A Family Divided

An unhappy ending to 1989 abductions motivated by Satanic ritual abuse panic

Twenty years ago, Marvin Maple and his wife Sandra somehow got it into their heads that their two grandchildren were being ritually abused by their parents (the Maples’ daughter, Debbie Baskin, and her husband Mark). The Maples alleged that Debbie and Mark belonged to a Satanic cult in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, which practiced murder, child molestation, animal sacrifice, and other atrocities. So they sought, and were granted, temporary custody of 8-year-old Christie and 7-year-old Bobby. When a yearlong investigation failed to turn up even one indication of Satanic ritual abuse, a court ordered the children returned to their home. At the time, far from being a Satanist, Mark Baskin was pursuing a degree in theology.

Just before the Baskins were scheduled to regain custody of their children in March 1989, the Maples disappeared with the kids. For 20 years, they lived as the “Bunting” family; Christie was renamed Jennifer, and Bobby went by the name Jonathan.

Meanwhile, the Baskins never gave up on their missing children. They distributed fliers far and wide, gave interviews and made media appearances whenever possible, and appealed to the Maples to do the right thing. Their answering machine always contained a message for Bobby and Christie.

Then it happened. Early last month, a patron in a cafe in San Jose, California, overheard 73-year-old “John Bunting” recounting the abduction of his grandchildren. He was annoyed that a newspaper story about the children had described him as a kidnapper.

Police soon located Christie and Bobby. Christie, 28, was working as a nurse in San Jose, while Bobby is married with children of his own. The Baskins eagerly awaited a reunion, but feared that the kids might not feel the same way after being told for 20 years that their parents were abusive Satanists. Unfortunately, their fears manifested when they traveled to San Jose; both children refused to respond to phone calls or visits.

Sandra Maple died in 2006. Marvin faces kidnapping charges in Tennessee. He, too, refuses to speak with the Baskins. He says he is innocent. According to the report below, Debbie’s two sisters seem to be supporting their father.

The Baskin abduction bears a striking similarity to a 1990 grandparent abduction in Hobbes, New Mexico. This case has a happier ending, and the underhanded method used to induce stories of Satanic ritual abuse is transparent:

As described in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, Ladonna Morrow had a strained relationship with her mom, Pat Farmer, but needed her to help care for her 4-year-old son, Jared Peters, after she divorced Jared’s father. Pat disapproved of the divorce, so using televangelist-produced videotapes and coaching, she taught Jared to describe being molested and ritually abused by members of a Satanic cult. Then she encouraged Jared to report this abuse, and sought sole custody of her grandson.

Two months after custody was granted to Pat Farmer, Jared’s father and the authorities came to the conclusion that there was no Satanic cult and no abuse. Ladonna regained custody of Jared, but Pat was allowed monthly, unsupervised visits. She simply didn’t return Jared after one of these visits.

Pat was caught in Salt Lake City two years later, and Jared was reunited with his mother.

There may be no such reunion for the Baskins. They remain a family divided and ruined by the spectre of Satanic panic.

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