Chaneya Kelly’s father is serving 40 years in prison for raping her— though she has publicly maintained for the past 15 years that he did not do it.
“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.”
The Newburgh, N.Y. family clearly had problems when the accusation came out. Both parents took drugs. Daryl Kelly, a Navy veteran, was trying to sober up for his family, while his wife Charade had resorted to prostitution to feed her addiction.
Chaneya says that when she was eight years old her mother asked her over and over if her father touched her “no-no spot.” She repeatedly told her no, but eventually she said yes, fearing a beating from her mother.
Kelly was hastily booked after a questionable investigation. When taken downtown for questioning in October 1997, police asked why his semen and fingerprints were found on his daughter, when in fact there were no such signs. Kelly reportedly said, “My wife is doing drugs and alcohol. Maybe she’s setting me up.”
An examination of Chaneya was also inconclusive, with doctors reporting “possible sexual abuse,” with no definitive evidence.
Just six months after Kelly was charged and sentenced for raping, sodomizing and sexually abusing his daughter, Chaneya told her grandmother that she had made up the story. The grandmother took Chaneya to Kelly’s appellate attorney to film a recantation. Chaneya’s battle to free her father had begun.
Chaneya’s mother also told NBC that drugs made her act the way she did. “I [had been] gone for three days. And I was really deep in the grip of my addiction,” she said, adding that she had “no idea” if she had threatened her daughter.
Now 54, Daryl Kelly is serving 20 to 40 years in Green Haven Correctional Facility in upstate New York. He will be eligible for parole in 2018.
“All I think is, ‘One day the truth will set me free,’” said Kelly. “All I have to do is hold on.”
In a series of letters to her father obtained by the New York Post, Chaneya confessed to her father, “I feel guilty when I talk about it. I feel that I should be in prison instead of you.”
Despite Chaneya’s desperate pleas, The New York State District Attorney reinvestigation concluded that the original verdict stands, after interviews with nearly everyone involved in the original prosecution, the Daily Mail reported.
"Every conceivable effort has been undertaken to find the unvarnished truth regardless of how or whom it impacts," the report states.
“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.
Daryl Kelly’s attorney, Peter Cross, said the report is biased. “Anyone who looks at the facts of this case will see that Daryl is obviously innocent.”
Chaneya even sent a letter to N.Y. Gov. Cuomo, saying that she was “completely insulted” by the reinvestigation. She justified her childhood accusation, claiming, “I did what any other eight year old would do.”
“Until this day, I regret that decision, I wish I would have taken that beating,” Cheneye wrote.