Fran and Dan Keller freed: Two of the last victims of satanic ritual abuse panic.


Among the atrocities that Frances and Dan Keller were supposed to have committed while running a day care center out of their Texas home: drowning and dismembering babies in front of the children; killing dogs and cats in front of the children; transporting the children to Mexico to be sexually abused by soldiers in the Mexican army; dressing as pumpkins and shooting children in the arms and legs; putting the children into a pool with sharks that ate babies; putting blood in the children’s Kool-Aid; cutting the arm or a finger off a gorilla at a local park; and exhuming bodies at a cemetery, forcing children to carry the bones.

It was frankly unbelievable—except that people, most importantly, a Texas jury, didbelieve the Kellers had committed at least some of these acts. In 1992, the Kellers were convicted of aggravated sexual assault on a child and each sentenced to 48 years in prison. The investigation into their supposed crimes took slightly more than a year, the trial only six days.

After multiple appeal efforts and 21 years in prison, the Kellers are finally free. Fran Keller, 63, was released from prison on Nov. 26 on a personal bond, just in time for Thanksgiving. Her daughter was waiting for her with a bag full of the first clothes that weren’t prison-issued that Keller had seen in years. Dan, who turned 72 in prison and now walks with a cane, was released on Dec. 5; this time, Fran was there to greet him. (The Kellers divorced while in prison yet remain close, as close as two people locked up in separate prisons for crimes they say they didn’t commit can be.)

Written By: Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
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  1. A truly terrible and also bizarre case where the authorities having got themselves into a panic over satanic abuse decided that this couple were guilty and bollocks to the facts. It is easy to find similarities between this and the witch trials at Salem, but it is staggering that this could have happened at the end of the 20th century in the so called civilised America.

  2. I’d like to think it could never happen here (UK), but then I think of things like the Cleveland “satanic abuse” scandal in 1987 which relied on very dubious diagnostic practices from a couple of (over-zealous?) doctors and led to 121 children being taken away from their families. Many were never reunited even though a wide-ranging judicial enquiry finally established there was no evidence that any abuse ever took place.

    It was, arguably, a case of mass hysteria.

  3. Somehow this doesn’t surprise me.


    It’s not that I think Americans are more likely than others to behave like this, it’s rather that I feel all humans are, sadly, the same. In the case of the Kellers, religious beliefs made their fellow citizens froth at the mouth and denounce them as witches of a kind, just as we have seen and read about happening to unfortunate individuals in African countries and India, for example.


    But the same mob mentality was at work in the seventies in Britain when the Birmingham Six, the Guildford Four and others were wrongly convicted of being those Irish Republican Army terrorists who had exploded bombs in England and killed civilians going about their everyday lives.


    In that decade the UK tabloid newspapers frothed at the mouth, so to speak, and stoked the fires of the public’s hatred, creating just the right atmosphere for a witch hunt, one which lead to the arrest of a few groups of people whose chief crime seemed to be that some of them had Irish republican sympathies.


    Some of the supposed terrorists had confessions beaten out of them by the British police, who also used dogs to threaten them in a way reminiscent of the behaviour of US Army soldiers against their detainees in Iraq. After a whole court process and the appeal that deemed their convictions to be justified, the accused ended up spending more than ten years in jail – and they were innocent of what they were accused of. There are similarities there to what happened to the Kellers.


    I fear something similar happening to an innocent Muslim on UK or US soil, although it may already have happened in Afghanistan or Iraq when it was under American or British control.


    The Kellers, by the way, may get some justice whereas no one, as a far as I know anyway, received any kind of punishment for helping to convict the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four.

  4. In reply to #2 by Stevehill:
    There have been appalling miscarriages of justice in the UK due to ‘expert witnesses’ who were using dubious practices.
    Prof Roy Meadow was struck off after his evidence wrongly convicted Sally Clark of infanticide. She served 3 years before the evidence was overturned. She was completely broken by other prisoners who maintained a campaign of abuse because she was a solicitor with family in the police force. She never recovered from the ordeal and died prematurely.

