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EX-PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR PROCLAIMS INNOCENCE

A former preschool director accused of molesting pupils proclaimed her innocence and said she was relieved to finally testify in what has become the country's longest criminal trial.

Peggy McMartin Buckey, 62, is the first of the two remaining defendants in the McMartin Pre-School case to testify since charges were brought in 1984.She said outside court Wednesday that her attorney refused to let her talk during the trial, which entered its third year last month, and during the preliminary hearing four years ago.

She added that ill health and the stress of being jailed for nearly two years nearly sapped her of the strength needed to endure the witness stand. She's now free on $295,000 bail.

"I do have the strength and courage," she said confidently. "I hope we will show that nothing ever happened at the school."

"We are all innocent and have not done one thing wrong," she said. "That's the point I want to get across to the jury. All seven of us are innocent, and that's the point I want to get across to the world."

Mrs. Buckey and her 30-year-old son, Raymond Buckey, are the only remaining defendants in the case that began five years ago when seven people were charged. They are charged with 65 counts of molestation and conspiracy. Charges against five other defendants were dismissed after the District Attorney's Office concluded there was insufficient evidence.

Mrs. Buckey, in her second day of testimony Wednesday, described the activities at the defunct preschool in suburban Manhattan Beach where nine children testified they were raped or sodomized. Mrs. Buckey, the school's director and teacher, is charged with molesting four of them.

The children have testified that they were photographed nude and playing such games as "Naked Movie Star." They said they were threatened into silence by Ray Buckey, who allegedly killed and mutilated small animals in front of them.