Twenty-five years ago, Austin day care operators Dan and Fran Keller were convicted of sexually abusing three children as part of satanic rituals.
On Tuesday, two years after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the couple's convictions, Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore announced that she was finding them "actually innocent" of the allegations.
The Kellers, who operated a day care out of their home, were convicted toward the tail end of the Satanic Panic craze, during which seemingly no accusation — no matter how preposterous or coached — was accepted without question. They were sentenced to 48 years in prison.
Among other bizarre allegations, the Kellers supposedly flew a plane full of children from the day care to Mexico, where they were raped by soldiers, and then flown back the same day, in time for their parents to pick them up. They supposedly dragged kids to a cemetery and forced them to participate in the ritual chainsawing of a body thrown into an open grave by a cop. All this, after the kids were allegedly forced to drink blood-laced Kool-Aid.
Keith Hampton, the attorney for the Kellers — who's worked pro bono, as his clients say they're destitute — sought an "actual innocence" finding in 2013, after a physician who testified for the state at trial recanted his finding that a girl under the care of the Kellers showed signs of sexual abuse.
The Kellers were subsequently released on bond, but it wasn't until 2015 that the appeals court overturned the convictions. However, the high court denied the motion for a finding of actual innocence, citing an "independent review of the record."
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That record, by the way, included testimony from state expert Randy Noblitt, whom Hampton described in the 2015 motion as a "self-professed ritual abuse 'expert'...[who] has long enlisted himself in the exposure of an alien Jewish/demonic interplanetary plot to conduct thousands of human sacrifices and enslave humanity through various government agencies."
Apparently, Moore, the Travis County DA, found this and other so-called evidence insufficient for a retrial, so she filed a motion to dismiss the charges and find the Kellers actually innocent. In a press release Tuesday, Moore said:
"In making this very difficult decision, I personally read the trial and post-conviction transcripts and viewed the evidence introduced at trial. I take seriously my responsibility under Texas law to see that justice is done. Given the current state of law on actual innocence and the evidence remaining in this case, I believe this to be a just outcome."
According to the Austin American-Statesman, the Kellers are each eligible "to apply for $80,000 for every year mistakenly spent in prison."