By EMANUELLA GRINBERG and COURT TV STAFF
TAMPA (Court TV) — Former ice cream truck driver Michael Keetley was sentenced on Friday, May 26, for a shooting nearly 13 years ago that killed two brothers and injured four of their friends.
Keetley was ordered to serve six life sentences, two without parole, for the Thanksgiving 2010 shooting that killed two and injured four. Prosecutors said the shooting was a revenge killing for an armed robbery on Keetley’s ice cream truck that left his hand crippled.
Prosecutors described the Thanksgiving 2010 shooting as a revenge killing for an armed robbery on Keetley’s ice cream truck that crippled his hand. Keetley was convicted of two counts of murder for the deaths of Sergio and Juan Guitron and four counts of attempted murder for injuring Richard Cantu, Daniel Beltran, Ramon Galan and Gonzalo Guevara.
Keetley has maintained his innocence since his arrest in December 2010. It was his second trial in Hillsborough County’s longest-running murder case. Keetley’s first trial ended in 2020 ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked 10-2 in favor of not guilty.
Court TV’s Trial Archives: FL v. Michael Keetley (2020)
Prosecutors said Keetley mistakenly targeted the victims shooting while searching for the person he believed had shot him him — Omar Bailon, a friend of the victims who went by the nickname “Kreeper.” Survivors of the shooting testified a dark minivan pulled up outside 604 Ocean Mist Court in Ruskin around 2 a.m. the morning of November 25, 2010, while they were playing poker on the porch. A white man in a law enforcement shirt stepped out of the car and asked for “Kreeper,” demanded identification from the group, and ordered them to the ground before opening fire, three of the four survivors testified.
Only one survivor picked out Keetley in a photo lineup that was a focal point on the defense case. His lawyers in both trials argued that he was the victim of flawed witness identifications and investigators who targeted him to the exclusion of other suspects and theories, including the possibility of a gang-related hit on Bailon.
Read More: New insights from the murder retrial of ice cream man Michael Keetley
Assistant State Attorney Michelle Doherty said in the state’s closing argument that Keetley made himself a suspect with his search for Bailon. “He advertised it all over the streets of Ruskin that he wanted to know who “Kreeper” was, Doherty said. “All of the evidence in this case points to one person and that is the defendant seated right over here — the person who had a grudge against “Kreeper.”
Friends, ex-girlfriends and customers testified that Keetley asked them about “Kreeper.” Some witnesses testified that Keetley said he wanted “revenge.” One witness, David Beckwith, said he agreed to help Keetley find his attackers and pose as law enforcement so they could make them “disappear.”
The jury asked to review Beckwith’s testimony during deliberations – in particular, the defense’s questioning of Beckwith about an immunity deal he struck with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.
Keetley’s surgeon testified in both trials that injuries to his right hand from the armed robbery would have made it “extremely unlikely” that he could hold or fire a weapon. Dr. David Halpern also agreed with prosecutors that Keetley would have been able to operate a firearm with his left hand by the time of the shootings. Descriptions of Keetley’s physical capabilities varied among witnesses, but several testified to seeing him target-practice on his property in the months before the Thanksgiving homicides.
Keetley’s first trial was held up due to changes in the state’s death penalty statute and disputes over who would represent Keetley because of those changes. His first lawyer died in 2018, and criminal defense lawyer Lyann Goudie took over the case in 2011. Goudie withdrew after the mistrial to pursue a bid for circuit judge. The pandemic delayed Keetley’s retrial, which began in February 2023 and lasted five weeks. He was represented by a new team of lawyers led by veteran Tampa defense attorney Richard Escobar, who helped win an acquittal for former Tampa police captain, Curtis Reeves in 2022’s Movie Popcorn Murder Trial.
Keetley faces life in prison without parole at his sentencing on May 26. At the hearing, the defense will argue motions for a new trial before the state presents victim impact statements. The defense will also have the opportunity to call witnesses.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
SENTENCING – 5/26/23
- WATCH: Ice Cream Man Murder Trial: Victim Impact Statements
- WATCH: Ice Cream Man Murder Trial: Michael Keetley Sentenced
DAY 17 – 3/28/23
- The jury of 10 men and two women convicted Keetley as charged of two counts of first-degree murder for the shooting deaths of Sergio and Juan Guitron and four counts of attempted first-degree murder for shooting Gonazalo Guevara, Daniel Beltran, Richard Cantu and Ramon Galan.
