Two years after the State threw out the sexual and satanic ritual abuse case against former Texas child day care owners Dan and Fran Keller, the Travis County District Attorney declared them “actually innocent” and dropped all existing charges, finally exonerating the couple who maintained their innocence since their 1992 convictions.
On Tuesday, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced she filed a motion that led to District Court Judge Cliff Brown dismissing the charges against the Kellers, convicted in Austin’s most notorious alleged child sex scandal 25 years ago. The couple served more than 21 years in prison.
In 1992, the Kellers were sentenced to serve 48 years each for their purported roles in performing subversive sexual acts and satanic rituals on youngsters at their home-based day care. They convicted the couple largely based on testimony provided by therapists who helped three youngsters recover purportedly repressed memories of sadistic sacrifices supposedly performed at the Kellers’ day care. The couple stood accused of dismembering babies, torturing pets, desecrating corpses, videotaping orgies, and serving blood-laced Kool-Aid in devil worship rituals, although law enforcement agencies never found proof of these activities, Breitbart Texas reported.
Pivotal trial testimony came from a young and inexperienced emergency room physician, Dr. Michael Mouw, who examined the children for abuse and told the court that internal lacerations found on one child constituted evidence of the alleged sexual misconduct, sealing the Kellers’ fate.
However, in 2013, the case began to unravel. An older and professionally seasoned Mouw recanted his testimony, Breitbart Texas reported. He said what he thought were lacerations was actually normal physiology. This disclosure prompted Travis County prosecutors to agree that the case’s evidence was faulty. In response, they released the Kellers from prison on bond but the couple was not exonerated from any criminal charges.
The Austin American-Statesman reported when freedom came Dan, then 72, was hearing impaired and reliant on a cane to walk, and Fran, 63, recalled years of prison assaults and bullying from inmates who targeted individuals convicted of child sex crimes. Despite everything, neither were bitter but continued to fight to get the criminal charges dropped.
The Kellers had their day at the state’s highest criminal court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, in 2015. The court threw out the 1992 sexual and satanic ritual assault convictions but still did not clear the couple legally of wrongdoing. Since then, the Kellers, who divorced while in prison under the emotional strains the convictions placed on their marriage, united to clear their names.
In a prepared statement Tuesday, Travis County D.A. Moore stated she read “the trial and post-trial conviction transcripts and viewed the evidence introduced at trial” and “after an extensive review of the record and the law” she made the motion to clear Dan and Fran Keller “on the grounds that no credible evidence exists that inculpates the defendants” and that she, as the state’s attorney, believes they are “actually innocent of the crime for which each was sentenced.”
She added: “I take seriously my responsibility under Texas law to see that justice is done. Given the current state of the law on actual innocence and the evidence remaining in this case, I believe this to be a just outcome.”
As a result of Moore’s decision, the Kellers, now elderly and described by their lawyer as destitute, can each apply for $80,000 in compensation for every year they wrongfully spent in prison, according to the Statesman.
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