It's never too late to do the right thing. And Chaneya Kelly is trying to do that for her father, whom she put in prison. At 9 years old, she told police that her father had raped her. Because of her testimony, her father, Daryl Kelly, has been in prison for the past 16 years. But now Chaneya says he is innocent. That he never raped her. And her mother agrees. All of this is horrible enough, but it gets worse.
Chaneya Kelly's mother, Charade, was a drug addict who one day began questioning Chaneya about whether her dad, Daryl, had molested her. Chaneya told NBC News:
She repeatedly asked me, has my dad touched me. 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.
But then Charade apparently began threatening Chaneya with a beating if she didn't say that her father had molested her. To avoid a beating, Chaneya says she eventually agreed that her father had raped her. Chaneya's mother called police.
There, police asked Daryl why his semen and fingerprints had been found on his daughter. He said maybe his wife, with whom he had four other children, had tried to set him up. What he didn't know was that there was no semen and fingerprints. Chaneya testified in court that she'd been raped, and her father was sentenced to 20 to 40 years in prison for multiple counts of rape.
Six months later, Chaneya, who had been taken away from her mother by this time and was living with her grandmother, confessed that she had lied. Her grandmother called police, and Chaneya recanted her story.
The problem is, no one believed her. Not even when her mother, now clean of drugs, agreed that she had threatened Chaneya and told her to make up the rape story. She blames her drug addiction for making her irrationally force Chaneya into a false story.
Her father remains in prison.
But Chaneya won't give up. She managed to convince the courts to let her visit her father, and in prison, he told her he didn't blame her. She says:
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. It was priceless to me.
Chaneya denies that guilt is making her recant her story. But prosecutors will not accept her new story. However, the case is being reviewed.
Whether Chaneya has repressed the memory of her father raping her or whether she is telling the truth is the question. It's possible she has forgiven her father and now doesn't want him in jail. But I find the lack of any kind of forensic evidence troubling -- doctors said that Chaneya's hymen was even intact, though her father had supposedly penetrated her repeatedly.
Chaneya could have hidden away with her guilt -- too shamed and cowed to speak up to a truth now that makes her and her mom look horrible. But she's refusing to do that.
What a complicated mess. And it's horrible to think that an innocent man could be sitting in prison for crimes he never committed against his own daughter.
If Chaneya now is telling the truth, she deserves to be commended for continuing the fight to get her father released.
Do you think Chaneya is telling the truth now?
Image via NBC News