- The jury reached its decision an hour into the third day of deliberations. They deliberated for 13 hours and 30 minutes overall.
- A stunned Keetley’s jaw slowly dropped as the verdicts were read and he looked toward the jury.
- Paz Quezada, the mother of Sergio and Juan Guitron, wept in the arms of her husband and the victim advocate as the verdict was read.
- Shooting survivor Gonzalo Guevara – who made the critical photo lineup identification of Keetley – made it to the courtroom after the verdicts were read. Guevara and Quezada shared a tearful embrace after the verdicts were read.
- Speaking to reporters after the verdict, Quezada thanked prosecutors after the verdict and expressed gratitude that she could finally feel peace her in her heart for her sons.
- Speaking to reporters after the verdict, elected State Attorney Susan Lopez said today was about the six victims.
DAY 16 – 3/27/23 – Jury Deliberations
- The jury deliberated for a second day Monday for eight hours and 50 minutes before deciding to stop at 5:30 p.m., bringing their total deliberations time to about 12 hours and 30 minutes.
- After the jury was excused for the day, Judge Sabella reminded the parties that “the lines of communication should always remain open” concerning a possible plea deal and that just because the jury is deliberating it doesn’t mean that the parties can’t “reach” a resolution on their own.
- Part of the reason for ending the day at 5:30 p.m. was to accommodate juror 12’s childcare issues. Judge Sabella asked juror 12 to look into possible arrangements so they would not have to stop at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday if not necessary.
- The jury sent one question today:
- QUESTION 1: Readback of cross of David Beckwith addressing his immunity deal with prosecutors. The judge included the state’s redirect on immunity in the readback.
DAY 15 – 3/24/23 – Closing Arguments & Jury Deliberations
- The jury deliberated for three hours and 40 minutes Friday after calling it quits shortly before 9 p.m. and asking to return Monday.
- In addition to first-degree murder, the jury has the option of convicting Keetley of lesser charges of second-degree murder, or manslaughter for the deaths of Sergio and Juan Guitron.
- Shooting survivors Daniel Beltran, Richard Cantu, Ramon Galan and their supporters joined the mother of the Guitron bothers in the gallery for closing arguments.
- Assistant State Attorney Michelle Doherty delivered both closing arguments for the state. She said Keetley made himself a suspect because everyone in Ruskin knew he was looking for Omar “Kreeper” Bailon, then suddenly, a gunman appeared at 604 Ocean Mist Court looking for Kreeper.
- Doherty said Keetley targeted Bailon based on “rumor” and “speculation” and indiscriminately targeted the victims because they were Hispanic like Bailon.
- Doherty said the armed robbery of Keetley was horrible and his injuries were devastating, but he had the “willpower, mindset and capability” to learn to shoot a gun with his left. She reminded the jury of all the witnesses who said they saw Keetley target-practice on a van on his property and the testimony of a firearms examiner who said projectiles found at the crime scene and on Keetley’s property were likely fired from the same weapon.
- Defense lawyer Richard Escobar said the investigation was a “nightmare” from the start and witness contamination was “rampant” because of lead detective Jose Lugo.
- Escobar accused Lugo of a litany of missteps: failing to document the crime scene; failing to investigate the possibility that the shooting was gang-related; falsifying Gonzalo Guevara’s photo identification; failing to follow leads other than those that led to Keetley
- Escobar suggested gang members targeting Bailon might have committed the shootings and framed Keetley with a text message implicating him that spread through the community. He blasted Lugo for failing to confirm the source of the text message.
- For the first time in the trial, the defense acknowledged that Keetley may have been looking for “Kreeper” even though he told investigators he had never heard Kreeper’s name. Escobar said Keetley had good reason to believe investigators would arrest him based on their single-minded pursuit of him and deny knowledge of Bailon.
DAY 14 – 3/23/23
- The defense rested its case after Keetley declined to testify. With no state rebuttal, the evidence is closed, paving the way for closings.
