By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
RUSKIN — A June 3, 2019, trial date has finally been set for the ice cream truck driver charged in the double murders of two Hispanic men in Ruskin on Nov. 25, 2010.
Michael Edward Keetley, 48, has languished and lingered in the Falkenburg Road County Jail since being held in the cold-blooded killings of Juan and Sergio Guitron of Ruskin. The Keetley case is Hillsborough County’s longest-running murder case that has not been to trial. If convicted, Keetley would get life without parole.
Keetley, the “Ice Cream Truck Man,” had been severely beaten, shot and robbed of $12 on his Good Humor ice cream route some 10 months before the murders. Keetley, denied bond for seven and a-half years after the charges, has been in jail since Dec. 2, 2010. In February 2011, the state’s attorney declared that it would seek the death penalty for Keetley. Shortly after that Keetley’s attorney at the time brought in Lyann Goudie, a well known Tampa attorney experienced in defending murder cases. Although the late Paul S. Carr of Ruskin was, until opting out, the lead attorney for Keetley, Goudie was already heavily involved in Keetley’s defense since April 2011. Finally granted bail last June, neither Keetley nor his family can afford the $900,000 bail because he and his family have been drained of all their resources by paying huge legal fees to his first defense lawyer Carr, now deceased.
Keetley and his parents of Wimauma have shelled out since his arrest $119,384 to Carr his initial lawyer, and $75,000 to attorney Goudie, leaving them unable to post the recently set bail according to Goudie. The state has been mandated by a judge to pay all costs now, but that does not include the expenses of a bail bond.
Keetley told news media prior to Carr’s death that Carr should never have taken his case to begin with. Keetley said, “I did not see him (Carr) that much.”
Carr himself “bailed” on Keetley in May 2016 before Carr died. Carr claimed questionable injuries from a non-incapacitating auto accident might lead him (Carr) “not being able to provide you with my best efforts in this case and at trial.” Carr, however, remained an active attorney until his death April 1, 2018. Now, with the death penalty no longer in play and the judge ruling against a court-appointed public defender, attorney Goudie is handling the case solo.
Just as strongly as Goudie maintains Keetley’s innocence, the state’s attorney’s office maintains overwhelming circumstantial evidence is proof of Keetley’s guilt.
In a recent statement from Hillsborough State’s Attorney Andrew Warren, the prosecutor, although taking the death penalty off the table, left little doubt as to how he would like Keetley’s trial to turn out. Warren wrote: “ Our thoughts and prayers are with the Guitron family, and we are doing everything we can to make sure the defendant dies in prison for his crimes. We thoroughly and painstakingly evaluate every capital offense, including those inherited upon taking office, to determine whether the crime is so heinous, atrocious, and undeserving of mercy as to be considered the worst of the worst of homicides, as the law requires.”
Goudie also questions whether or not Keetley has received a fair shake from Tampa Bay area news media in the coverage of the case, coverage which she feels is biased against Keetley. The defense attorney did remark that if law enforcement or anyone else could come up with the actual killer, Keetley would have the perfect defense. But absent that and up to now, Goudie and Keetley have only Keetley’s steadfast denial of involvement as well as lack of the murder weapon, no T-shirt, imprecise ballistic evidence and a questionable identification of Keetley at the murder scene by shaky witnesses.
According to court documents, the killings occurred early on Thanksgiving Day when a white male, driving a minivan, drove into Ocean Mist Court in Ruskin, ironically a neighborhood that Keetley, the Ice Cream Man, included on his sales route. The apartment complex that fateful Thursday was extremely dark, only illuminated by a porch light. Six Hispanic males were sitting playing cards, drinking beer, smoking marijuana and snorting cocaine for about four hours. The white male was wearing a black T-shirt with “SHERIFF” printed across it. He had a long black gun and asked for someone named “Creepers.”After the shooter ordered the six to drop to their knees, he summarily blasted away and jumped back into his vehicle and drove away.
The two Guitron brothers, “Magic” and “Spider,” were killed. Seriously injured were Gonzalo Guevara, Daniel Beltran and Richard Cantu. Only one person in the victim group, José Rodriguez, was unharmed.
Prosecutors have since indicated that the shooter mistakenly stalked the Guitron brothers and the other men as the ones who had beaten and robbed him.
The Hillsborough Sheriffs’ Deputies were aided in their subsequent investigation after the double murders by a former community source, Estaban Rivera, who actually was never an official confidential informant. Court documents read: “It is contended that within hours of the shooting, Rivera sent out a mass text with Keetley’s photo, identifying “Mike” as the shooter.” The same court documents read that Rivera’s mass text influenced two of the witnesses to finger Keetley as the shooter from a photo lineup even though they initially could not identify Keetley.
At Keetley’s bail hearing, the late Guitrons’ mother Pat Quezada, stricken with grief, pleaded unsuccessfully with the judge not to allow a bond release for Keetley, calling him a danger to the community. “He destroyed my life,” she told news media, adding, “I would not like for other people to suffer what I am suffering.” Speaking to news media about his aunt, the Guitron brothers’ cousin Frankie Cantu said “she will never get over losing both her sons,” commenting on the sadness and loneliness in Quezada’s eyes.
Some of the witnesses have told investigators that Keetley was obsessed with revenge against the people who had brutally attacked him in his truck in “old” Sun City months previously.
State’s Attorney Assistant Jay Pruner termed the murders “a vengeance killing,” indicating that the Guitron brothers just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and “this man (Keetley) thought they had harmed him in the past.”
Keetley’s attorney Goudie realizes her client has spent an inordinate amount of time in jail but says she requested the “speedy” part of the Sixth Amendment be waived because “we have a ton (about 145) of witnesses, depositions and complex investigations involved,” she said. Considering the circumstances, Keetley is holding up in jail, not dazed or perplexed and spending much of his time reading.
Goudie also commented in court documents that “proof of guilt is not evident and presumption of guilt is not great.” In the bail hearing, she alleged the length of time in isolation pending trial is cruel and unusual punishment (for Keetley), which is prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.