In the years following Baran’s conviction, two of the victims’ families filed civil charges against the day-care center, and settled for an undisclosed amount, in 1995. Meanwhile, at least two of the children and one of the adult accusers have made statements that undermine their original allegations.
Kathy Cooper recanted to her therapist, Audrey Ringer, shortly after the trial ended. "Audrey stated that it came out in the session that Bernie Baran did not rape Kathy at [the day-care center] last year," according to a therapy-progress report written by Ringer’s supervisor, M.L. Hamilton, dated October 1, 1985, found in court records. "Kathy indicated that her mother led her to believe that if she didn’t say the right words that they wouldn’t get a lot of money."
Audrey Ringer refused to comment.
While her memory of the case is vague, Kathy’s grandmother, Helen Cooper, said in a recent interview that during the questioning of Kathy, the girl’s mother "was hollering and telling her, ‘Remember what happened! Remember! You can remember!’"
"I guess she told her what happened," Helen Cooper continued. "To tell you the truth, [Kathy] wasn’t trying to say anything at all. She was playing with her foot.... I don’t even think she knew what was going on." Nevertheless, Helen Cooper says she believes Baran is guilty.
Kathy Cooper could not be reached for comment. Her mother died several years ago.
Tom Hill also reportedly changed his story. As a teenager, he attended a "youth at risk" special-education class at Monument Mountain High School, in Great Barrington. Coincidentally, Richard Anderson, once a close friend of Baran’s, taught the class. Anderson and Baran had not been in touch for several years.
In a signed affidavit, Anderson said that he asked his students to write about how to make a living. Unable to read or write, Tom presented his assignment orally. Anderson wrote, "Tom bragged that his mom got money because he ... had a gay teacher in day care. He said it was easy. All he had to do was say that the teacher did something to him to get the money even though nothing happened. He said the person who really abused him was his father."
It was not until Tom Hill said the name "Baran" that Anderson realized who the teenager was talking about. He never confronted Hill but did contact the DA, although nothing came of the information, according to Anderson’s affidavit.
Repeated attempts to reach Tom Hill were unsuccessful. His brother Keith, with whom he lives, said Tom would not be available. "If this is about his childhood, he’s not going to talk about it," Keith Hill said.
The children involved in this case were not the only ones to change their stories. In January 1989, Joe Hill walked up to the service window at a Pittsfield Unemployment Office, where Anderson worked before teaching "youth at risk" in the schools. "[Hill] was not there to talk about an unemployment claim," according to the affidavit. "He told me that he wanted to take back the accusation that he had made about Bernard Baran. He said that he just said what someone else wanted him to say." Hill did not say on whose behalf he had allegedly acted, Anderson stated.