A couple who ran a daycare center in Austin, Texas was sentenced to 48 years in prison on charges of satanic child abuse. Despite the far-fetched claims of prosecutors, the husband and wife couple spent over 20 years behind bars. Now, after decades in prison, the state has finally announced the couple was innocent of the allegations.
Fran and Dan Keller ran a small day care center in Oak Hill, Austin, Texas. A three-year-old child, who had been in the care of the Keller's allegedly told a therapist that the Kellers had sexually abused her. Two other children made similar claims of abuse. The Keller's were brought to trial to face multiple counts of child abuse.
Among the claims by prosecutors were that the Kellers had served the children blood-laced Kool-Aid and forced them to kill and dismember cats, dogs, and a baby. Another claim involved shooting a passerby who witnessed a graveyard ceremony and dismembered the adult with a chainsaw. The children also recounted multiple plane trips to places like Mexico, where the children were sexually abused by soldiers, yet returned to the day care center in time for their parents to pick them up.
After a six-day trial, the jury found the Kellers guilty, sentencing them to 48 years each in prison. A later investigation revealed a number of problems with the prosecution. There was no physical evidence of abuse, the prosecution was accused of withholding information from the defense, and the child who made the initial claim of abuse admitted she had been coached to claim satanic ritual abuse.
This trial occurred during what has been termed the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. There were a number of cases brought to trial alleging satanic ritual child abuse across the United States against hundreds of childcare providers. Among those cases was the McMartin Preschool case in California, the longest and most expensive trial in U.S. history. Over the course of 7 years, the trial cost the state $15 million and resulted in zero convictions.
Some of the McMartin Preschool claims included that the preschool workers chopped up animals, beat a horse to death with a bat, flew in the air dressed as witches, and sacrificed a baby and made the children drink the blood. Prosecutors brought similar cases against day care center workers in New Jersey and North Carolina.
In 2013, the Travis County DA's office announced the Kellers would be released on bond. Just last month, the DA's office announced the case against the Kellers was dismissed, finding them innocent of criminal charges, with “no credible evidence” against them, despite spending 21 years in prison.
When facing criminal charges, a defendant needs an experienced attorney who can sort through the facts and come to the best possible resolution for his client. If you have been arrested or are facing criminal charges, call the Seattle Law Office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.