- A plastic surgeon who operated once on Keetley’s hand and monitored his progress said it was “extremely unlikely” that Keetley would have been able to lift, hold or fire a high-caliber weapon with his right hand in November 2010 (when the shootings occurred). On cross, Dr. David Halpern said Keetley would have been able to fire a gun with his left hand had be trained himself to do so.
- Jackie Burgess, the mother-in-law of Keetley’s sister, said Keetley’s mother cut his meat for him on Thanksgiving Day – hours after the shooting – because he was unable to use his right hand.
DAY 13 – 3/22/23
- The defense continued its attempt to undermine the reliability of witness descriptions of the shooter, focusing primarily on shooting survivor Gonzalo Guevara’s identification of Keetley in a photo lineup while Guevara was in a hospital bed on morphine.
- The jury finally heard from the man they’ve heard so much about: Omar “Creeper” Bailon, who testified as a state witness in 2020 and was declared an adverse witness for the defense this time around.
- Neither side asked Bailon about the armed robbery that the state claims made him a target of Keetley’s alleged revenge killing.
- Instead, Bailon testified that he interacted with Keetley at his ice cream truck several times before the shootings. He said he knew gang members from Ruskin area but denied belonging to a gang in the face of persistent questioning about his tattoos and photos of him and others throwing up ambiguous hand gestures.
- James Kennedy, the person who sold Keetley a Ruger 10/22 in a Winn Dixie parking lot sometime before the shooting in November 2010, called it a “starter rifle for kids.” He said Keetley walked with a limp and held the gun in his left hand. On cross, he said it was a semiautomatic and light, weighing 3 lbs.
- Forensic document examiner Grant Sperry used elaborate demonstrative aids to support his opinion that Guevara most likely signed a photo lineup instruction form when it was blank, and Det. Jose Lugo later filled in the information – writing the number “4” for photo number 4, then crossing it out and writing “3” for Keetley’s photo.
- Lugo testified that he mistakenly wrote the number “4” on the form initially because he thought Guevara wrote a “4” next to his signature on Keetley’s photo. Lugo testified he now believes that the “4” is actually an “X” that Lugo jotted down to mark where Guevara should sign his name.
- Sperry weighed in on the “X” or “4” dispute on Keetley’s photo. Using enlarged images of the writings with arrows pointing out certain characteristics, Sperry said the alignment of the symbol and Guevara’s signature suggested the symbol was a “4” authored by Guevara.
- The jury heard the previously recorded testimony of eyewitness identification expert Dr Jennifer Dysart on factors that could have impacted the reliability of witness descriptions of the shooting, including the shooting’s fast pace and the fact that the witnesses had consumed drugs and alcohol earlier that evening.
- Dysart also walked through the ways in which Guevara’s photo lineup defied best practices, undermining its reliability.
DAY 12 – 3/21/23
- Judge Sabella excused the jury for the day after an alternate juror called in unavailable due to a family emergency. He delivered the news in characteristically good nature, throwing in his ongoing joke about the “juror union” and assuring the jurors he wouldn’t call their employers. He also laid out the schedule and promised today’s delay wouldn’t throw off their plan.
- The attorneys argued outstanding motions after the jury left for the day, including:
- “VIGILANTE JUSTICE” ISSUE: The judge denied the defense’s request to prevent the state from bringing up in its closing the testimony of Stacy Rogan that Keetley said he “understood why people take matters into their own hands” and that he was “actively” investigating his shooting. Defense lawyer John Grant said the testimony violated a pretrial order that prevented anyone from using the term “vigilante justice” in reference to Keetley’s alleged conduct or mentioning his penchant for Charles Bronson movies, “Death Wish” in particular.
- HANDCUFFS AND FLASHLIGHT PHOTOS: The judge granted the defense’s motion to exclude from evidence photos of a set of handcuffs and a flashlight that were found in the Keetley home. Prosecutor Rebecca Johnson argued they supported the state’s theory that Keetley planned to impersonate law enforcement while committing the murders. The judge found that they were irrelevant because no witnesses testified to seeing the shooter with the objects.
