After spending just over two decades behind Texas prison bars, Dan and Fran Keller, convicted in 1992 of performing satanic ritual abuses on 3-year-old Christy Chaviers, are both free, reports the Houston Chronicle on Friday.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, the Kellers operated a daycare facility out of their home in Southwest Austin. Three-year-old Christy frequented the home-based Fran’s Day Care as needed, and in 1991, the Kellers story was brought to light after Christy told her father that Dan Keller had spanked her.
Other parents came forward with accusations that the Kellers mistreated their children, and the resulting investigation revealed much more than physical abuse.
Officials uncovered an implausible list of heinous crimes: Allegations of horrific rituals devoted to the worship of Satan that included unearthed corpses, dismembered pets and human babies, using human blood to “baptize” the children, videotaped sex acts involving the Kellers with children, even claims that the Kellers took the children on day trips over the border to be abused in Mexico.
Dan and Fran walked out of the Travis County jail this week, freed after serving 21 of their 48-year sentence. A lack of physical evidence, coupled with a key witness recanting his previous testimony, overturned their sentence.
Dr. Michael Mouw testified in 1992 that he discovered “deformities to Christy’s genital area that could have been caused by sexual abuse.” Mouw later realized the “deformities” were simply “normal variants” and admitted that he was not qualified to make his initial statement. His testimony was recanted, prompting defense attorneys to appeal the Kellers convictions.
“I forgive everybody,” Dan said as he was exiting the prison with ex-wife Fran. “There’s no use hating anybody… but it’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
The Kellers have always maintained their innocence, and their lawyer Keith Hampton has consistently argued on their behalf, calling the lurid allegations nothing more than national hysteria driven by gullible or agenda-driven therapists calling out so-called secret societies and Satan-worshipping cults.
“They are desperate to be exonerated because they are innocent. There was no crime here,” Hampton said, adding that the Kellers are ecstatic to be released. “[Dan] was jubilant. He was making jokes. He kind of did a little dance,” Hampton said.
Dan, 72, and Fran, 63, had not seen one another since the trial two decades ago. The couple divorced while incarcerated but remained close.
“We still have each other,” Dan said. “That’s what counts.”
Hampton and Travis County prosecutors, in light of the lack of solid evidence and credible testimony, agreed that the courts should toss out the Kellers’ convictions.