Texas pair released
after serving 21 years for 'satanic abuse'
Dan and Fran
Keller, sentenced in 1991 for child sexual assault
during US 'Satanic panic' era, released after
district attorney conceded trial jury was probably
swayed by faulty testimony.
Dan Keller has left an Austin jail, a week after his
wife was released – and 21 years after the pair were
given a 48-year sentence for sexual assault during
America's "Satanic panic" era.
Fran Keller, 63, was released on bond last week
after the Travis County district attorney agreed
that the trial jury was probably swayed by the
faulty testimony of an expert witness.
To supporters of Dan, 72, and Fran Keller, 63,
their 1992 trial was a modern-day Texas witch-hunt
that recalled the hysterical delusions of
The fuse was lit in August 1991, when a
three-year-old girl on the way to a behavioural
therapy session told her mother that Dan Keller had
spanked her at the preschool he ran with his wife in
The girl told the therapist that Keller had
sexually assaulted her using a pen and "pooped and
peed on my head".
In subsequent months, two other children made
similar claims about the Kellers. [Ed: following disclosure questioning by feminerapists] . By the time the
couple went on trial in November 1992, the
allegations were significantly more lurid and
involved allegations of ritual abuse, murder,
dismemberment and animal sacrifice.
The Kellers were found guilty of aggravated sexual
assault of a child, even though the three-year-old
girl at the centre of the case recanted
her claims in court.
A modern-day witch-hunt
The only physical evidence against the Kellers was
the testimony of Dr Michael Mouw, who examined the
girl in the emergency room of a local hospital after
the therapy session and said he found tears in her
hymen that potentially indicated that she was
Mouw signed an affidavit last January in which he
affirms that he now realises his inexperience led
him to a conclusion that "is not scientifically or
medically valid, and that I was mistaken."
In an appeal filed on behalf of Fran Keller earlier
this year, her lawyer, Keith Hampton, also argued
that the state presented misleading evidence about
the cemetery, relied on a false witness confession
and the testimony of a "quack" satanic abuse
"expert", and that suggestive interview techniques
had encouraged the children to make "fantastical
According to police reports and trial records, the
children said that Dan Keller killed his dog and
made children cut it up and eat it, "baptised" kids
with blood and disembowelled pets, forcing children
to drink the blood.
The Kellers were also said to have decapitated and
chopped up a baby, put the remains in a swimming
pool and made the children jump in. In
one account, the Kellers were said to have
stolen a baby gorilla from a park and Frances cut
off one of its fingers.
The pair, who apparently liked to wear robes, were
said to have dug graves in a cemetery to hide dead
animals and a passer-by who was shot and carved up
with a chain saw.
The children were supposedly taken to military
bases and on secret aeroplane trips, including to
Mexico, where they were abused and returned to the
centre in time for their parents to pick them up as
normal. They said they were coerced into videotaped
sex acts and drugged so they would forget what they
In court, the jury heard about the extensive
attempts by Austin police to substantiate the
stories – and Hampton believes that lent them
credibility. Police conducted inquiries at
nearby airfields, took the children to a cemetery
and examined graves from a helicopter using an
infrared camera that they said could detect
"hot-spots" on decomposing corpses.
In a letter of support for the Kellers dated March
17 this year, James Wood, a psychology professor at
the University of Texas at El Paso, wrote: "There is
now general agreement among reputable scholars that
the Daycare Abuse Panic was a twentieth-century
manifestation of 'witchcraft fever' of the same kind
that swept Salem, Massachusetts in 1692 and Western
Europe in the centuries before that."
A nation panicked over 'rampant' Satanism
A nationwide alarm over apparent widespread child
sexual abuse at daycare centres was ignited by the
McMartin Preschool case in the 1980s, which
attracted vast media attention. An initial
allegation that the owner of the preschool near Los
Angeles had molested a boy snowballed into a
seven-year investigation that unearthed tales of
ritualistic animal mutilation in secret underground
passageways. More than 200 charges relating to the
sexual abuse of dozens of children were levelled at
seven people but no one was convicted.
In 1988, Geraldo Rivera interviewed the heavy metal
singer Ozzy Osbourne as part of a prime-time
two-hour NBC special called Devil Worship: Exposing
"The very young and the
impressionable should definitely not be watching
this programme tonight. This is not a Halloween
fable, this is a real-life horror story," Rivera
said at the start in front of a studio audience of
"devil worshippers and law enforcers, experts and
The show claimed that satanism
was rampant across the US.
