In Harm’s Way He Stood Tall

Tom MacSpeiden, Ph.D. has been a psychologist and SDPA member for a long time. He is a past president of our association in addition to having contributed in numerous ways to the development of the San Diego psychological community.  For many years Tom was the chief psychologist at the local community mental health center, and he mentored and guided many psychologists who are now prominent in their own right.

Tom is known for his forensic work amongst other things. A few years ago he testified for the defense of Dale Akiki, a developmentally disabled adult, who was accused of abusing children at a church day care center. The LA Times reported,

“Akiki’s trial put all those contradictions in high relief. It pitted Akiki, 36, against nine children who accused him of bludgeoning live animals and drinking their blood as part of his satanic repertoire. One boy even accused Akiki of murdering a baby.”

“Witnesses said Akiki conspired with his wife and another sitter to subject the children to rituals of mayhem, involving urine, feces, water torture and animal mutilation–including the slaughter of an elephant, a giraffe, and a rabbit.”

Someone reading these quotes now would find the charges preposterous and highly unlikely to be true. However, in 1991 there was a “witch hunt” atmosphere across the country and a number of people were convicted of child abuse in similar cases. The most famous case was the McMartin nursery school one in Los Angeles.

When Tom was asked if in his opinion Dale Akiki could have committed these acts, he said something like, 

” A deaf-mute has as much chance of reciting the Gettysburg address as Dale Akiki has of committing these crimes.” 

Tom’s statement was definitive and unequivocal. He was courageous in the face of opposition and legal pressure. At that moment he became my hero.