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Mistrial declared in child sex assault case

District Attorney’s Office to decide by next week whether to retry

A mistrial was declared Thursday in the trial of a Pagosa Springs man suspected of sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl last year in Bayfield.

The trial for Rodney Keller, 53, began last week.

After closing arguments Wednesday afternoon, 12 jurors began deliberation. Around 4 p.m. Thursday, Deputy District Attorney Sean Murray said jurors could not come to a unanimous decision whether to convict Keller. As a result, a mistrial was declared.

Murray said the District Attorney’s Office will consult with victims and decide before the next court hearing, scheduled for Nov. 7, whether to retry the case.

Calls to Keller’s defense attorneys, Kenneth Pace and Heather Little, were not returned late Thursday.

According to authorities, Keller was invited by an ex-girlfriend to play cards and have drinks at her female friend’s house in Bayfield on June 2, 2018.

At the end of the night, the owner of the house, and mother of the alleged victim, offered to let Keller spend the night. Keller was supposedly living out of his car in Pagosa Springs.

The next morning, the child woke up before her mother and found Keller on the couch. Authorities say Keller spent the morning with the child and eventually gestured for the child to follow him into a guest bedroom where he sexually assaulted her.

The girl told her mother about the assault later in the day. Keller denied the allegations to police that same day.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Little said the child fabricated the story because she wanted more attention from her parents. She said the 8-year-old girl’s retelling of the alleged assault has been inconsistent.

“It might be hard for a lot of people to imagine why a child might fabricate a story,” Little told jurors. “That’s what we have here today.”

Little said there is not enough physical evidence to convict Keller, despite DNA evidence found on the girl that showed he was a possible match.

Murray said Keller’s attorneys have provided no evidence the child made up the story.

“This isn’t the kind of story a child says to get more attention,” Murray said.

As to claims of inconsistency, Murray said: “Do you expect consistency from an 8-year-old? Memories don’t work that way.”

According to authorities, Keller was a registered sex offender. He was arrested after being recognized on “America’s Most Wanted” for sexual assault on a child in 2008, a charge to which he pleaded guilty.

During the course of the trial, jurors heard from the 2008 victim, who was also 8 years old at the time, as well as another victim who says Keller sexually assaulted her in 2007 when she was 6 years old.

Last week, the alleged victim in this case was the first witness to take the stand. She said Keller sexually assaulted her in the guest room and told her not to tell anyone.

“(But) I did. I did the right thing,” she testified. “ ... I was assaulted.”

jromeo@ durangoherald.com

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