In this paranoid context, Hampton said, the
allegations against the Kellers "did not seem
outlandish. People were believing this stuff
because it was on national TV," he told the
Guardian. [Ed: See the British equivalent of this 'watershed' programme, The Cook Report's Devil's Workhere.]
"The local news had a [recurring] segment called
'cult crimes'. The Exorcist III was a
blockbuster; Satan was everywhere." [Ed: See here about the Cult Crimes Impact Network, an organisation of fundamentalist police officers who 'massaged' the threat of SRA at the time]
The Kellers' freedom comes only a couple of weeks
after the release on bail of a group of friends
known as the San
Antonio Four. They spent more than a decade in
prison after being convicted of child sexual
assaults that were said to have taken place in Texas
in 1994. Their case also featured claims of wild,
ritualistic molestation and expert medical testimony
that was later exposed as incorrect.
In Arkansas in 2011 a trio dubbed the "West Memphis
Three" were set free after high-profile campaigns
backed by Hollywood celebrities. The men, then
teenagers, had been convicted of murdering three
boys in 1993 after prosecutors claimed the
defendants were members of a satanic cult.[Ed:
see how Youth Culture and rebellious youngsters were falsely
demonised by fundamentalist troublemakers such as crusading policeman
Kobus Jonker who impregnated a British case with Satanic claims. here.] Devil's
Knot, a film based on the events and starring Colin
Firth and Reese Witherspoon, is scheduled for
release in the US next year.
And in Florida, a Cuban immigrant named Frank
Fuster is serving a 165-year sentence handed down in
1985 for child molestation but doubts
have been raised as to the validity of
the evidence against him.
The Keller investigation was one of the last
examples of the daycare panic but "very typical of
previous cases" according to Mary deYoung, a
sociology professor at Grand Valley State
University in Michigan who has published
extensively on moral panics and sexual abuse.
Cultural shifts in the 1980s combined to foster
a climate of fear, she said.
"There was a huge rise in Christian fundamentalism that made the devil
very real and insinuated the devil into
a number of social problems ... and a rising
interest in the country in the whole issue of
DeYoung said that suggestive and
insistent interviewing strategies prompted
children to make up stories and start
to believe what they were telling the adults,
and that the received wisdom was that children
would not lie about such serious crimes. Media and
parental pressure obliged the police to give
credence even to risible allegations.
"There has been a kind of
grudging acknowledgement [from the authorities]
that things got out of hand," she said. "I'm
not sure that we've learned anything that could
prevent a similar moral panic springing up...
for example over cyber threats."
[Ed: Disingenuous! Kenneth Lanning published the definitive official FBI report on 'Satanic Crime' in 1989 see 'Satanic, Occult, Ritualist Crime:
A Law Enforcement Perspective' by Kenneth Lanning of the
National Center for the Analysis of Violet Crime at the FBI academy in Quantico,
Virginia.HERE: which reviewed all then known cases and concluded that:
"After all the hype and hysteria is put aside, the realisation sets in that
most satanic or Occult activity involves the commission of NO crimes and
that which does, usually involves the commission of relatively minor crimes
such as trespassing, vandalism , animal cruelty and petty thievery."
This guidance paper was meant to
educate ALL U.S. law enforcement personel. Why therefore should we not
expect them to have avoided their own prejudices in future years?
In the U.K. the SAFF campaigned more
forcefully for the truth about SRA and contributed to the government's
definitive report on SRA published in 1994 -
THE EXTENT AND NATURE OF ORGANISED AND RITUAL ABUSE (Prof. J LaFontaine) ISBN 0113217978 H.M.S.O. which
concluded that satanic or ritual abuse was not present in any of the
cases in Britain where 84 children were taken into care in dawn lifts
during the panic here. ]
The Kellers, who are no longer married
but remain close, plan to lead a quiet life in
the Austin region, Hampton said.
Though they are free, they have not been formally
declared innocent and in theory the state could
still pursue a re-trial. As with the San Antonio
Four, the case will head to the Texas Court of
Criminal Appeals. There is no timeline for the
court to examine it. Hampton said he will push for
an exoneration that would allow the Kellers to
pursue a claim for compensation.
He added that he is "absolutely convinced" that
others have been imprisoned in similar cases based
on questionable evidence. "It's the problem
with basing convictions purely on the testimony
of children," he said. "These cases will not stop.
The problem is, how do you prove innocence?"
