A man serving 40 years for raping his eight-year-old daughter has lost his bid to be released from prison, even though the alleged victim has insisted for the past 15 years that the crime never happened, and that she only said it had because her drug-addicted mother threatened to beat her.
Navy veteran David Kelly, now 54, was found guilty of raping, sodomizing and sexually abusing his daughter Chaneya in their Newburgh, New York home in 1998. He remains at Green Haven Correctional Facility and is only eligible for parole in 2018.
His daughter, who is now 25, says the attack never happened - and that she lied because her drug-addict mother forced to beat her unless she said her father abused her.
Chaneya, who has battled the courts to release her father ever since recanting her accusations the following year, penned a series of apologetic letters to him.
But now it appears her father has lost his review and after a thorough investigation, the CFEAJ has determined that Kelly was not wrongfully convicted.
'I’m absolutely devastated,' said alleged victim Chaneya Kelly, who first told her story to NBC News in August.
'My father didn’t rape me, and I don’t know why they just won’t believe me.' She vowed to continue fighting on behalf of her father, and has written a letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying she was 'completely insulted' by the re-investigation.
'Every time I told them that my father did not commit any of the malicious crimes he was convicted of,” she wrote in the letter, “they treated me as if I was lying.'
She explained the reason for telling the lies that ultimately put her father behind bars.
'I didn’t want to get beat so I made up a lie that I'd take back anyday. I regret everything I said,' she said in one letter from 2002, which has been seen by the New York Post.
'It's just that I didn't want to get beaten by a "drunken" mother.'
She added that she should be the one serving a lengthy sentence, rather than her father.
'I feel guilty when I talk about it. I feel that I should be in prison instead of you,' she wrote.
In another letter from October 2006, which is signed 'Daddy's Big Girl', Chaneya said she wished she 'could change the past'.
The letters were used as part of the appeals process but the verdict remains the same.
The New York State District Attorney reinvestigation included extensive interviews with nearly everyone involved in the original prosecution.
'Every conceivable effort has been undertaken to find the unvarnished truth regardless of how or whom it impacts,' the report states.
Daryl Kelly’s attorney, Peter Cross, disagrees. 'Anyone who looks at the facts of this case will see that Daryl is obviously innocent,' said Cross. 'Based on information I’ve gathered since this report was written, it is provably biased.'
One of the individuals interviewed by the state committee sent Phillips a letter saying the report contains 'misleading and inaccurate quotes,' and an expert he hired sent Phillips a letter calling the committee’s rejection of Chaneya’s recantation 'unscientific.'
The district attorney association’s report lists various reasons to support its conclusion that Daryl Kelly is guilty:
- A judge evaluated the same evidence 15 years ago and has already decided the recantation wasn’t credible.
- In a recorded prison phone call, prosecutors found it disturbing that Kelly once greeted Chaneya by saying, “Hey, sexy."
- Kelly lied about being awarded a purple heart when he was in the Navy, showing his true character.
- Experts caution to be wary of recantation, especially in a case like this. 'The relationship between the defendant and his recanting accuser — father and daughter — is renowned at law and in social science as one most likely to breed a false recantation,' said the report.
- Most of all, the report claims that despite Chaneya’s insistence that she wasn’t raped, her story is not credible, saying she 'can neither explain why she falsely advanced such a horrible allegation, nor why she adhered to it for so long and repeated it to so many different people.'
James Winslow, Kelly’s original trial attorney in 1999, is quoted extensively in the DAASNY report, suggesting that Kelly might be guilty and that the case against him was strong.
Speaking to NBC News, Chaneya said: 'I'm 25-years-old and I made this mistake when I was nine-years-old - but it's never too late to try and right your wrong.'
Her father was barred from any contact with his children after being convicted by a jury of multiple counts of rape and serious sexual assault.
Kelly, who has always maintained his innocence, had never been convicted of a felony before.
'All I think is, one day the truth will set me free. All I have to do is hold on,' Kelly told NBC News.
In October 1997, while Kelly was living with his wife Charade and their five children in Newburgh, he says he was attempting to rid himself of a drug habit in order to take better care of his family.
But he said his wife's own drug habit had spiraled to the point where she turned to prostitution in order to feed her addiction.
Chaneya, the Kellys' eldest child, says that one morning before school her mother asked her whether her father had ever 'touched' her.
'I was like, "What do you mean, did he touch me?" And she was like, "Did he touch you in your no-no spot?" And I would repeatedly say no,' the now 25-year-old said.
According to Ms Kelly her mother threatened to beat her if she did not 'tell me the answer that I want to hear'.
She said she told her mother her father had molested her to avoid being beaten, even though it wasn't true.
Kelly was taken in for questioning on October 29 1997. There was no definitive forensic evidence to prove Chaneya had been raped, but the little girl and her mother's story - together with some suspect answers Kelly provided during questioning - were enough for officers to charge the father of five.
He refused a plea deal that would have made him eligible for parole in six years, and within a year was sentenced to up to 40 years following a trial by jury.
His daughter was sent to live with her grandmother, a Pentecostal minister, and six months later Chaneya told her grandmother her father had never raped her.
Pat Thomas took her granddaughter to Kelly's attorney who videotaped the child's recantation.
Her mother, Charade, also submitted a sworn affidavit to the court which said she threatened to beat her daughter until she said her father raped her.
A judge refused to vacate Kelly's conviction, deciding the recantation appeared forced.
Kelly, who remains in jail to this day, began studying law and has filed multiple appeals.
His daughter visited him in prison when she persuaded the courts to allow her to have contact with him at the age of 15.
'The first thing my dad did was that he hugged me and he told me that he loved me and... that he doesn’t blame me for anything,' she said.
Dr. Roy Lubit, who interviewed Chaneya, found her for the appeal 'highly credible' and sent his report to DA Phillips.
Lubit said that he believed Chaneya’s recantation, say there was 'no corroborative evidence of the alleged abuse.'
He cited the lack of psychological trauma, the consistency of her recantation over time, and the lack of grooming of the alleged victim by the perpetrator.
'“To a reasonable degree of medical certainty CK’s recantation of her allegation her father sexually abused her when she was 8 years of age is not only credible but true,' wrote Lubit. 'The basic scenario leaves more than reasonable doubt that the child was sexually abused by her father.'
Chaneya's mother has said she is now drug-free and confirms her daughter's story, blaming a drug binge for her threats.
Frank Phillips, the Orange County District Attorney and chief prosecutor when Daryl Kelly stood trial, has emphasized that Kelly was found guilty by a jury.
He said in an interview it was 'not unique' for the victim of a sexual crime to want to protect the abuser by withdrawing their accusation.
His office and the detective behind the original police investigation in Newburgh both declined to comment.