Expert Tease

A landmark Arizona court ruling leads a Mesa woman, her former physician and expert witnesses through a continuing controversy over flashbacks of long-ago sexual abuse.

Born in Mesa in August 1962, Kim Logerquist was the third and final child born to Lucille and Clyde Logerquist. Court records indicate she was an ebullient child -- "a showgirl," one relative said -- until she was 5 or 6.

Then, according to family members, Logerquist became moody and something of a loner. She also was beginning a lifelong struggle with obesity. But even as she showed signs of depression, Logerquist maintained above-average grades during elementary school and afterward.

Kim Logerquist, in photos displayed at her trial, at the ages of (from top) 6, 8 and 10.
Kim Logerquist, in photos displayed at her trial, at the ages of (from top) 6, 8 and 10.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk of Boston's respected Trauma Center testified for Logerquist that traumatic stress sometimes causes a kind of amnesia.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk of Boston's respected Trauma Center testified for Logerquist that traumatic stress sometimes causes a kind of amnesia.

In March 1971, her mother drove her to Dr. John Danforth's clinic after the 8-year-old contracted an ear infection.

Danforth had chosen pediatrics as his specialty during his two years in the Air Force. The Danforths had moved to Arizona from New York in 1964 after their oldest son became arthritic.

Danforth went into practice by himself in 1970. Gregarious and something of a wise guy, the father of eight struck a positive chord with the vast majority of his patients: These days, he's treating the grandchildren of many of his early patients.

Kim Logerquist was the first in her family to be treated by Danforth. The doctor's records indicate he treated her for 20 minutes on that first visit.

According to trial testimony from Danforth and ex-employees, he rarely was alone with patients. And he said he wouldn't have asked Logerquist to disrobe, and certainly never would have stuck objects into her.

Records show Danforth treated Logerquist three more times -- in April 1971, December 1971 and March 1972 -- for a total of about 30 minutes. The second visit was for a urinary tract infection, the third for a rash, and the final one for a recheck of the rash.

Logerquist's sister, Debbie Clements, later testified that Kim (who is 12 years younger) had been "very upset" before those visits. But even though the sisters shared a room, Clements said Logerquist never confided in her about the alleged molestations.

Time passed, and Logerquist decided a few years after graduating high school that she wanted to become a nurse. To that end in the mid-1980s, she enrolled at a college in Green Bay.

Around that time, Logerquist had what she later characterized as the sole romantic liaison in her life. That relationship ended in the late 1980s.

Kim Logerquist was a regular at Green Bay-area hospitals in the late 1980s, and not just as an aspiring nurse. Records show she was hospitalized a remarkable 57 times in the three years before her "flashbacks," with distresses from headaches on down.

In early 1989, she drove herself to an emergency room after intentionally overdosing on pills. Logerquist told doctors she'd been overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts, but had no idea why.

Another overdose later in 1989 landed the woman in a Green Bay psychiatric hospital. A nurse then noted Logerquist was "looking for answers and relief from the depression."

Both the nurse and her treating psychiatrist urged her to search her memories for traumatic experiences she may have had as a child.

"[Logerquist] should work hard at trying to unfold the past, find the mysteries in the past that will explain her current problems," Dr. Howard Davis wrote in a June 1989 progress note.

The psychiatrist said he'd told Logerquist that "the years when she was in grade school might be fertile ground to look for the antecedents of her problem[s] . . ."

Such advice was typical of the era. Most clinicians believed then (and many still do) that the trauma of childhood sex abuse may result in amnesia of the awful events.

The so-called "recovered memories" movement peaked in the 1980s, with thousands of Americans coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse -- often at the hands of family members -- that had returned in "flashbacks."

Some allegations were confirmed by corroborated evidence, including valid confessions and the existence of other bona fide victims. Other accusations, such as those in the infamous McMartin preschool case near Los Angeles, turned out to be provably untrue. Many of the false claims in McMartin and other cases had been cultivated by manipulative therapists.

Years later, at the Logerquist trial, Dr. Melvin Guyer, a University of Michigan professor who is both a psychologist and an attorney, testified for Danforth on the power of such suggestibility.

"People can be made to believe, endorse or accept things that did not happen," Guyer said. "They [Logerquist's therapists] told her to try and come up with a traumatic event, and if you can't, you're going to stay sick. That's an enormous incentive to try to come up with something . . ."

That said, experts still disagree vigorously on whether "repressed memories" are real and, if they are, how to distinguish them from memories that have been invented or contaminated.

The best bet for therapists, according to textbooks on the subject, is to seek corroboration of the alleged events. Short of that, one book says, "There is currently no method for establishing with certainty the accuracy of such retrieved memories."

Kim Logerquist graduated from nursing school in June 1991, and found work at a Green Bay hospital. But she didn't get the job she wanted -- as a pediatric nurse -- and later said she just hadn't fit in.

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