Source:Tom Dart, in Houston, The Guardian.com Thursday 5 December 2013
_ _ :
A Catalogue of Hundreds of FAILED cases which the Satan-Hunters told you were real.
Satanic Ritual Abuse Case is overturned after 21 years.
Latest Miscarriages of Justice prove
SRA never really existed in the first place.
The constant Satanic Ritual Abuse allegations from pro-SRA lobbyists, ( like Valerie Sinason an her RAIN [Ritual Abuse Information Network] group)
can mislead the ordinary person into thinking that the existence of
Satanic Ritual Abuse has been proven beyond doubt when in reality the
facts of history show failure after failure in all the past cases where
SRA has been claimed (see timeline below). Despite the tremendous
human suffering that this poisonous myth has caused to innocent parents
and their kids over the past 25 years Valerie Sinason and RAINS and
their buddies in the Child Scare Industry still continue to be given
air-time by wicked media people who cannot resist the sensationalism of
the subject in order to keep their ratings figures. Of such is
the evil of human history made.
The battle has become a propaganda war very similar to
the one Josef Goebbels used to justify exterminating the Jews in Nazi
Germany, where the masses of people who want to believe in their worst
fears, focus in today's world, only on the outlandish and largely
inaccurate, certainly unproven allegations from a close-knit band of
trouble-making feminerapists whose madcap theories and accusations are
used by the perennially voracious child care charities who seek to
present an ever present epidemic of abuse which requires YOUR money to
The disgusting moral blackmail of the latest
child-charity TV adverts which break all bounds of decency by showing
starving children in the third world (scheduled for broadcast at
mealtimes in order to maximise viewer's guilt?) , most of which
will go into the charities' multi-million pound advertising bill
; is a sub-text of the Satanic Ritual Child Abuse Myth. If
you'll believe in SRA you'll believe anything they say.
LIES, DAMNED LIES AND HISTORY
Their conclusion is that children everywhere are at
constant risk from abusers. It's not true. In reality official
statistics over the past thirty years show that only a relatively small
and surprisingly stable percentage of the child population are
'at risk' at any one time. Analysis indicates, sadly, that
despite what any charity or campaigners promise you, this relatively
small percentage of children will ALWAYS be at risk. No child
charity, including 'Britain's favourite charity' the NSPCC, can
guarantee any relation between the amount of funding you give and how
effective that might be in reducing the core 'at risk' population.
The Child Scare Industry relies upon astronomical
statistical claims to persuade YOU the populace that there is a 'rising
tide' of undiscovered abuse and that they (the child charities) could
actually stop it if they had enough resources. This is a
downright lie and a national scandal to boot, but it will only stop
when people stop trusting these organisations and start to question
every claim they make.
A classic illustration of this sequence is the NSPCC's new 'Baby P'
fund where the public is asked to contribute money on the tacit
understanding that it will somehow avoid any future cases like that
of 'Baby P', a notorious case of child murder by dysfunctional
parents. The NSPCC do not mention that in the equally
notorious case of the long-term abuse and killing of Victoria Climbie
her continuous abuse and death occurred whilst the poor girl was already registered with the NSPCC for help! (see nspcc.htm here for full details)
It is impossible for any of the child protection
charities to equate an increase in donations with lives saved yet that
is the tacit promise they constantly make to get public funding for
their juggernaut organisations which waste millions on executive pay,
mass advertising for more funds, and speculative projects, not
one of which can categorically be said to have improved protection for
children pro-rata to it's cost. However laudable their aims
may appear, it is just not cost effective, yet every year these
glutinous charities demand more, and more, and more from the public.
With the tragic outcome of the Keller Case, where two
innocent people were incarcerated for 21 years due to false Satanic
Ritual Child Abuse allegations, the SRA myth can now clearly be seen in
hindsight as a complete fabrication by radical feminerapists to
aggrandise themselves and grease the cogs of the Child Scare Industry
it is now time for a re-appraisal so that you the public can get
some distance on this issue and stop falling for their
much longer will the British Public sucker-in
to this absurd myth before telling its
promoters to push off?
