When the little girl on the witness stand said, “No, it didn’t happen,” Frances Keller put her head in her hands and began to sob. It was the second day of what would be a six-day trial of Keller and her husband, Danny, on charges that they’d sexually assaulted a young girl, Christina Chaviers, in the summer of 1991, when the 3-year-old was an infrequent drop-in at their home-based Oak Hill day care. Among the multiple counts were allegations that Danny had forcibly penetrated Christina with a pen and his penis and that Fran had performed oral sex on Christina and forced the girl to do the same. The charges were based on statements Christina had made, first to her mother, Suzanne Guinne, and then to her therapist, social worker Donna David-Campbell. There was no definitive physical evidence.
On the witness stand, the little girl sat on her older sister’s lap, chewing on a lollipop. “Did Danny ever touch you in a way you didn’t like?” Assistant District Attorney Judy Shipway asked. “No,” Christina replied.
“Did Fran ever touch you [in] a way you didn’t like?” Shipway asked. “No,” the girl replied.
Shipway tried a different approach. Did Christina tell anyone else that Danny had hurt her? She did not reply. Shipway asked if Christina would like to “whisper to me” her answer. “No,” she said.
“Christy, when you say no, do you mean you don’t want to talk about it, or do you mean, no, it didn’t happen?” Shipway asked. “No, it didn’t happen,” Christina replied once and then again. “No, it didn’t happen.”
“But did you tell somebody it happened?” Shipway asked. “Yes, yes, yes,” she answered.
Fran held her head in her hands; all the emotion of the last year and a half welled up. Finally, she thought, everyone in the courtroom had heard the truth: Nothing had happened. Fran felt a measure of relief – certainly, this whole ordeal would soon be over. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Fran and Danny Keller were each convicted of sexually assaulting Christina Chaviers, and each was sentenced to 48 years in prison. For the Kellers, now 58 and 68, respectively, it was effectively a life sentence. They’ve since come up for parole, but neither will acknowledge the remorse that is a requirement of release – after 17 years, the Kellers still fiercely maintain their innocence.
And in fact, the Chronicle’s reinvestigation of the Fran’s Day Care case has revealed serious problems with the state’s case against the Kellers – including questions about the quality and reliability of the state’s medical evidence and forensic interviews. Moreover, the sensational nature of the charges themselves, in a period of hysterical national rumors about supposed “satanic ritual abuse” at day care centers, made it virtually impossible for the Kellers to receive a fair or even rational trial. Finally, our investigation has uncovered potentially exculpatory evidence that the Kellers’ defense attorneys say they were not aware of at the time of the 1992 trial.
In light of the problems with the original prosecution and this additional evidence, there remain substantive doubts about the Kellers’ guilt. Indeed, it’s an open question not only whether the Kellers were rightly convicted – but more fundamentally, whether any crime ever happened at Fran’s Day Care at all.
Article continues. Fran and Danny Keller are in prison for ritualized child rape that never happened, while well-documented real-life ongoing ritualized child rape organizations wring their hands and say oh, so sorry, oh, so sorry. So very, very sorry.