DAY 11 – 3/20/23
- Daniel Beltran, the last of the shooting survivors to testify, got choked up on the witness as he shared a harrowing account of watching bullets tear through his friends before the gunman turned his weapon on him, shooting him four times as tried to crawl to safety.
- Beltran was unable to identify the gunman in a photo lineup, and on cross, the defense drew out his conflicting descriptions of the shooter. The defense tried to further undermine Beltran’s credibility by emphasizing his criminal record, which includes one crime of dishonesty and a deal with prosecutors based on his status as a victim in this case that spared him a lengthy prison sentence and the prospect of testifying in a prison jumpsuit.
- The jury heard what could be the strongest forensic evidence potentially linking Keetley to the 2010 Thanksgiving mass shooting that killed the Guitron brothers and injured four of their friends.
- FDLE firearms Jennifer Clark analyst compared .45 caliber semiautomatic shell casings and projectiles from the crime scene with casings and projectiles collected from Keetley’s property. She determined toolmarks (impressions/markings) left on both sets were consistent with them being fired from the same Glock firearm.
- On cross, Clark agreed that she could not definitively say that the shooter used a Glock to the exclusion of all other guns. And if it was a Glock, she could not say what type of Glock was used or if the unique markings were the result of a modified firing pin or of the weapon being fitted with an aftermarket barrel.
- On cross, Clark agreed that her findings were based on her own subjective analysis using a standard known in her discipline as “sufficient agreement,” which has come under scientific scrutiny in the past.
- The jury heard from Armando Guerra, a man Keetley wrongly accused of shooting him, and Guerra’s uncle.
- Angela Logan, the former sister-in-law of erstwhile Keetley associate David Beckwith, delivered mixed testimony by providing Beckwith with an alibi and describing Keetley as walking with a limp.
- Carmen Smith, Wesley Smith’s wife, said she saw Keetley target-shooting on his property, but could not recall details such as what kind of gun he used or if he used both hands.
DAY 10 – 3/17/23
- Cross-examination consumed most of Lt. Jose Lugo’s second day on the stand, focusing on the ways in which Lugo disregarded standard operating procedures for the photo lineup with Gonzalo Guevara that led to Michael Keetley’s identification.
- On redirect, prosecutor Michelle Doherty pointed out a part of the SOP document that describes the SOP as “guidelines” to be used under “various circumstances” – but not all, Lugo testified, such as when dealing with a witness like GG who fell into a coma.
DAY 9 – 3/16/23
- Lt. Jose Lugo — the lead case detective in 2010 – defended the way he conducted the photo lineup with Gonzalo Guevara that led to Michael Keetley’s identification even though it violated some of Hillsborough County’s standard operating procedures.
- On cross, Lugo explained why investigators set their sights on Keetley instead of digging deeper into Omar “Creeper” Bailon or the possibility the shootings were gang-related.
- Loud arguments over whether the defense violated a pretrial motion by asking Lugo if he investigated another shooting two weeks before the homicides. Judge Sabella let the question stand after finding that a prior ruling only applied to another witness and that the defense was entitled to ask Lugo about it.
- After Judge Sabella warned the lawyers that he’ll have to declare a mistrial if the jury can’t extend their service into the week of 3/27, the state said they can’t go into the week of 3/27 and agreed to do longer days starting at 8:30 a.m. and going until 5:30/6 p.m.
DAY 8 – 3/15/23
- State crime lab analyst Connie Bell spent most of the day on the stand describing digital evidence she found on a laptop that law enforcement seized from the home where Keetley lived with his parents.
- Law enforcement asked Bell to search the hard drive for a series of keywords related to Keetley’s alleged plot to kill the people who shot him, such as “Omar” and “Bailon” and “Creeper” and “Ocean Mist.”
- The search yielded thousands of results, but only a handful were of evidentiary value because they were stripped of context from being deleted or relegated to unallocated space through other means.
- The laptop connected to the Keetley’s mobile hotspot the morning of the shootings at 1:18 a.m. and disconnected at 2:29 a.m., when the shootings occurred.
- The jury heard the first description of the suspect that Gonzalo Guevara gave to an officer in the hospital.