In the face of this catalogue of mickey-mouse
jurisprudence which has robbed completely innocent
people of irreplaceable parts of their lives, the
constant cacophony of claims that SRA EXISTS by Valerie
Sinason and her chums in RAIN can now be seen not as some
moral crusade but as a social evil which preys consciously or unconsciously on
vulnerable and misguided people to further the
insatiable ends of the wealthy child scare
industry. We nominated a solution for
this scare back in 1990. We said that
instead of allowing troublemakers in the UK social
services to be covered by professional indemnity
insurance and get off scott free they should be
publicly tried in private prosecutions by the very
people whose lives they had viciously
In America they did this and new cases virtually stopped dead;
But in the U.K. various governments have dodged the issue and
allowed the Satan Hunters in Social Work to continue to cause
trouble and tragedy. Their professional bodies who are supposed to
police standards turned a blind eye. The police, initially
sceptical thank goodness, have now jumped on the bandwagon and liaise
with the troublemakers. After all this, anyone who thinks that Jimmy
Savile was a Satanic Abuser should have
their heads tested.
In Nazi Germany all that was required to murder over six million people
was the tacit cooperation by the state in allowing and justifying the
demonisation of the Jews. Evil people could then do their
worst. In the 15 century witch-hunts the church gave credence to
and tacit support of Inquisitions manned by evil bigots who killed 13
million innocent women and children across Europe. If you
think that this is all uncivilised history which we have gone beyond
and that having an Iphone in your pocket makes you immune from these
mass stupidities, think again.
McMartin Case: -
In 1983 the McMartin pre-school hysteria began when a stupid
dysfunctional mother, Judy Johnson believed her son had been abused
using the 'trick' anal-dilation syndrome method of
ascribing sexual abuse and stampeded the entire state of California into a
witch-hunt which lasted decades and put the innocent owners of
the pre-school into prison for years, suffering thru two trials
which involved digging up the entire playground and foundations of the
school with JCBs to find 'secret tunnels' underneath where
the parents believed their kids had been satanically abused!
There was absolutely no forensic evidence to qualify the ludicrous
allegations being made and after numerous appeals the McMartins were
released but you will still find voluminous claims all over the
internet that it was a cover-up. The Cleveland Case was the U.K.
equivalent of this one and the hysterical act of digging over land for
buried evidence had its counterpart in the digging up of the garden and
cellars of the Jersey Haute de La Garenne children's home for bodies.
An SRA falsity which is even yet ongoing because those who
believe in SRA cannot and will not desist and have hitched Haute de La
Garenne to the imagined satanic activites of Jimmy Savile!
An official report ( JET report - see Broxtowe Case below) concluded: "
In the USA the whole scenario of Satanic abuse started with the
involvement of social worker Kee MacFairlane of the Los Angeles
Children's Institute International Child Sexual Abuse Clinic in the
McMartin Infant School case which erupted in August 1983. This
was closely followed by the Jordan Minnesota case in September 1983 in
which the children alleged [Ed:under repetitive leading questioning by SS interrogators who were searching for evidence of SRA] that babies had been stabbed. Following these
cases there was a rapid nationwide rash of similar Satanic abuse cases
in more than a hundred cities. MacFairlane and her assistants
interviewed over 400 children and told them they could be junior
detectives by telling the "yukky" secret but would be dummies if they
did not admit they had been molested by their teachers.... in the
University of Minnesota Law Review she called for unconventional
interviewing methods 'that do whatever it takes to get children to
talk' .... After repeated interviewing produced statements about
bizarre sex rituals in airplanes, hot air balloons, underground
tunnels, graveyards, MacFarlaine told the press that the McMartin
pre-school was part of a national network of kiddy pornographers and
Satanists operating out of day care centres. Criminal charges
involving 41 children were eventually made although the Police
initially claimed that they had 36 other suspects and no less than 1200
victims. A ten year old boy testifying in the case identified
everyone from the City Attorney to a Priest and four Nuns as having
molested him but later retracted. The children claimed to have
witnessed Devil worship in the Church, been taken by their captors to
cemeteries, been given red or pink liquid to make them sleepy, been
buried alive, seen naked priests cavorting in a secret cellar below the
school, seen one of the teachers fly and observed three abusers dressed
up as witches. Interestingly some of thee disclosures bear a
marked similarity to those of the Broxtowe children."
It was all fantasy but fools who have pinned their colours to
the mast of SRA still maintain the total lack of evidence is a
'cover-up by people in high places'.
Cleveland Case -
long memories will remember that the first ever mass lifts of children
by Social Workers in Cleveland
in 1987 were prompted by over-enthusiastic child care workers fuelled
by the anal
dilation syndrome method used by two consultant paediatricians , Higgs
Richardson, to identify cases of 'child abuse'. (see
McMartin above) The completely
unreliable ADS caused a massive increase in the 'detection' of
child abuse, the vast majority of which were totally unfounded.
in the hands of the social services mafia, some of the children
'evidence' under 'disclosure' and mass child-lifts commenced. The usual
and white-wash operation by the Establishment occurred after it all
went belly up.
