Reposted from UPDATE:  2/22/07 - Nancy Smith Denied Parole
UPDATE: 2/4/09 - Investigator says he can prove Smith innocent
.UPDATE:  2/4/09 - Nancy Smith released on bond.
Imaginary Crimes

Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen -- Lorain, Ohio

as featured in the Discovery Channel program "Guilty or Innocent?"

-- letter from Nancy in prison, December 2001

click HERE if you have any information about this case.

Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen were convicted of sexually abusing young children in August of 1994.  Smith, a 37-year-old single mother with four children, was a bus driver for the Lorain, Ohio Head Start.  The prosecution charged that after delivering the children to school, she would sometimes keep three or four of them and take them to a mysterious location, where she and a man known to the children only as "Joseph" would commit various sexual acts with them, make them drink urine, and poke them with needles and sticks.  

But an examination of the police investigation leaves many disturbing questions; questions about the children's testimony, questions about whether Smith and Allen even knew each other -- questions about whether, in fact, any crimes were committed at all.

Nancy Smith and Children
Nancy Smith and her 4 children during prison visit.
The Head Start investigation began on May 1993, when a mother claimed that her five-year-old daughter told her that instead of going to school that day, her bus driver Nancy had taken her to "Joseph's" house where "Joseph" peed on her and molested her with a stick. The police investigation revealed that nothing unusual could have happened that day -- Nancy had gone on her regular bus routes and there was another adult with her.

But the girl's mother went to the media and the story became public.  Other parents and their children came forward, alleging abuse. Some children said  "Joseph" was white, others that he was black, or a white man who painted himself black, or a black man with blue eyes.

A few months later, Joseph Allen came to the attention of Lorain police when he reported a stolen vehicle.  Allen had a 1985 conviction for sexual battery on a seven-year-old girl, for which he had served his sentence.  Allen was a dark-skinned black man with brown eyes and light colored scars on his abdomen.  Police were convinced they had their man.

Nine of the ten children who had alleged abuse failed to pick Allen's picture out of a photo line up.  At a live line up the next day, only three out of seven children chose him.  (And even these are open to question because the parents were tipped off as to which one was Allen. For example, one mother openly coached her daughter to pick "number two." ) 

Joseph Allen
Joseph Allen - the children described a white man who painted himself black, with blue eyes.
Prosecutor Jonathan Rosenbaum told the jury that the children hadn't identified Allen at the line up because they were paralyzed with fear. One mother testified that when her little boy saw Allen, he started crying and ran from the viewing room.  The video tape of the lineup, which was not shown to the jury, proves her testimony was false -- her son didn't cry or run from the room, but rather seemed to be having a good time.

Another damaging witness was Head Start employee Angel Powell, who had occasionally worked on Nancy Smith's bus as an aide. She testified that Allen had once tried to get on board and that she had frightened him away with a tire iron.  A Head Start parent came forward and testified that he recognized the incident and he was the man in question.  He had wanted to say hello to his son, but Powell had shooed him off.  Powell, however, stuck to her incriminating story. 
Her cooperation with the prosecution might have come about because she wanted to avoid Nancy's fate  During the investigation, one of the children had named Powell, not Nancy, as the person who had taken her to "Joseph's" house. 

Allen's prior record spoke heavily against him, and yet he was connected to the case through the allegations against Nancy Smith, because if the part about the bus driver wasn't true, then none of the story was true.  Nancy Smith's presumption of innocence, on the other hand, was unfairly tarnished by Allen's record.  Even Head Start records didn't help them, because Rosenbaum, who had a reputation has a hard-driving, even ruthless prosecutor, suggested that the school officials might have falsified her driving logs and other records to cover up the scandal.  (No charges of this sort were ever brought).

The jury declared Smith and Allen guilty.  "I don't think (the children) could have gone into details like that if they were lying,"  explained one juror.

"I have never met this man,"  Smith sobbed as the verdict was pronounced. "I have never seen this man.  I never touched those children. Ever."

Judge Lynette Gough sentenced Joseph Allen to five consecutive life sentences -- a longer sentence than that received by Wayne Williams, the Atlanta child killer.  Nancy Smith received thirty to ninety years. They remain in prison today.
Click here for longer article about Nancy Smith and Joseph Allen:
The Shame of Lorain, Ohio

False Child Abuse Allegations
Innocent Imprisoned

Truth in Justice