child's accusations, made to a social worker, against Bob Kelly, owner of the Little Rascals day-care center; that charge escalated into indictments for more than 400 criminal offenses, including rape and sodomy, involving 29 preschoolers. Accused: Kelly, his wife, Betsy, three coworkers and two town residents. Kelly, the first to be tried, is now serving 12 consecutive life sentences.

Frontline has interviewed the Kellys; several of their codefendants and their attorneys; parents of the children; psychologists; and a handful of jurors, who make some startling revelations about their deliberations in the Bob Kelly trial. The children are not interviewed, although we hear their testimony—a terrifying but confusing litany of brutal acts that range from being forced to perform oral sex on "Mr. Bob" to watching him kill babies with a pistol. But the only solidly established incident of abuse—physical, not sexual—was that Bob Kelly once slapped a child. Was this a case of hysteria fanned by teams of therapists, police investigators and parents who unintentionally coached their children? That's the show's implication.

(David Hiltbrand is on vacation.)

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