A new docuseries tells the shocking story of an alleged child sex ring that rocked a small East Texas town – but claims the disturbing allegations of children being forced to ‘take silly pills’ and perform sex acts a local swingers club were all a lie.
HBO Max’s ‘How to Create a Sex Scandal’ delves into the accusations made in 2005 by a handful of foster children who said they attended a ‘sex kindergarten’ at the swingers club, a place that had caused a stir in the deeply religious town of Mineola, Texas before it was shut down.
Their accusations led to seven adults known as the ‘Mineola Swingers Club defendants,’ being implicated in the case, and serving time behind bars, despite the glaring lack of evidence.
Two convictions were overturned and the others accepted plea deals for shorter sentences. One adult remains in prison serving a life sentence.
Years later, in a bizarre turn of events, many of the children recanted their testimonies and now, they are telling a different story.
‘The truth of the matter is it didn’t happen,’ Gabby Sones, the children’s aunt, said in the new docuseries. ‘It never happened.’
Gabby and the children – all now adults – unraveled a web of lies and pointed their finger at foster mom Margie Cantrell, accusing her of manipulating them into making up the nightmare claims that shattered their childhood and destroyed families.
A new docuseries tells the shocking story of an alleged child sex ring that rocked a small Texas town – but claims that the disturbing allegations of children being forced to ‘take silly pills’ and perform sex at a local swingers club were all a lie. ‘The truth of the matter is it didn’t happen,’ Gabby Sones said. ‘It never happened’
Their stories are the subject of a three-part docuseries directed by Julian P. Hobbs and executive produced by Elli Hakami.
The synopsis of the docuseries that was released on May 23 reads: ‘As arrests are made, life sentences handed down, and lives ruined, it soon becomes apparent that there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye.
With more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller, How to Create a Sex Scandal is a startling and scarcely believable telling of a crime story that really is stranger than fiction.’
Margie and John Cantrell had been foster parents for years, at one point caring for 19 children at a time, but moved from California to Mineola, Texas in 2004 with the thought of retiring in the quiet, conservative town.
They had six children in their care at the time, but Margie said in the series she wanted to help more troubled children so she took in three siblings: Shelby, 7, Hunter, 6, and Carly, 4.
The siblings were taken from their parents by Child Protective Services after they neglected them while abusing opioids, according to the docuseries.
The children, now adults tell how Margie abused them for years and had manipulated them into making up the nightmare claims
Margie and John Cantrell had been foster parents for years, at one point caring for 19 children at a time, moved to Mineola in 2004 with their three new additions, 7-year-old Shelby, 6-year-old Hunter, and 4-year-old Carly
Texas Monthly journalist Michael Hall wrote in a June 2011 story that the children’s stories became more bizarre with each interview with police and social workers
Margie said the children were ‘extremely hard to handle’ and broken,’ recalling a time that she found Shelby doing a pole dance on her bed and that Hunter could be a ‘handful’ ‘angry’ and ‘violent.’
But she said they had promised to stand by the kids, so they decided to buy a facility for a group home. But what they were offered was a local swingers club that had recently been shut down following outrage from the townspeople.
Margie said when they went to visit the property, her three new foster children recognized it as the ‘sex kindergarten’ they said they attended and thus began a slew of horrific tales which she took to the police.
Texas Monthly journalist Michael Hall wrote in a June 2011 story that the children’s stories became more bizarre with each interview with police and social workers.
Chickens were sacrificed. Spells were cast. Adults wore witches’ outfits and allowed students to fly around on a broomstick at the swingers club.
‘But there was nothing to back them up: no adult witnesses and no physical evidence — no DNA, no fingerprints, not even any videotapes,’ he wrote.
Days later, Mineola police closed the case.
‘How dare them,’ Margie exclaimed, who then turned to neighboring Smith County, known for its eagerness for law and order. They brought in Texas Ranger Philip Kemp who interviewed the siblings, along with Gabby, who told a similar story.
In 2007, six adults pleaded guilty to a felony charge of injury to child, a third-degree felony, in exchange for time served.
In 2008, four of the adults were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, including the children’s biological mother Shauntel Mayo. She later accepted a plea deal and served four years in prison.
Patrick Kelly and Jamie Pittman’s convictions were overturned. However, Dennis Pittman was convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was upheld in 2013.
Gabby’s parents, Shelia and Jimmy Sones, along with Rebecca Pittman, were sentenced to time served in the Texas Department of Corrections.
In 2008, four adults were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, including the children’s mother Shauntel Mayo. She later accepted a plea deal and served four years in prison
Patrick Kelly, ‘Booger Red’, was sentenced to life in prison, but his conviction was overturned
Dennis Pittman was convicted of engaging in organized criminal activity and sentenced to life in prison. His conviction was upheld in 2013
The docuseries is largely based on a series of Texas Monthly articles by Michael Hall, who also gave input throughout the production.
Hobbs and Hakami began their work on the documentary when they came across Hall’s story about the kindergarten sex ring with the headline ‘The Girl Who Told the Truth’ about Gabby Sones, who was now sharing her story.
‘She was coming forward to say that she actually didn’t have memories of what happened,’ Hakami said. ‘It was important to her to speak truth to power to clear her parents’ name and tell the community that, in fact, they were innocent of the crimes they were accused of.’
Hakami added what stood out was that the parents had no ill will toward their children whose stories had sent them to jail.
‘The children were motivated to speak,’ Hakami said. ‘They had to clear their parents’ name and had to say that ‘I was wrong.’ They had the courage to stand up and say that this process was unjust. ‘My parents were wrongly accused, and I was the one who was at the center of that.’ It was just incredible for me to see how these families came together. The bonds never broke.’
Hobbs said the case was a miscarriage of justice that needs to be addressed.
Margie said when they went to visit the property, where the swingers club had once been, when her three new foster children recognized it as the ‘sex kindergarten’
HBO Max’s How to Create a Sex Scandal delves into the accusations made by a handful of foster children who told a Texas ranger in 2005 that their parents forced them into illicit acts
‘This is something that has been swept under the rug,’ Hobbs said. ‘This is something where justice really hasn’t been served. Texas hasn’t stepped up and taken responsibility. Nor has the Texas Rangers. Nor has Smith County. Nor have the officials who really need to remove these wrongly convicted — because these parents still have felony charges on their record. So it’s a miscarriage of justice that needs to be addressed.’
Hobbs pointed out it does ‘take a village to create a community, to bring kids up.’
‘It also takes a village to create a mass hysteria, and that’s what happened here.’
Hobbs also said when people in positions of power like the Texas Rangers get involved and continue ‘stirring the fire’ of the unhinged narrative.
Hobbs calls it ‘the slippery relationship we have with memory’ and points out that memories can quickly be reprogrammed and rewired by bad actors.
‘That what we think our stable identities, in fact, aren’t and that is something that can be manipulated and your sense of identity and who you are can fall prey to people who have different and more sinister goals in mind,’ Hobbs added. ‘So that also makes this story a cautionary tale.’
Source: | This article originally belongs to Dailymail.co.uk