Against Satanic Panics > Recent cases > Hamlin/Siemer
The case of Richard Hamlin, Susan Siemer Hamlin, and Sydney Siemer
by Diane Vera
Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.
On this page I'll talk about a recent alleged "Satanic Ritual Abuse" case in California. I've decided to include this case because it's recent, even though it isn't much of a harbinger of renewed Satanic panic. If anything, it's an example of current police skepticism toward 1980's-style SRA allegations. The accusations in this case pre-date what I consider to be the most definitive sign of a renewed worldwide trend toward Satanic panic, namely the Vatican's first offering of its course on "Satanism and exorcism" in February 2005.
On February 26, 2004, Richard Hamlin and his wife Susan, both of whom were successful attorneys, went to the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office in Placerville, California. They claimed that Susan and her elderly father Sydney Siemer were part of a "Satanic cult" that was now plotting to kill Richard. Susan confessed to having molested her own children as part of the activities of the cult. When she and Richard showed up at the sheriff's office, Susan had bruises on her face, throat, and ears, injuries which she said were inflicted by another cult member because of her reluctance to go along with the plan to murder Richard.
Earlier, back in October of 2002, Susan had suddently suffered a severe migraine headache and panic attack, after which she began writing to various friends and family about her "recovered memories" of childhood sexual abuse.
Then, in June 2003, Richard began publicly denouncing his father-in-law. He distributed a flyer in Sydney Siemer's neighborhood with a picture of Siemer identifying him as a child molester. On June 16, 2003, Richard distributed this letter to Sid Siemer and "all Siemer family members." Siemer responded by filing a Petition for Injunction Prohibiting Harassment. Susan acted as Richard's attorney in response to the petition. On August 13, 2003, an agreement was reached that Susan and Richard would cease contacting Sydney Siemer or anyone in Siemer's immediate family, or vice versa. However, this "gentleman's agreement" soon broke down.
Presumably, Richard's crusade against Sydney Siemer was the reason why the cult wanted to kill Richard.
As far as I can tell so far, before February 2004, all the Hamlins' sex abuse allegations had been based solely on "recovered memories" of Susan's childhood (and possibly also the "recovered childhood memories" of some of the people Susan wrote to). Until February 2004, there had never been any allegation of Susan's continuing involvement in a family "Satanic cult." According to what they told the police on February 26, Susan had finally revealed her ongoing cult involvement to Richard four days earlier, on February 22, after Susan had gotten beaten up by another member of the cult. That night she told Richard about the murder plot, and then about her ongoing cult involvement, after Richard asked her about her injuries.
For more details of the Hamlins' visit to the sheriff's office, see the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office Case Narrative (on Richard Hamlin's website).
The police sent the Hamlins' children to Child Protective Services, but decided that they did not yet have sufficient cause to arrest either Susan herself or any of the alleged cultists she had named.
Two days later, Susan went to the sheriff's office again, this time by herself. She recanted her confession and claimed now that her husband Richard was the one who had beaten her up, and that he had forced her to implicate her father in a totally imaginary murder plot.
The cops found Susan's retraction more believable than her original confession, so they promptly arrested Richard and charged him with spousal abuse and even torture.
To help prepare his defense, Richard hired Ted Gunderson, a private detective who is a fervent believer in SRA conspiracies and who has been involved in many alleged SRA cases including the McMartin Preschool case.
Richard Hamlin's trial began on Tuesday, October 25, 2005. On Tuesday, January 10, 2006, he was found guilty on various counts including torture.
Below is a collection of relevant web pages, and then some further commentary by me:
- Mass Media Funk #49 on The Skeptic's Dictionary - a good introductory summary
- Richard Hamlin Trial Defense Website
- Dad was ready to shoot my mom, Hamlin son says by Ryan McCarthy, McNaughton News Service, in Village Life Online (El Dorado Hills, California), November 2, 2005
- Sacramento Bee articles:
- Trial told of torn-up doll: El Dorado Hills lawyer beheaded gift to daughter from her grandpa, sister-in-law says by Ramon Coronado, Sunday, December 4, 2005
- Lawyer denies he abused wife: Hamlin tells jury he held Bible-study classes in his home for over a year by Ramon Coronado, Friday, December 9, 2005
- Hamlin's fate in El Dorado jury's hands by Ramon Coronado, Wednesday, December 21, 2005
- Mountain Democrat articles:
- Life for Hamlins anything but ordinary by Ryan McCarthy, November 14, 2005
- Torture trial suspect Hamlin denies tearing head off doll by Ryan McCarthy, December 12, 2005
- Articles on NewsMakingNews (a conspiracy theory site referenced on Richard Hamlin's site):
- Richard Hamlin on Trial: The Best Conspiracy Litigation in California by Virginia McCullough, February 9, 2005
- Would You Convict Richard Hamlin on Susan Hamlin's word? by Virginia McCullough, March 10, 2005
- Sidney Siemer vs. Richard Hamlin: Superior Court of California, Fresno County Case No. 03CEGC02378 by Virginia McCullough, May 6, 2005
- Michael Riconosciuto Explains Why His Testimony Is Essential in the Cases of Richard Hamlin and Philip Arthur Thompson by Virginia McCullough, May 23, 2005
- Was There a Plot to Murder Richard Hamlin? by Virginia McCullough , July 7, 2005
- Opening Statements in the Richard Hamlin Trial by Virginia McCullough and Kathryn Joanne Dixon, November 6, 2005
- The Hamlin Jury Still Out, Will Resume Deliberations on January 3, 2006 by Virginia McCullough, December 29, 2005
- The Richard Hamlin Trial: Domestic Violence or Torture? by Virginia McCullough, December 29, 2005
- Richard Hamlin Convicted of Torture: Verdict Carries Life Sentence by Virginia McCullough, January 12, 2006
- On S.M. Elliot's blog The Devil Appears (which first drew my attention to this case):
- The Hamlin Case: Satanic Ritual Abuse in Sacramento, Wednesday, January 04, 2006
- Update on Richard Hamlin, Tuesday, January 17, 2006
- Attorney found guilty of torture in spousal abuse case by Ramon Coronado, Placerville Info, January 10, 2006
- Ex-prosecutor suspended after torture conviction, California Bar Journal, March 2006
Is Richard Hamlin really guilty of torturing his wife? Or, on the other hand, is Sydney Siemer really the monster that Hamlin paints him as? Blogger S.M. Elliot suggests a third possibility: That both men might be innocent and that Susan might be a pathological liar who has falsely accused first her father and then her husband.
Another possibility: Perhaps both men are innocent and perhaps no one, not even Susan, was deliberately lying, but perhaps Susan might have been a bit delerious after the head injury she suffered on February 22, 2004 (whatever might have been the real cause of said head injury)? Might that, perhaps, have given rise to a temporary delusion of ongoing involvement in a "Satanic cult" about which she previously had had only "recovered memories"? Later, upon recovering from that particular delusion, perhaps she might then have panicked and wrongly blamed it on "brainwashing" by Richard? So far, none of the web pages I've looked at have considered the possibility that Susan might have suffered brain damage when someone (perhaps a garden variety mugger?) punched her in the face.
I don't presume to know what really happened. I do find it mighty strange that Susan went from vague and incomplete "recovered memories" to an alleged fully conscious, ongoing involvement in her father's alleged "Satanic cult," complete with murder plot. On that basis I'm inclined to believe that Susan was either delerious or lying, whether at her own behest or Richard's.
It's an all-around very disturbing story, no matter how you look at it.