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MVMO ritual abuse cases

Frances and Dan Keller in a preschool
center in a suburb of Austin, TX

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Accusations of ritual abuse of children and Satanic worship were common during the 1980's and early 1990's throughout North America. They eventually spread to some other English speaking countries. New accusations have since died out. The general belief now is that these charges of ritual abuse and Satanic Ritual Abuse were a form of Satanic Panic, and that the dozens of adults who were imprisoned for ritual abuse were innocent of abusing children. In fact, it is very likely that no ritual abuse even happened.

One of the last cases in North America occurred in Oak Hill, a suburb of Austin, TX, where Frances and Dan Keller operated a preschool center. On the claims of a young child, the couple was arrested. They were later convicted in 1992 of child abuse of a young girl. Each was given a 48 year sentence. A series of fantastic claims similar to those made in other ritual abuse cases surfaced of strange activities in front of the children at the preschool. Three children claimed that this included:

  • Killing and dismembering of dogs and cats.

  • Killing and dismembering a crying human baby.

  • Forcing children to have videotaped sex with adults and other children

  • Shooting an adult and chopping up the body with a chainsaw.

  • Burying the bodies of dead children.

  • Adding blood to drinks and serving them to the children.

  • Flying children to Mexico, Las Vegas, California, or Japan so that they could be sexually abused and then returned.

  • Having dinosaurs and sharks in their swimming pool.

Attorney Keith Hampton, who represented Frances Keller, said:

'The case was a true witch hunt because the investigators actually believed that this was part of a wide Satanic conspiracy.'

By today's standards, one would expect that the investigators would wonder how multiple children could have been taken from the preschool, flown to another country, returned to Texas, and not have been so severely traumatized that their parents would have suspected serious abuse. One would expect that parents who occasionally visited the preschool during the day might notice their child or children missing. However, there was a real, "Satanic Panic" throughout North America at the time that was particularly widespread among religious conservatives. Reason often "flew out the window" when Satanists were allegedly involved.

Three parts of the trial seems to have been particularly influential in the Kellers' convictions:

  • The girl who was identified by the physician as having been sexually assaulted described the various forms of abuse that allegedly occurred. She now says that no abuse happened and that she had been instructed at the time to say that it had.

  • Dr Michael Mouw, who testified about the abuse has now recanted his testimony. He has issued an affidavit stating:

    "While my testimony was based on a good faith belief at that time, I now realize my conclusion is not scientifically or medically valid, and that I was mistaken."

    He had little training at the time on how to examine young girls for sexual abuse. He testified that what he thought were twp lacerations on the hymen of one of the girl's was an indication of sexual abuse within the previous 24 hours. He now believes that what he observed was normal physiology. His testimony at trial was the only hard evidence evidence that abuse might have occurred.

  • Doug Perry,  who worked at the center, had told investigators that he and two friends had participated in sexual activities. He has since recanted his story, claiming he’d been coerced by the police.

With the collapse of any evidence of abuse, Frances Keller, 63, was released from prison on 2013-NOV-26. Her husband, Dan Keller, 71, is expected to be released a few days later. Both had maintained their innocence for over two decades. They have not seen each other for over two decades.

Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney for Travis County, TX, issued a statement saying:

"There is a reasonable likelihood that (the medical expert's) false testimony affected the judgment of the jury and violated Frances Keller's right to a fair trial."

The National Center for Reason and Justice attempts to have person wrongfully imprisoned released. Spokesperson Debbie Nathan said that between 1984 and 1989, about 100 American adults were charged with ritual sex abuse, 50 of whom were placed on trial.

Keith Hampton said:

"You are soon going to see a flood of exoneration on these sexual abuse cases."

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Webmaster's opinion: [Bias alert]

In our opinion, neither Frances nor Dan Keller were guilty of the crimes of which they were convicted. We suspect that no ritual molestation actually occurred. The human cost of such cases is enormous -- to those who were incarcerated, the children who were convinced to testify that they had been abused, those children who have internalized their false memories and still believe that they were abused, and the public who believed that they live in a society with enormous levels of child ritual sex abuse.

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References used:

  1. Alex Ward, "Woman freed after spending 20 years in prison for satanic ritual child abuse as evidence ruled to be faulty," Daily Mail Online (UK), 2013-NOV-27, at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/
  2. David Martin Davies, "Austin Woman Set To Be Released From Prison In 'Satanic Ritual Abuse' Case," Texas Public Radio, 2013-NOV-26, at: http://tpr.org/
  3. Karen Bernstein, "Texas Couple Appeals Sentence for 'Satanic Ritual Abuse'," KUT News, 2013-AUG-29, at: http://kut.org/
  4. Justin Peters, "No, This Woman Was Not Performing Satanic Rituals and Sexually Abusing Preschoolers," Slate, 2013-NOV-27, at: http://www.slate.com/
  5. Chuck Lindell, "Fran Keller to be freed in satanic abuse case," The Statesman, 2013-NOV-26, at: http://www.statesman.com/

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2013-NOV-29
Latest update: 2013-NOV-29

Author: B.A. Robinson

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