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Tales Of Satanism Divide City Months After Baby Sitters Convicted

November 29, 1992

MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) _ Authorities say the case is closed, but dozens of parents believe two baby sitters convicted of sexually assaulting children at a church were part of a larger satanic cult.

Children told of witnessing murder, cannibalism and mutilation of corpses, but police say they have found no evidence to support that, The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland reported Sunday.

Lt. Marijan Grogoza, who spent nearly two years investigating the case, said about half this city’s 50,600 residents seem to believe the children’s remarkably similar stories, while the other half of Mansfield is unconvinced.

The case came to light in February 1991 when parents told police their children had been abused by baby sitters in the basement of a First Presbyterian Church while the adults attended Sunday services.

Lawrence Rohde, 19, was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison on seven counts of gross sexual imposition. Scott Butner, 17, pleaded guilty in June to five counts of rape and five counts of gross sexual imposition and was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison.

Parents of about 60 children pushed for charges against other church members. County Prosecutor James J. Mayer Jr. sought more indictments in August, but a grand jury, which heard testimony from 30 children, declined to indict anyone else. No other suspects were ever identified.

The first public hint that satanic rituals may have been involved surfaced at Rohde’s trial, when a child testified that a small animal was killed in a church bathroom in front of several children.

That helped fuel rumors of satanic murders, and Rohde’s mother, Mary Rohde, said she was eventually forced to leave her job as a Sunday school superintendent over allegations she was a satanist. She said neither she nor her son are devil worshipers.

Meanwhile, children told police that hooded people in dark robes had taken them from the church into a park, then forced them to chant prayers of praise to the devil while infants were stabbed to death, dismembered and thrown in pieces into fiery pits, the newspaper reported.

But Assistant County Prosecutor David Mesaros, who handled the case, said police have not received any missing-person reports that could be connected to such crimes.

He said the case is officially closed.

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