Joseph Allen -- Lorain, Ohio
as featured in the Discovery
Channel program "Guilty or Innocent?"
letter from Nancy in prison, December 2001
The Head Start investigation began on May 1993, when a
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.
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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 her 4
children during prison visit.
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
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." )
Her cooperation with the prosecution might have come about
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.
Joseph Allen - the
children described a white man who painted himself black, with blue
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
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
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.