Dan and Fran Keller, who spent more than 21 years in prison after they were accused of sexually abusing children during supposed satanic rituals at their Austin day-care facility, will receive $3.4 million from a state fund for those wrongly convicted of crimes, the Austin American-Statesman reports. The fund pays $80,000 for each year in prison, plus a matching annuity that provides annual payments of 5 percent interest as long as the recipient is alive and isn’t convicted of a felony. The Keller case made national news after three children accused them in 1991 of leading ghastly satanic rituals that supposedly included desecrated graves, videotaped orgies, dismembered babies and tortured pets.
No evidence of such activities was discovered at their in-home day care facility. The case against them collapsed two decades later when the only physical evidence of abuse was acknowledged as a mistake by the examining physician. Their attorney, Keith Hampton, argued that the Kellers were the victims of “satanic panic”—a belief that swept the nation in the early 1990s that a national network of secretive cults was preying upon day care children for sex and other horrors. He said they also were harmed by the combined efforts of inept therapists, gullible police and an investigation that spiraled out of control, producing a suspect list of 26 ritual abusers, including many of the Kellers’ neighbors and a respected Austin police captain. The compensation payment “means we don’t have to worry about pinching pennies on Social Security, and late bills. It means we will actually be free. We can start living—and no more nightmares,” said Fran Keller, 67.