Much wringing of hands and the inevitable official public inquiry was
accepted by all, except, it would seem, for Beatrix Campbell and a
handful of others
who have since fought to repudiate it under the banner of an
called C.A.U.S.E. which kind of morphed into RAIN (Ritual Abuse
Information Network) The campaign was not , now, about
the size or shape of a child's anus was a reliable guide to whether
had been abused or not, but about the fact that what the children
in their 'disclosure' questioning, was not believed. This is of
the KEY fundamental of all witch-hunts. Historically the
of Spectral Evidence by courts during the witch crazes of the 15c
children to fantasise all manner of obviously ludicrous happenings
were taken as true by the courts and lead to the deaths of thousands of
adults. The same mechanic was evident in Salem and is clearly occurring
under the claims of 'ritual abuse'. It was only when
courts began to reject Spectral Evidence that the 15c witch craze
to abate. After a number of court trials and public
condemnation cases involving 96 of the 121 children alleged to be
victims of sexual abuse were dismissed by the courts. The other 26
cases, were found to have been incorrectly diagnosed by the
crusading doctors involved. -
It was all fantasy but fools who have pinned their colours to
the mast of SRA still maintain the total lack of evidence is a
'cover-up by people in high places'.
Nottingham Broxtowe Case -
Nottinghamshire Social Services investigations showed that the two key social workers involved in the Broxtowe so-called Satanic
Ritual Abuse case (Christine Johnson and Judith Dawson ) which featured
20 abused children had come to the wrong conclusions and that there was
no satanic or occult connection. This was eventually held to be the
case by the court. Yet this case has since been repetitively
quoted as 'proof' of the existence of Satanic Child Abuse in
conferences attended by social workers and child welfare professionals
as well as police, and was the main feature of the now discredited Cook
Report 'The Devil's Work' special which worked closely with the Notts
SS team behind the allegations. But there was no evidence to prove that
any occult connection existed.
The Satanic Ritual Abuse aspect was enlivened when "Ms Johnston and
Ms Dawson also contacted Dr Russell Blacker, a consultant psychiatrist
who is secretary and founder of the Association of Christian
Psychiatrists. ''They didn't know where to turn,'' he said. Dr
Blacker, based at a Cornish hospital, believes in the power of exorcism
and says he also counsels adult survivors of Satanic abuse.", and he organised one of the early conferences on SRA to promote the idea. ( Source: The Independent on Sunday August 12, 1990):
Judith Dawson , one of the team leaders of Notts. social work 'Team 4'
and major player in the promotion of the link between Satanism and the
Broxtowe case astonishingly appears in the Doorways to Danger fundamentalist video tract confirming the totally
unproven satanic abuse allegations and apparently contradicting her
professional colleagues. Click on the Saffutube image right and
you can see her doing it in this video extract. You will hear her
"Jesus said let them not harm a hair on this child's head but Satanists do exactly the reverse. "
and you may question whether what Jesus is reported to have said 2,000
years ago is in any way useful or relevant to professional social
services personnel when making value judgements on cases they have to
handle today? Or, in fact, how many Satanists Ms Dawson has
actually met to be able to say that ALL Satanists are child abusers.
To see how influential Doorways to Danger became during the Satanic
Panic and how it acted as a catalyst for most of the fundie claims
about SRALook Here
The SAFF uncovered evidence to show that another one of the social
workers involved had a prior connection with fundamentalist groups who
had hyped the satanic child abuse scenario and had appeared on a
fundamentalist video quoting scriptural passages.
This 'coterie' of Christian activism at the centre of the Broxtowe case
wasn't helped by the fact that the deputy director of Nottinghamshire
Social Services (Andy Croall) eventually resigned under massive
controversy and went to work with an OTT fundamentalist group holding Satan seminars on SRA for Christians!
The Controversy over Andrew Croall, evangelical church leader and deputy
director of Nottingham Social Services (the department was heavily involved in
the first claimed Satanic Child Abuse case in 1988) erupted when he stated on
TV that abortion was a form of child abuse. After being suspended and then re-
instated he subsequently resigned to take up a major position with Caring
Professions Concern, a large group of Doctors, psychiatrists and nurses who
are evangelical Christians and who seek to uphold Holy Writ in their work.