    The Cleveland case was the work of Higgs and Wyatt both paediatricians who used the now discredited reflex anal dilation as sole evidence of abuse. A case of expert fallibility in decision making with disastrous consequences. Expert evidence has been under review in recent years and the supreme court in 2011 removed the 400 year old immunity protecting expert witnesses from being sued by those who suffer as a result of their erroneous testimony.

  5. Assuming this couple are innocent of all charges, it is a terrible indictment of the police, the law and the judicial system. If their collective judgement was swayed by the mob, then shame on them.

    But perhaps what is more disturbing is the length of time it has taken for this miscarriage of justice to get resolved. What is so annoying about all these cases is that no one ever gets punished or even blamed officially. But I’m afraid state monopolies are the worst (in my view) for secrecy and sloth and job protection. And the big problem with the law is that – well – they are the law! Where do you go to resolve your problem with the law?

    Lately, I have been wondering if it would be possible to create a parallel (though obviously much smaller) version of the police/judiciary whose sole job would be to investigate complaints against the police/justice system. I would give the alternative police the right to arrest, question and detain the mainline police. If nothing else, they would soon understand that they are not untouchable and it would give them a taste of their own medicine and understand how it feels to be arrested and charged, out of their comfort zone, and treated like a criminal just because they have been arrested. There’s nothing quite like experiencing something first hand and realising you will have to answer for your actions to make you think.

  6. The specific problem of these cases seems to be the question of how strong the ‘in dubio pro reo’ principle has to be interpreted at rape trials. One of the problematic aspects of rape is that it is often reported long after the unmistakable physical evidence has disappeared, or that there never was really unmistakable evidence. Testifying is horrifying and difficult for the victims, and being accused of “making it all up” by the defense attorneys of their rapists can be unbearable. That’s why even in the best of societies a large percentage of rape goes unreported and unpunished. It is therefore quite understandable, that we relax the standards a bit, when it comes to rape, in particular the rape of children.

    That however does not excuse the colossal failings of the judiciary in the ritual abuse trials, which were overrun by a scare. GPWC has compared it to the hysteria and more than dubious methods involved in the “War on Terror”. I find that a good parallel: again innocent people are being locked up for many years, this time even without charges, even tortured, and all because demanding rock-solid proof for their guilt is deemed to dangerous and difficult by people with the best motives.

  7. Crazy case. In some ways it reminds me of the Cameron Todd Willingham case, which was also in Texas. Shocker. Them secessionists love them some sensational, error ridden trails based on dubious “evidence”.

  8. This reminds me of nutty social workers in the UK :-

    South Ronaldsay child abuse scandal

    The South Ronaldsay child abuse scandal began on February 27, 1991 when social workers and police removed some children from their homes on the Orkney, Scotland island South Ronaldsay, because of allegations of child abuse. The children denied that any abuse had occurred, and medical examinations did not reveal any evidence of abuse.

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    The father of a family was imprisoned in 1986 shortly after the family’s arrival in South Ronaldsay, for child abuse. No formal child protection proceedings were initiated. After an alarm raised by officials in a neighbouring authority action was taken. Other children were taken in late 1990, and the two youngest were told that their mother was dead. Local people began a campaign for the children to be allowed home. It was repeatedly decided that their welfare could not be assured in the care of their mother. It took six years before the last of the children was returned to their mother.[1]

    After consultations among police, social workers, and local officers of the Royal Scottish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and after receiving legal authority from Scotland’s most senior sheriff, pre-dawn raids were made on the houses of the minister and the families who had assisted his campaign.

    Following a community meeting, many of the parents organized a support group, the South Ronaldsay Parents Action Committee, led by a local doctor, and assisted by the voluntary organization Parents Against Injustice (PAIN). The group collected petitions of support that showed overwhelming scepticism about the charges.

    ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬ ▬▬▬▬▬

    The case came to court in April, and after a single day the presiding judge, Sheriff David Kelbie, dismissed the case as fatally flawed and the children were allowed to return home. The judge criticized the social workers involved, saying that their handling of the case had been “fundamentally flawed” and he found in summary that “these proceedings are so fatally flawed as to be incompetent” and that the children concerned had been separated and subjected to repeated cross-examinations almost as if the aim was to force confessions rather than to assist in therapy. Where two children made similar statements about abuse this appeared to be the result of “repeated coaching”.[3] He added that in his view “There is no lawful authority for that whatsoever”. Sheriff Kelbie also said that he was unclear what the supposed evidence provided by the social services proved.[4]

    The children were returned by plane to Kirkwall airport on April 4, 1991 where they were reunited with their parents.

    The Reporter appealed against the dismissal of the case and on 12 June 1991, the Court of Session, sitting as Scotland’s premier civil appeal court, upheld the appeal. It criticised Kelbie’s handling of the case.

    The case was remitted back to the sheriff court to proceed. The Reporter took the view that in the light of factors including the publicity since Kelbie’s decision, the case was severely compromised. The application was formally abandoned.

  9. Isn’t the real problem the Kellers had was they were not priests or football stars?

  10. The thing that is truly sad in this case and in all the ones referred to by other commentators is that the accusers, “expert” witnesses, police and prosecutors walk away free, after having ruined the lives of the the innocent victims. Similarly, the rabid unethical, unprofessional journalists who fan the flames by feeding the angry mob also are never held accountable for their inexcusable actions.

    What a double standard we as a “civilized” society have let ourselves in for. Innocent until PROVEN guilty has become a complete farce. We are quick to point out the inadequacies of legal systems and convictions based on political expediency in other societies (China, Russia and North Korea come to mind). Similarly, the often barbaric practices common in many African and similarly less developed nations are frowned upon, yet in our own back yard we STILL have many of these obvious miscarriages of justice, based on ignorance, superstition, here say and scientifically questionable evidence. Why are people peddling this destructive BS not held accountable by law and why can they continue to hide behind some sort of immunity? Time for a very serious change in perspectives. jcw

  11. This still goes on every day. Not with regard to satanism, but child abuse. I personally know of several cases where the social services removed kids from their homes on basis of gossip and wild rumors how their parents abused their children. I know of several cases where teachers have been accused of child abuse on the basis of non-existent evidence. There is this wild child abuse paranoia. Of course child abuse is a very serious crime and should be fought with all means possible. But, it seems like people see pedophiles and child abusers everywhere. And when a rumor gets going that person’s life is ruined regardless of whether there’s evidence or not.

  12. In reply to #12 by Nunbeliever:

    This still goes on every day. Not with regard to satanism, but with regard to child abuse. I personally know of several cases where the social services removed kids from their homes on basis of gossip and wild rumors how their parents abused the children. I know of several cases where teachers have…

    Yes, but you have to admit that most of us thought that for instance priests should be put on trial when “wild rumours” of child abuse reached the ears of their superiors, and that they should most definitely be removed from future potential victims. And for a priest or a teacher even the accusation means the end of his or her career, regardless of the verdict. As I said before, demanding rock-solid evidence before taking any action is a real problem in the case of rape and sexual abuse.

  13. Arthur Miller said it all in The Crucible, nominally a dramatisation of the Salem witch trials but of course a thinly veiled attack on the evils of McCarthyism then stalking American public life. The mob needs scapegoats.

    Unfortunately, we are still not listening to Arthur Miller.

  14. In reply to #13 by foundationist:

    In reply to #12 by Nunbeliever:

    This still goes on every day. Not with regard to satanism, but with regard to child abuse. I personally know of several cases where the social services removed kids from their homes on basis of gossip and wild rumors how their parents abused the children. I know of s…

    Yes, sexual abuse cases are notoriously difficult form a judicial perspective since there usually are no other witnesses and most cases of sexual abuse happens between people who know each other. Hence, it’s word against word in most cases and sometimes not even the victim feels like a crime has been committed. I completely agree with you that there are administrative flaws and that many victims of sexual abuse feel like they are not being taken seriously or are ignored. The fact that these crimes often brings a sense of shame upon the victim in combination that the offender is often a person the victims knows and trusted makes these cases difficult for all parts to deal with.

