DA Found Charges Against Couple Accused Of Satanic Rituals Invalid
Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced on Tuesday that she is dropping the charges against Dan and Fran Keller, a couple in Austin, Texas, who spent more than 20 years behind bars for alleged sexual abuse of a child at their day care center before the court found the evidence was not solid enough to keep them in prison. The allegations involved bizarre claims of satanic rituals performed at the center. Moore believes the couple is innocent.
Back in 2015, the Kellers fought and won conviction reversals, but they were not fully exonerated of the crimes, although they were freed in 2013, when the court decided the evidence against them was not solid. The court declined to grant the couple’s bid for a declaration of actual innocence, though, saying its decision was based on the trial court’s findings and its own independent review of the record. The couple argued they had been the victims of incapable therapists and messy police work. Moore’s decision could make the couple eligible for as much as $3.4 million in compensation from the state.
In 1992, a 3-year-old girl accused the couple of cutting up bodies and animals; serving blood-laced Kool-Aid; forcing the child into a pool with sharks; and videotaping sex with children. No such evidence was ever found.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reversed the conviction two years ago after an emergency room doctor who testified in the original trial about examining the girl and finding indications of sexual abuse took back what he’d testified about the owners. The doctor later concluded that indications of what he thought to be sexual trauma were actually normal variations in anatomy.
“It seems like we can breathe again,” Fran Keller, 67, said after the court found her not guilty. “We can sleep again without nightmares.” Concurring Judge Cheryl Johnson said, “This was a witch hunt from the beginning. The 3-year-old’s “bizarre accusations were supported at trial by the testimony of a 6-year-old who insisted that his teddy bear was alive and could talk” and by a satanic expert who sponsored a 1995 conference where some other unusual claims were made. At the conference, speakers alleged that the FBI had covered up a satanic cult with ties to staff members at the White House and that President Bill Clinton was the Antichrist. Far-fetched allegations, to say the least.
“It was not just Dr. Mouw who was too quick to believe,” Johnson said. “If he is to be blamed for the failure to provide applicant with a fair trial, the missteps of other persons and entities need to be examined also. We do not learn from our mistakes unless and until we are required to acknowledge those mistakes.”
Keith Hampton, the Kellers’ lawyer, said he was extremely disappointed with the court. “I’m not happy,” said Hampton, who took on the case free of charge and advocated for the couple’s freedom. He indicated he is not done with the case, and will continue to work on it until the Kellers are truly found to be innocent. He said he may file a “suggestion” that the Court of Criminal Appeals re-examine the evidence. “I don’t know how in good conscience you can ignore the overriding claim in this case, which is not Dr. Mouw. The issue is they’re innocent,” he said.