The Norman Transcript

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October 31, 2013

Psychologist says it’s possible that witness filled in memory gaps with fabricated events

NORMAN — Testimony continued Wednesday with heavy analysis and questioning of one girl’s allegations of child sex abuse against former OU professor Dwain Pellebon.

The girl’s allegations against Pellebon are the most serious in the case with three counts of child sex abuse. The other six charges allege that Pellebon touched several different girls in a lewd or lascivious manner.

The girl, 15 at the time of disclosure, has confirmed mental disabilities. In this case, her disclosure of sexual abuse is being analyzed to determine whether the alleged sex abuse actually occurred or whether it was confabulated as a result of her mental disabilities.

Local psychologist Dr. Raymond Henry McCaffrey Jr., who led testimony Wednesday, described confabulation as fabricating information to fill in gaps in memory.

McCaffrey evaluated the girl in 2009 per requirement by the girl’s school to see if she needed to continue with special education classes, which she did, he said.

He reported that the girl’s overall cognitive function is closer to that of a 7- or 8-year-old child. He noted that the girl confabulated twice during the two-hour evaluation.

McCaffrey said her confabulations were easy to identify because they were events that would not likely happen. For example, she talked about a pony who came to have lunch with her at school in the cafeteria.

He said if he had confronted her about the story of the pony, he was not sure if she would’ve said the story wasn’t true.

The psychologist also testified that sometimes a person might confabulate because they want to engage with someone socially, please people and make a connection with people.

“I thought that she was a youngster you’d want to be quite careful with because she was susceptible to outside influences,” said Dr. Phillip Esplin, another defense witness who testified Wednesday. Esplin has researched, authored books and testified in many child sex abuse cases for more than 20 years.

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