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“Did Your Father Touch You?”

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Now, for more than an hour, Detective Mancinelli grilled Daryl. “Mr. Kelly, if you didn’t do anything wrong, how did your finger­prints get on her thighs and buttocks?”

He scrambled for an explanation. “Maybe while I was sleeping,” he said, “my wife took my hands and put them there?”

“How did your semen get inside your daughter’s mouth?”

Daryl tried to make sense of what he was hearing, offering a couple of explanations before saying, “Maybe while I was sleeping my wife had sex with me and then took the semen and put it on her?”

That Mancinelli was lying to him to coax a confession, a common police tactic, never crossed his mind. Daryl continued to deny he’d done anything wrong, and since he believed he was innocent, it didn’t occur to him to stop talking and ask for a lawyer. At 38, he had no felony record. He assumed the detective would let him go as soon as they were finished. Instead, ­Mancinelli filed complaints for three felonies: rape, sodomy, and sexual abuse.

Daryl was taken to jail, where he stayed until his parents, both in their eighties, could get a ride from their home in Jamaica, Queens, to bail him out. As soon as he was set free, he went straight back to his house, and his wife opened the door. As he recalls, she began crying and talking at the same time. “She was constantly repeating the fact that she lied, and she didn’t know why,” he says. “I couldn’t make sense out of what she was saying. It was just gibberish.” He grabbed some of his belongings and got back in the car with his parents.

After staying in Queens for a week, Daryl returned to Newburgh. He tried not to dwell on his criminal case too much; he figured he’d let the justice system run its course and everything would be sorted out. After a family-court judge awarded temporary custody of the children to his mother-in-law, he found himself alone in the house with his wife. He soon moved into an apartment of his own.

Prosecutors offered him a six-to-twelve-year prison sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. He turned them down, and on the morning of June 16, 1998, he sat at a table before Judge Nicholas ­DeRosa at the Orange County courthouse, wearing a white shirt and a blue tie, awaiting his trial. Surveying the benches in the back, he saw they were virtually empty. Not a single friend or relative or customer or fellow church member had shown up.

Since his arrest, Daryl had not been permitted to speak to Chaneya, but he felt confident that as soon as she took the witness stand, this whole misunderstanding would be cleared up. He didn’t have to wait long: Chaneya, now 9 years old, was the first to testify.

The prosecutor Karen DiValentino started with a few benign questions but quickly got to the point: “Do you know why you’re here today?”

“Yes,” Chaneya said. “Abuse.”

“By who?”

“My father.”

“Do you know where that happened?”

“In the bathroom …”

“When you were laying on the floor, what, if anything, did your father do?”

“He, um, stuck his penis in my vagina.”

“And were you laying on your stomach or your back when that happened?”

“Back.”

“And did he do anything else to you?”

“He took his finger.”

“And where did he put his finger?”

“In my vagina.”

Daryl could feel tears collecting in his eyes. Chaneya answered questions for about 45 minutes, and when describing what her father had allegedly done to her, she sounded almost like an adult, using words like “penis” and “vagina.” (Eight months earlier, when she’d testified before a grand jury, she’d said, “He stuck his pee-pee into my pee-pee.”)

The next person on the witness stand was Charade, who’d recently been arrested for prostitution and was now brought into the courtroom from the county jail. Charade had already told the prosecutor that she no longer thought Daryl was guilty. But the prosecutor had fought to keep this information from the jury, arguing it was irrelevant—and the judge agreed. On the witness stand, Charade repeated the allegations she’d earlier told the police and never got to tell the jurors that she now didn’t believe they were true.

The trial lasted a week. There were no eyewitnesses; there was no DNA evidence. The medical exam had found that Chaneya’s hymen was intact and there was no definitive proof of sexual abuse (just skin irritation that could have had other causes). To help bolster her case, the prosecutor zeroed in on what Daryl had said during his police interrogation, calling his seemingly outlandish tales about his wife setting him up “the words of a guilty man.”


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