DAY 7 – 3/14/23
- Former Ruskin resident Wesley Smith, testifies about his interactions with Michael Keetley.
- Smith moved from the area before the November 2010 shooting because of gang activity and other reasons.
- Wesley Smith and David Beckwith met Keetley in the neighborhood after Keetley’s robbery incident.
- According to Smith, he and Keetley discussed modifications to a Glock.
DAY 6 – 3/13/23
- Prosecutors had to pivot the order of witnesses Monday following a robust discussion about new evidence that will be presented during the trial. Michael Keetley’s attorneys asked to depose the state’s electronic device expert, Connie Bell, after they learned there was a new report presented just before the selection of jurors.
- The state contended that there was no new evidence, and all trial exhibits were given to the defense prior to trial. The information compiled for Bell’s testimony was a condensed version of an 850-page report using current and user-friendly technology that they claim will be easier for the jury to review.
- Judge Sabella was to decide whether the defense could depose Bell after the lunch break, but the state conceded and agreed to allow the defense to depose Bell.
- Jurors heard from Michael Keetley’s ex-girlfriend, Norma Jean Towers. She testified that she remembers seeing a dark blue t-shirt with the word “police” on it on top of a pile of clothing inside Keetley’s parent’s farmhouse. Towers also told jurors that she and Keetley drove around a couple of neighborhoods in which Keetley instructed her to notate license plate numbers.
- “He was disguised,” referencing to Keetley wearing a hunter’s hat. “I felt like a sitting duck, and everyone could see my car and me sitting in the passenger seat,” Tower said.
- Prosecutors played previous trial testimony of Crime Scene Detective Chuck Sackman and shooting survivor Jose Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s whereabouts are unknown, and investigators could not serve a subpoena to testify in court.
DAY 5 – 3/10/23
- In two recorded interviews the night of November 27, 2010, the jury heard Michael Keetley deny involvement in the deadly Thanksgiving shooting he now stands accused of.
- Keetley admitted to trying to conduct his own investigation but said he had long given up — and that had never heard of a person named “Creeper” or tried to find him.
- Keetley’s account of his investigation contradicts the testimony of several witness, including his old friend, David Beckwith, who returned to the Friday for cross examination.
- Beckwith squirmed uncomfortably on the witness stand and traded scornful barbs with defense lawyer Richard Escobar during cross. At one point, he hid behind the evidence monitor.
- Escobar tried to erode Beckwith’s credibility by suggesting that Beckwith came up with the plan to pose as police and kill Keetley’s assailants. Beckwith maintained it was Keetley’s plan but he went along with it, saying he would “kill anyone who takes away another person’s civil liberties.”
DAY 4 – 3/9/23
- Sparks flew in the courtroom as Keetley’s defense lawyer Richard Escobar rattled state witness David Beckwith with questions about Beckwith’s motives for helping Keetley, an immunity deal with prosecutors, and the severity of Keetley’s injuries along with other seemingly minor topics that appeared to be intended to chip away at Beckwith’s patience and resolve.
- On direct, Beckwith said Keetley’s plan was to pose as a cop and shoot his assailants and somehow “make them disappear.” Beckwith said he would have helped Keetley “if justice did not prevail.”
- Beckwith said he saw Keetley empty a .45 clip while shooting cars for sport on the Keetley property in a “slow but steady” manner.
- The jury saw a local news story about Keetley that aired a few weeks after his armed robbery in 2010. It included pictures of Keetley in the hospital and blood in his ice cream truck. In the interview, Keetley called his assailants “scum” who’d likely harm others.
- The jury heard the recorded testimony of Henry Boas (now deceased) and his ex-wife. They described Keetley’s visit to the Boas home the day after the shooting so Boas could “two-tone” paint Keetley’s blue van.
- Dr. Mary Mainland, the medical examiner who performed the autopsies on Sergio and Juan Guitron described their injuries and cause and manner of death (gunshot wounds; homicide).
- The brothers were shot from behind and the bullet paths were consistent with the possibility that they were shot while on their knees, but Mainland said there was no way to know for sure.
