Uncle acquitted of sex crimes

Thursday, January 10, 2002

KENNETT, Mo. -- A once tightknit family has been torn apart by allegations made from a nephew in regard to his uncle.

Could the uncle's acquittal in court here Tuesday after a two-day trial offer any recourse to repair the relationship?

Terry Keating of Hornersville, Mo., was on trial on allegations he had sexually molested his nephew Roger Wilkins when Wilkins was a child.

Both sides of the family painted a cheerful family picture during testimonies and said that they were once always together -- holidays, birthdays and other family occasions.

Now, Keating has been accused by Barbara Wilkins and her adopted son, and many of her immediate family have stood behind the allegations. In two days of testimony, many family members from each side of the now divided Keating-Wilkins clan took the stand.

What was most commonly agreed upon by both sides of the family that packed Judge Stephen Sharp's courtroom was that the nephew and uncle had a very close relationship, one that the uncle did not share with the boy's two brothers.

However, those supporting Keating said that it was nothing out of the ordinary and was nothing more than a close bond between an uncle and nephew -- an uncle that had no sons of his own and a nephew that needed the feeling of belonging.

Witnesses testifying on Wilkins' behalf said they were surprised by the allegations and didn't want to believe they were true. However, evidence and statements made by psychologists, pathologists, friends, family and Wilkins himself, showed a strong support system for the young man.

The state, represented by attorney Robert Hicks, painted a portrait of Keating as a pornographic-watching, beer-drinking, perverse individual who preyed on his young nephew at each and every opportunity.

Keating's ever-present attitude toward helping his nephew was presented as Keating's ability to control the young man because of Wilkins' fear of his uncle and the acts he had accused him of performing.

The defense, led by Curtis Poore of Cape Girardeau, proved to the jury that Keating had only the best interest in the boy's welfare.

Loving him like a son and having been a major part of the boy's childhood, Keating would never have thought to attempt such acts with the young boy, Poore said.

"I loved him like my own son and I still do," Keating testified. "I have never done any of the things I've been accused of and would never do such things."

Offering an image of a very troubled young man, the defense said that Wilkins was continually involved in disputes and was well-known for his addiction to alcohol and use of drugs.

Poore tried to prove that Wilkins was angry and had a feeling of detachment about being adopted.

Poore added that the young man found a close friend and a loving mentor in his favorite uncle -- Keating.

And now, Poore said, Keating was extremely confused as to why the boy would create false allegations against him.

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