DADE CITY — Two boys accused Keshwar Mangroo of molesting them years ago. They said it happened sometime between 1997 and 2000, at a house on Peaceful Lane in Zephyrhills.
Authorities charged Mangroo in 2003 with lewd and lascivious molestation, a crime defined by law as "wicked, lustful, unchaste, licentious."
But after hearing the accusations, rendered vague by time and perhaps embarrassment, that Mangroo had touched the boys' crotches while he wrestled and tickled them, a jury on Wednesday rejected the charge, finding Mangroo not guilty.
Mangroo, 41, had faced up to 45 years in prison.
"I finally get my life back," Mangroo said as he left the courthouse Wednesday evening. "My life never moved forward. It was always at a standstill."
The boys are not being identified because of the nature of the charges. They were under Mangroo's care when the incident was alleged to have happened. Now 21 and 16 years old, they took the stand this week and said Mangroo blew "raspberries" on their stomachs, tickled their faces with his beard and then grabbed their crotches.
But the younger boy couldn't remember how any of it happened or whether Mangroo's hand was in his pants or on top of his pants.
The older boy was more specific, saying Mangroo had put his hand down his pants. But he qualified his accusation, saying "we were playing" and "nothing, like, going into sexual."
Mangroo himself took the stand and said playing and wrestling was something he frequently did with the boys, and it was never anything but messing around.
"It's not a sensual or wicked or lustful act if it happened so fast that people barely had a recollection about it," defense attorney Steve Herman told the all-male jury. "Mr. Mangroo's conduct on that occasion was not lewd and lascivious then, and in hindsight … it is not lewd and lascivious behavior now."
Mangroo and his longtime girlfriend, Maria Morales, were the focus of another investigation in 2000, when their infant son was found dead in his crib.
At the time, Mangroo said he woke about 4 a.m. Nov. 22, 2000, to the crying of his month-old daughter, who lay in a crib with her twin brother.
Mangroo said he went to the kitchen to warm a bottle when he heard Morales scream, "My baby's dead!"
Mangroo said his son, Puirmesh, had bruises on his face "like he was beaten up real bad."
Pasco sheriff's investigators said the death was "most definitely" a homicide and said Morales and Mangroo were not cleared as suspects.
The baby's death remains an open and unsolved case. Mangroo said he never hears from the Sheriff's Office about that case.
He now works in a grocery store and at a hay field owned by a friend. He is still with Morales, and together they have three daughters.
"She's always believed in me," Mangroo said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6245.