DAY 3 – 3/8/23
- Shooting survivor Gonzalo Guevara teared up as he recalled the sounds of gunshots and his friends’ cries as a gunman posing as law enforcement opened fire on them the morning of Thanksgiving 2010.
- Guevara stood by his identification of Keetley as the gunman despite the defense’s insinuations that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol the night of the shooting. He also denied that a text message labeling “the ice cream man” the shooter tainted his identification of Keetley in a photo lineup.
- On cross, the defense drew out inconsistencies between Guevara’s testimony and his prior statements on the shooter’s hair color (grayish brown compared to orangish-brown)
- The jury also heard from survivor Richard Cantu, who was shot in the head and has no memory of the massacre. His testimony lasted three minutes as he identified his injuries and limped off the stand.
- Former crime scene investigators Jason Brando and Nancy Hager walked the jury through photos and evidence collected from the Keetley family property, including a notebook with Omar “Creeper” Bailon’s name and address written in it.
DAY 2 – 3/7/23
- The jury heard from Ramon Galan, one of four shooting survivors for whom Keetley faces a charge of attempted murder.
- His testimony cut both ways, supporting the defense argument that the shooting scene was too dark and fast-moving for anyone to reliably identify Keetley as the shooter, but supporting the state’s argument that the shooter posed as law enforcement and demanded to see their IDs.
- Judge Christopher Sabella threatened to declare a mistrial if the attorneys kept “sniping” at and talking over each other during sidebars.
- The warning was precipitated by an apparently heated sidebar over the defense’s objection to the state trying to refresh witness Luciano Alonzo’s recollection on his prior statements about whether Keetley ever used a cane or limped.
- After reviewing his recorded statement from 2012, Alonzo acknowledged that he initially said he never saw Keetley limp or use a cane, contradicting his testimony on the stand today that he saw him use a cane. This matters because the defense claims Keetley walked with a limp in November 2010, yet none of the eyewitnesses described the shooter as walking with a limp.
- Various juror issues took up a significant chunk of the court’s time:
- Judge Sabella questioned a female juror who said she was treated by defense witness/Keetley surgeon Dr. David Halpern. Juror said her relationship with the doctor wouldn’t make her judge his credibility any differently than that of other witnesses. ASA Doherty reserves the right to raise another objection after doing more research.
- The parties agreed to NOT put a sleepy juror on the spot by questioning him. Instead, the judge told the entire panel to let him know if they needed breaks for stretches or comfort.
- Unrelatedly, the dozing juror voiced his concern to a bailiff that a person from the Keetley photo pack/lineup may have been in the courtroom during openings Monday. By agreement of the parties, the judge brought the juror in the courtroom and informed him that no one from the photo pack has been in the courtroom.
- The jury saw crime scene photos of .45 caliber casings and projectiles collected from the shooting at 604 Ocean Mist Court, setting the stage for testimony about how they allegedly match ballistics evidence collected from the Keetley family property.
DAY 1 – 3/6/23
- Assistant State Attorney Jennifer Johnson said the case was about Keetley’s “festering” obsession with revenge for the people who shot him in an armed robbery. He enlisted friends in his search for Omar “Creeper” Bailon, but ultimately he alone acted as the gunman, Johnson said.
- Defense lawyer John Grant said Keetley wanted his attackers “caught, not killed,” and that Keeley was not physically capable of doing all the things he’s accused of because of the injuries he sustained in armed robbery of his ice cream truck.
- Hillsborough County prosecutors called their first five witnesses: two lay witnesses, including Keetley’s ex; two investigators; and a crime scene investigator.
- Two witnesses who were involved in the investigation of the armed robbery on Keetley’s ice cream truck said he described his three assailants as Black.
- On cross, Ron Noland conceded that he never considered the possibility that a “dark-complected” Hispanic people could have been the suspects.
- Keetley’s ex-girlfriend, Stacy Rogan, said Keetley told her to be on the lookout for a man with “Creeper” tattooed on his arm. Rogan also said Keetley told her he has buying a new firearm.
- Keetley acquaintance Brianne Greory identified a photo of Keetley wearing a “Police” shirt in a Halloween costume party photo.
Court TV field producer Tiffany Smith contributed to this report.