    I don’t know what you mean by “rock-solid” evidence. Usually we talk about someone being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt. But, in all honesty. If there’s no physical evidence and no witnesses, then how on earth can we successfully prosecute these cases? You say : “It is therefore quite understandable, that we relax the standards a bit, when it comes to rape, in particular the rape of children.” How much are you willing to “relax” the standards? To me, this line of reasoning sounds very dangerous to me. The risk of a slippery slope is over-whelming if we accept that courts can find people guilty of serious crimes on the basis of circumstantial evidence.

    If victims of sexual abuse experience that they are not being taken seriously then that’s something that needs to be changed. But, however seriously we take them and the alleged crimes against them we can’t do much without evidence. However depressing it is that many sexual offenders get away with their crimes I see no solution to this problem as long as we have cases based only on circumstantial evidence.

  15. There’s an excellent recent book that covers this topic.

    It’s actually about the nature of science, being essentially a systematic approach to mitigate cognitive biases. But it employs plenty of examples of pseudoscience to demonstrate the principles involved. Including the satanic sex abuse frenzy, which is still playing out all over the world.

    This isn’t an example of mass-hysteria. It’s basically a case of people trusting in experts who should know better but have somehow led themselves to believe that they are scientists and are being scientific despite having no real idea about what science actually is. Most people also don’t understand the nature of science and will just assume that anyone who calls themselves a scientist or who merely believes they are a scientists and uses the appropriate verbal and body language actually is a scientist.

    The authors also demonstrate how the key players experience significant financial motives to fail to comprehend and so perpetrate and perpetuate this kind of pseudoscientific nonsense. And why judicial and police systems are incapable of discriminating between science and pseudoscience and associated myths. E.g. interpreting DNA evidence, the meaning of probabilities, or assumed ‘facts’ such as that no 2 fingerprints can be identical. They also explain why governments tend to fight to the death to prevent wrongly convicted people from ever having their convictions overturned and being released.

    Real scientists cannot ever make useful expert witnesses in court trials – being too uncertain and indecisive. That’s why pseudoscientists who merely superficially appear to be scientific tend to prevail in legal environments where the demeanour of the witness is the most crucial aspect of the evidence, as compared to the very different concept of scientific evidence. Legal evidence and scientific evidence pretty much have only the spelling of the word ‘evidence’ in common. There can be significant revenue to be made via specialising as an expert witness in court cases. Though to be hired one probably needs to brand oneself as favouring only the prosecution or the defence. Normally the prosecution will likely have the most money – being a branch of government. Typically underfunded, but this can change in high profile cases, such as horrific allegations of child sexual abuse. So most expert witnesses will be employed to prove the case, rather than to exonerate.

    Though there is an element of conformance with the herd mentality. You get the same thing in economics with central bankers frantically printing money to ‘save’ the economy by transferring resources from the undeserving poor to the more productive deserving rich, who are mostly financial intermediaries or in the legal industry. Money printing happens via bond buy backs – which attempts to conceal what’s really going on. i.e. not just creating new monetary tokens but actively diverting real resources to the already extremely wealthy. That this is such a great idea, to ‘trick’ people into generating economic growth, has got to be one of the biggest and most destructive scientific myths in the history of humanity. Nevertheless pretty much all experts go along with this – basically because it pays so well to not question things. It simply isn’t in any reasonably non-impoverished person’s interest to question the validity or actual evidence for the underlying concepts. And anyone who does tends to be regarded as some kind of crackpot. Most people find the whole thing more or less incomprehensible and so just assume the experts know what they’re doing. Just like how so many people believe the their religious clergy and other similar supernatural phenomena. Eventually things will change but you’ll never find a single sole who ever held the original orthodox opinion.

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