Wayne Satz, an award-winning and controversial TV reporter who broke the McMartin Pre-School molestation story in 1984, was found dead at his Studio City home, authorities said. He was 47.
Satz died Thursday afternoon, said Tom Schwabe, a coroner’s investigator. The cause of death was under investigation, he said.
His body was found by a woman who had a dinner date with him, said Tony Valdez, an anchor with KTTV Fox Television news and a longtime friend of Satz.
“What the police told us … was that there was no sign of any foul play, and their best guess … was that it was probably a heart attack,” Valdez said, adding that Satz had been seeing a doctor for a heart condition.
Satz joined KTTV Fox Television news in July, airing a weekly report called “Cutting Through the Bull,” in which he lambasted politicians and others for double-talk.
During a 13-year stint with KABC-TV that ended in 1987, Satz won a prestigious Peabody Award for a series in the late 1970s that sparked changes in the Los Angeles Police Dept.
Satz aired a report on Feb. 2, 1984, that was the first to bring to the public’s attention dozens of alleged sex acts between children and teachers at the now-closed family-run pre-school in Manhattan Beach.
He won two Golden Mike awards for the reports, but also was heavily criticized for what some considered their hysterical tone.
He was also romantically linked with social worker Kee MacFarlane, lead therapist at Children’s Institute Intl., where staffers used play-acting techniques and anatomically correct dolls to interview McMartin children about alleged molestation.
The McMartin trial lasted nearly three years before ending in 1990, and defendants Raymond Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, were never convicted.