Their policy on abortion is much the same as Andrew Croall's and some of their
number believe that patients should be 'exorcised' of demons before being
The report into the internal enquiry which admonished the social
workers (The JET report) was initially kept secret but crusading work
by journalists resulted in it being made available on the net for
everyone to see how ludicrous the allegations and actions of the social
workers had been. The Jet Report was one of the first landmarks
in Internet Democracy and can still be seen here:
It is important to remember that the Broxtowe Case was the FIRST
claimed SRA case in the U.K. and became pivotal to those who campaigned
to try to convince the population that Satanic Ritual child abuse
existed. It didn't. When the case came to court there was
no satanic evidence and the JET inquiry rightly concluded that the
social workers had been influenced by false fundamentalist material and
allegations from the U.S.A. However by the time this
happened the Broxtowe case had been used as 'proof' of SRA so many
times in Satan seminars, conferences, news reports, documentaries
and right across the internet, that those who had wrongly backed that
horse simply continued to follow the fundamentalist line regardless of
the facts and it was this which caused the waterfall of subsequent
cases such as Rochdale and Orkney and many more besides. For more on the Broxtowe case see here:
It was all fantasy but fools who have pinned their colours to
the mast of SRA still maintain the total lack of evidence is a
'cover-up by people in high places'.
How much longer are we going to listen to the
poisonous and destructive lies of this absurd
myth, invented by fundamentalist bigots, persued
by the child scare charities to suit their own
fundraising purposes, and perpetrated by academics
and feminerapists on the make to expand their
JONESBORO, Ark. - Three men convicted in the
nightmarish slayings of three Cub Scouts went free
Friday, nearly two decades after they were sent to
prison in a case so gruesome it raised suspicions the
children had been sacrificed in a Satanic ritual.
Doubts about the evidence against the trio had
persisted for years and threatened to force
prosecutors to put on a second trial in 2012.
Instead, the so-called West Memphis Three were
permitted to plead guilty to murder in exchange for
time served, ending a long long-running legal battle
that had raised questions about DNA and witnesses —
and attracted support from celebrities such as Johnny
Depp and Eddie Vedder.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley
entered the pleas under a legal provision that allowed
them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging
prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them.
"Although I am innocent, this plea is in my best
interest," Misskelley said.
Echols had been on Arkansas' death row and in 1994
came within three weeks of execution. All three men
were placed on 10 years' unsupervised probation. If
they re-offend, they could be sent back to prison for
After Friday's hearing, Baldwin told reporters that
he had been reluctant to plead guilty to crimes he
didn't commit. But he agreed to the deal to get Echols
off death row.
"That's not justice, however you look at it," he
Echols thanked Baldwin and called his release
"It's not perfect," he said of the arrangement. "It's
not perfect by any means. But it at least brings
closure to some areas and some aspects."
He said the three would continue to work to clear
Circuit Judge David Laser acknowledged the case was
complex, and that both the victims' families and the
supporters of the three men had suffered. He said
Friday's deal would serve justice "the best we can."
"I don't think it will make the pain go away," Laser
One person yelled "Baby killers" as the three left
The killings were particularly shocking. The boys —
Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore —
were found naked and hogtied, and rumors of Satanism
roiled the community in the weeks following their
deaths. Branch and Moore drowned in about 2 feet of
water; Byers bled to death and his genitals were
mutilated and partially removed.
Police had few leads until receiving a tip that Echols
had been seen covered in mud the night the boys
disappeared. The big break came when Misskelley
unexpectedly confessed and implicated Baldwin and Echols
in the killings.
(At left, watch a "48 Hours" report on the West
"Then they tied them up, tied their hands up,"
Misskelley told police in a statement, parts of which
were tape-recorded. After describing sodomizing and
other violence, he went on: "And I saw it and turned
around and looked, and then I took off running. I went
home. Then they called me and asked me, `How come I
didn't stay? I told them, I just couldn't."'
Misskelley, then 17, later recanted, and defense
lawyers said he got several parts of the story
incorrect. An autopsy found there was no definite
evidence of sexual assault. Misskelley had said the
older boys abducted the Scouts in the morning, when
they had actually been in school all day.
Misskelley was tried separately, convicted of first-
and second-degree murder, and sentenced to life in
prison plus 40 years. He refused to testify against
the others, and his confession was not used as
Defense lawyers for Echols and Baldwin alleged juror
misconduct, saying they heard about the Misskelley
confession anyway. Attorneys also said there wasn't
enough physical evidence linking the three to the
The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld Echols' conviction
and death sentence in 1996, saying there was still
enough other evidence to sustain it.
