When Chaneya Kelly (pictured with her father, Daryl, and her small daughter) was eight years old, her mother forced her to say that her father molested her.
It was October of 1997 and Chaneya was just two months shy of her ninth birthday when she made the claim that sent her father, Daryl Kelly, to prison.
But why would a mother ask her child to do something so vile? Chaneya’s mother, Charade, told NBC News Investigations that her drug habit was to blame. It was a habit so severe that she took to prostitution to finance it. At the time, Daryl was living with Charade, and their five children in Newburgh, N.Y., 90 miles north of New York City. He also has a drug habit he was trying to kick while maintaining an electronics shop he owned. Beyond that, Daryl was just another military vet trying to make due.
But Chaneya remembers her mother asking her an odd question out of the blue one day before going to school.
“She repeatedly asked me, has my dad touched me,” recalled Chaneya. “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.”
No matter how much Chaneya denied being sexually abused by her dad, her mother insisted that she said he did. “If you don’t tell me the answer that I want to hear, I’m going to beat you.” To avoid a beating, she complied. Without fulling understanding what she had done, Chaneya paved the way for her father’s eventually road to prison.
Here is more from New News Investigations:
On the morning of October 29, 1997 Newburgh police took Kelly downtown for questioning. They found some of his answers suspicious.
For example, when they asked him why his semen and fingerprints were found on his daughter, Daryl scrambled for an explanation. According to a police report, he said, “My wife is doing drugs and alcohol. Maybe she’s setting me up.’“
He didn’t know until later that no semen or fingerprints had been found.
In fact, there was no definitive forensic evidence that Chaneya had been raped. While a doctor’s report did conclude that there was “possible sexual abuse” because of some redness, Chaneya’s hymen was intact even though she claimed her father had penetrated her.
But with both Chaneya and her mom telling police the same story, it was enough for police. Daryl Kelly was charged with multiple counts of rape and sodomy.
Kelly — who had never before been convicted of a felony — refused a plea deal that would have made him eligible for parole in six years, and within a year he faced a jury. Based on Chaneya’s graphic testimony, it took them just hours to find her father guilty, and he was sentenced to 20 to 40 years and barred from having any contact with his children.
After her father’s conviction, authorities removed Chaneya from her mother’s custody, citing Charade’s drug abuse, and she was sent to live with her grandmother, Pat Thomas, a Pentecostal minister. It was there – six months after her father’s conviction — that Chaneya told her grandmother that she was never raped, and that the story had been born out of fear of her mother.
Grandmother Pat took Chaneya to Daryl’s appellate attorney, who videotaped her recantation, in which she says she learned words like “penis” and “vagina” from the prosecution team, and the mechanics of sex from pornography stashed under her parents’ bed. On the tape, she looks uncomfortable, mumbling short, hesitant answers like, “No,” and “I think so.”
Her mother, Charade, also submitted an affidavit to the court, swearing she threatened to beat Chaneya unless she said her father raped her.
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But the prosecution believed the recantation was coerced and the same judge who oversaw Kelly’s trial refused to vacate the ruling. But his daughter refuses to give up.
“I’m 24 years old and I made this mistake when I was nine years old,” Chaneya told NBC News, “but it’s never too late to try and right your wrong. “
And her father holds no hard feelings towards his daughter, either. He just wants his name to be cleared.
“This fight will never end,” he said. “I will continue to fight for this. This is my reputation. This is my decree. This is the truth. It’s not just for me. It’s for my daughter as well.”