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Second mistrial declared in Bayfield child sex assault case

Jury deadlocked over decision whether to convict

A mistrial was declared for the second time in a case where a Pagosa Springs man was accused of sexually assaulting a girl in Bayfield in 2018.

The trial for Rodney Keller, 54, began last week. The 12-person jury panel entered deliberations Tuesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, the jury announced it could not come to a unanimous decision on whether to convict Keller, resulting in a mistrial.

It marks the second time a mistrial was declared in the case. In October 2019, a trial resulted in a hung jury. Prosecutors announced shortly after they intended to take the case to trial again.

In a statement Wednesday to The Durango Herald, District Attorney Christian Champagne said, “We believe in the righteousness of this case, and although we wish the jury had reached a final verdict, I am inspired by the strength and courage of the victim and proud of the effort that we put forth in trying to get justice on her behalf.”

Asked whether his office intends to retry the case for a third time, Champagne said, “We will evaluate but have not yet decided.”

Keller’s Durango-based attorneys, Heather Little and Kenneth Pace, declined comment.

In closing arguments Tuesday, Little said the girl made up the story because she felt isolated at her rural home and wanted more attention from her parents.

Little said the girl’s story has been inconsistent over time. Little also questioned DNA evidence used at trial.

“This is a story that took on a life of its own,” Little said. “Her statement spiraled into chaos all around her.”

Deputy District Attorney-Appellate Sean Murray, who is prosecuting the case, said it was unrealistic to expect a child to recount a sexual assault the same way every time, but key parts of her testimony have remained consistent.

“She’s told this story nine times with the same core elements each time,” Murray said.

Murray also said DNA evidence collected at the scene shows Keller as a match.

Keller was arrested June 20, 2018.

According to authorities, Keller was invited by a former 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, let Keller spend the night. Keller supposedly was 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 said Keller spent the morning with the child and eventually sexually assaulted her.

The girl told her mother about the assault later in the day. Investigators with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office and Bayfield Marshal’s Office questioned Keller the same day, and he denied the allegations.

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


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