A 1996 HBO documentary, "Paradise Lost: The Child
Murders at Robin Hood Hills," drew the attention of
celebrities including Vedder and Natalie Maines, lead
singer of the Dixie Chicks. They and other celebrities
helped fund a legal team that worked to win the three
a new trial.
"Why are they innocent?" Vedder said in an interview
with The Associated Press last year. "Because there's
nothing that says they're guilty."
On Friday, Echols' wife, Lorri, sat in the front row
of a crowded courtroom, next to the Pearl Jam
frontman. Vedder put his arm around her during the
San Antonio 4' speak out after
prison release: 'We're actually innocent'
The San Antonio 4
talk about the pain of missing family while
they spent more than a decade in prison.
By Miranda Leitsinger, Staff
Writer, NBC News
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – They didn’t get to watch
their children grow up into young adults. They
missed saying goodbye to grandparents, and in
one case, a father, before those loved ones
But three women who were released from prison
on Monday after spending more than a decade
behind bars – for crimes they say they didn’t
commit – said they relished their new-found
freedom and would continue fighting for their
“I got to meet my son for the first time
since he was 4,” said Liz Ramirez, 39, who
along with the other women spoke with NBC News
on Tuesday in their first interview since
their release. “It was an amazing feeling,
being in his arms.”
Ramirez, Kristie Mayhugh, 40, and Cassandra
Rivera, 38, along with Anna Vasquez, 38, were
found guilty of molesting two girls in alleged
assaults in 1994 that an expert has described
as reminiscent of the Satanic ritual day care
abuse cases of the 1980s and early 1990s. The
women, known nationally as the “San Antonio
4,” always maintained their innocence. On
Monday, after the district attorney agreed the
group was entitled to a new trial on the
grounds that recent scientific advances
undermined testimony pivotal to their
convictions, Ramirez, Mayhugh and Rivera were
released on bond. Vasquez was paroled last
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t
believe I was here,” said Rivera, a mother of
two who met her granddaughter for the first
time Monday night. Rivera said she found
herself staring at her 20-something son and
daughter, who were just 9 and 8 years old when
she first went to prison nearly 14 years ago.
“I can’t believe they’re with me,” she said.
John Brecher / NBC
Cassandra Rivera, center, relaxes with
her mother and brother on Nov. 19 in San
Antonio, Texas, one day after being
released from prison.
Other moments have been more bittersweet.
Ramirez said her mother told her about her
dad’s final moments three years ago when he
died at age 84. Ramirez had been on the phone
with him from prison, and told him she and the
others wouldn’t give up their bid for
“My mom told me that a tear came out of his
eye, and I said, ‘I love you, daddy’ and he
took his last breath,” she said. “I do want to
go see his grave and I want to just tell him,
‘Daddy we didn’t give up and that we’re all
What sent the women to prison – Ramirez
received a 37.5-year sentence and the others
each got 15 years – were allegations of abuse
leveled by Ramirez’s two young nieces, then 7
and 9 years old. The girls accused the four
friends of sexually assaulting them twice in
late July 1994 while they were visiting
Ramirez at her apartment.
The women’s lawyer, Michael Ware, said the
trial transcripts showed inconsistencies in
the testimony given by the girls. But the
crucial witness was a doctor who testified
that the older girl’s hymen bore a scar that
could only have come from abuse around the
time of the alleged attacks, Ware said.
That finding was debunked on Monday, when the
Bexar County Criminal District Attorney's
office and Ware said that scientific advances
undermined the doctor’s testimony, leading to
the three women’s release from prison. The
women now await a decision by the Texas Court
of Criminal Appeals on whether to grant them a
new trial. If that happens, the district
attorney will decline to prosecute them, and
their convictions would be overturned, said
Rico Valdez, the chief assistant criminal
attorney who oversees the office's
The new scientific information was allowed to
be presented under a "junk science" law passed
in Texas earlier this year that gives
defendants the chance to submit findings that
may cast doubt on their conviction.
The agreement between the attorneys was a
huge breakthrough for the women, who had felt
they were railroaded at trial, partly because
they are lesbians.
The women known as
the "San Antonio 4" have been released from
prison and are now fighting for exoneration
for a crime they say was never committed.
