The Shame Of Lorain, Ohio - Nancy Smith And Joseph Allen Convicted Of Non-Existent Crimes
By Lona Manning
Margie Grover brought her 4-
year-old daughter Nicole to a
Lorain, Ohio hospital on May 7,
1993. She claimed that her daughter,
who attended the Lorain Head Start
had come home and said, “We
didn’t go to school today.” Furthermore the anxious mother said that
Nicole told her that the bus driver, Nancy
Smith, had taken the children to see a man
named “Joseph,” who tied her up, taped her
eyes, and molested her with a stick.
Grover said she found a piece of a branch in
the girl’s clothing.
Officers attending at the
hospital noted that most of the information
was provided by the mother and the attending
nurse, not by the little girl herself. The officers
reported that Nicole was physically unharmed.
The case was assigned to Detective Tom
Cantu of Lorain’s Youth and Gang unit.
Cantu, a 20+ year veteran of the Lorain PD
and an ex-Marine, was named 1992’s Ohio
“Policemen of the Year” by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
When Cantu started the
investigation, he had an accused person, her unknown accomplice by the
name of “Joseph,” an unknown crime
scene location, and a definite date.
It was clear to Cantu that the incident
couldn’t have happened as Nicole (or
was it her mother?) described.
bus log and the odometer readings confirmed that she had driven her usual route
on May 7, and Nicole’s teacher had marked
Nicole “present.” Sherry Hagerman, the
aide on Smith’s bus that week, confirmed
that nothing had happened. At the time of
the incident Smith had gone to her second
job, driving for the YMCA Meals-onWheels program. Her supervisor confirmed
that Smith was a reliable driver and she had
shown up for work as usual that day.
Cantu spoke to Smith’s co-workers, neighbors, and friends. They scoffed at the idea
that Smith was a child molester. She was a
single mother with four teenage children
and she had three part-time jobs that often
kept her working for 12 hours a day.
Cantu interviewed Nicole on May 13, but most
of the information came from her mother, who
insisted that her daughter was telling her a lot
of details at home.
In front of Cantu, however,
Nicole hesitated, saying, “I forgot,” “I don’t
remember that,” and “Can we go home now?”
After repeated questioning she finally agreed
that she had seen ““Joseph’s” pee pee.”
Cantu went to the Head Start school on May
25 and questioned 11 children, aged 3 to 5
who were on Smith’s bus route. His police
report for that day notes, “The children were
questioned if Nancy had ever touched
them in a bad way, or in any way which
would hurt, or upset them, and each one
stated that she has never touched them. The
children were asked if they knew anyone
named “Joseph,” and they all indicated that
they did not. All of the children stated that
they liked Nancy and that she was nice.”
Nicole’s mother had been spreading alarm to
other Head Start parents who then questioned
their children. Had they heard of “Joseph”?
Had they been taken to “Joseph’s” house?
Cantu said that from the jumbled descriptions
of “Joseph,” he couldn’t tell “if the guy
was white, black, or a white guy with black spots,
or a white guy with black spots” One
child said “Joseph” was a white man who
painted his head and hands black. Several
others said “Joseph” had blue eyes.
suspected that parents heavily influenced
the children’s testimony. “One day they tell
you one story, then they go home, and all of
a sudden they have the same story.”
Cantu recalled, “I took the kids to different
houses where they said this thing happened
and none of it panned out.
The kids gave
descriptions of the interior of the house and
different pictures that might have been in the
house, [but] any house we went into, nothing
matched anything the children stated.”
He canvassed the neighborhood and asked if
anyone had seen a bright yellow school bus
parked there all afternoon. No one had.
Less than two weeks into the investigation
the mayor summoned Cantu to his office and
when he arrived Grover was already there
complaining that no arrest had been made.
Cantu got “into a tiff” with her, but he recommended proper police procedure. “I even told
the mayor, ‘just because somebody accuses,
they say Nancy Smith did it, I have to prove
she did it, I can’t arrest her on your say-so.’”
Cantu concluded, “There is no proof that a male suspect named “Joseph” exists at
The Head Start semester ended on May
27 with a picnic in the park.
afterwards, Grover, who had her identity
concealed, appeared on a local newscast
with the dramatic claim that a molester
was stalking the Head Start kids — and nobody was doing anything about it. She said
she wanted, “someone to do something about
this case and get the ball rolling.”
a suspect, a white man her daughter had
pointed out when he was cutting the grass
outside his house. (He was soon cleared.)
After the accusations became public, Cantu
took Smith for a lie detector test , which
showed “she didn’t do that crime any more
than me or the guy that gave the test.” Cantu
concluded that there was no case against
Smith, “There is no proof that a male suspect
named “Joseph” exists.... all of the victims in
the case have been interviewed with much
inconsistency and lack of good evidence.”
Shortly after Cantu made his recommendation that the investigation
against Smith be concluded, he was
promoted to sergeant and transferred
out of the Youth/Gang unit.
PD then assigned five officers to a special Head Start task force. The questioning of the children began again.
One of those police reports states, “Amy
was asked, did Joseph make you touch him?
Amy stated, ‘No.’”
When Child Protective Services interviewed Nicole in May, she denied that anyone had touched her. After several months
and more interviews, she agreed with detective Eladio Andujar that Nancy and
“Joseph” had molested her.
Preschooler Johnny Givens got involved in
the case at the end of May. His mother had
seen the news reports and she remembered
that her son had complained of a sore bottom
the previous winter. The police report states,
“[Johnny] was questioned if Nancy ever did
anything to him, or if she had ever touched
him, or ever touched his penis... [Johnny]
stated that she had never done anything to
him, and had never touched him in any way...”
Two weeks after Grover appeared on the
local news, 4-year-old Jason Andrews’s
mother reported that her son had told her he’d
been molested right on the bus by someone
named Alan. The police report notes:
“He also stated that Alan looked like...Story continued HERE.)