NBCNews.com's Miranda Leitsinger joins to
During their time in prison, they had sent
letter after letter to innocence groups and
anyone who they thought could help them win
exoneration. Along the way, they received many
rejection letters and had many false starts.
The women, who weren’t incarcerated in the
same facilities, described having to fend for
themselves in prison (Vasquez and Ramirez were
at the same correctional center for a short
Ramirez, the first to go to prison nearly 17
years ago, said she had never been in trouble
in her life and was at first scared behind
bars. Other inmates knew that she had been
convicted of molesting girls and threatened to
hurt her. But one reached out. “She took
me under her wing and protected me and she
kind of schooled me, as they say, about prison
and told me, ‘you go do your time, this is how
you go do it,'” she said.
Vasquez and Rivera, who entered prison three
years after Ramirez, said a woman in their
initial unit wanted to jump them until she
heard their side of the story: they told her
they were falsely accused.
The group ended up doing the same with other
inmates, but some still called them child
molesters, Rivera said. “I still walked with
my head held high because I knew I was
innocent. We were innocent,” she said. “We
know what happened, and the truth is going to
eventually come out.”
The women could have avoided prison. Plea
deals were offered, but they refused to accept
them on the grounds that they were innocent.
Rivera, Mayhugh and Vasquez could have left
prison earlier, too, if they agreed to
participate in a sex offender treatment
program, which they all rejected.
“It was difficult to accept to be put in that
same category as … real sex offenders,” said
Vasquez, who couldn’t drive near places where
children gather – like McDonald’s or church –
under restrictions imposed after being paroled
one year ago (those were lifted Tuesday
Their imprisonment didn’t just take a toll on
the women, their families endured hardship,
John Brecher / NBC News
Cassandra Rivera hugs her son Michael on
Nov. 19, his 22nd birthday and her first
full day out of prison in nearly 14 years.
"I made it in time for your birthday," she
told him Monday just after her release.
Ramirez is re-connecting with her son, now
18, who grew up with his dad. She said he
didn't want to expose him to prison, so her
son didn't visit her there.
“Sometimes as a mother you have to give a
sacrifice just so that he won't have to go
through what we’ve been through over all the
years," she said through tears.
But mother and son are swiftly making up for
lost time. They had their first interaction on
Monday night over pizza for dinner. Ramirez
said she tried to make him feel comfortable,
but they were both a little nervous. "He didn’t know how to be around me or
even know what to say. It was kind of hard,"
she said. "But it’s okay, just kind of take it
one step at a time."
The women started to make progress getting
their story heard in 2008 when a Canadian fish
biologist took interest in their case. He then
convinced the National Center for Reason and
Justice, a watchdog group dedicated to
identifying false allegations of harm to
children, to get involved. Next was the
Innocence Project of Texas and Ware, a former
member of the Conviction Integrity Unit in
About two years ago, the alleged younger
victim, Stephanie Martinez, 26, began to
question if the attacks really happened. She
eventually recanted her story to the media.
Martinez said she came to realize: “My
aunt never hurt us. She was a mom to us,” she
said late Monday as she waited in her car for
the group to emerge from jail. “It didn’t
happen.” She recalled that week in 1994 with
her “Tia Lisa” and her three friends: Liz
making her and her sister a great breakfast,
going swimming and playing with neighbor kids.
“I want to apologize to them. It's hard,” she
said, breaking down into tears. “I’m sorry for
everything. I should have just spoken out a
long time ago when I was a kid.”
Martinez said she would help however she
could with the group’s bid to get a full
exoneration and hopes she can still have a
relationship with her aunt. “If she would want
to have one with me after everything,” she
said. “I want her to be a part of my
children’s life just how she was a part of
Martinez’s older sister maintains the attack
still happened. The four women said they don’t
blame the girls and applauded Martinez for
“I believe it was a brave thing for her to
do. I’m very, very proud of her,” Rivera said.
Ramirez said she would accept her niece with
open arms, “because that’s what love does.
The women, who couldn’t have contact with
each other in prison, enjoyed re-connecting
since their release. They considered
themselves family nearly 20 years ago – and
that hasn't changed.
“The comfort was still there,” Rivera said.
“It’s falling right back into place, because
The next part of their journey will be
pursuit of “actual innocence,” which is
possible under Texas state law, though Ware
said winning such a declaration was extremely
rare. But the women said there is no stopping
“We want actual innocence because that’s what
we are,” said Mayhugh, who spent nearly 14
years in prison. “We’re actually innocent.”