Alvin B. Keyser, an acquaintance of missing Virginia mother TerriLynn St. John, is accused of murdering the young woman and dumping her body in a wooded patch not far from her home.
According to WTKR-TV, the scene at St. John’s home in Wake, Virginia bore troubling signs of a potential struggle. The television station reported that St. John, 23, “went to her car in her front yard, preparing to take her children to daycare.” She disappeared after that point early on February 27, 2018. The Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department searched for the young woman, who vanished around 7:30 a.m. that day.
Keyser’s name was released by sheriff’s officials on March 1. “Alvin B. Keyser has been charged with First Degree Murder; Class 2 Felony and Concealment of a Dead Body; Class 6 Felony under Virginia State code,” the Sheriff’s Department wrote. He is 23-years-old. “This is just so unreal, we love you baby girl and will get justice for you!” a friend of St. John wrote on Facebook. St. John worked at a local horse farm, and she leaves behind two small children.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. TerriLynn Was Strangled to Death & Keyser Is Accused of Leading Police to Her Body
Michael Sampson, a major with the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department, said in a press conference that detectives had worked into the early morning hours. “Mr. Keyser showed us where it was at,” Sampson said when asked how the body was found. According to WTVR, Keyser knew the father of TerriLynn’s children as well as being acquainted previously with TerriLynn. Keyser is from Topping, Virginia.
More details were released later on March 1, and they provide some sense of a motive. “Keyser stated to detectives he confronted St. John at her residence about statements that were made about Keyser,” Sampson said in a statement. “Keyser stated that St. John struck him, and he struck her back.” The specific nature of the statements was not revealed.
According to Fox2Now, “At some point St. John got into a van that Keyser was driving, but officials didn’t clarify whether or not she was physically forced into the vehicle. Investigators said Keyser admitted that he later pushed St. John out of the van, continued to hit her, and strangled her until she stopped breathing.”
“Keyser told deputies that he then went around to the other side of the van and hit St. John again before strangling her until she stopped breathing,” reported WRIC-TV.
At about 9 a.m. March 1, the detectives discovered the body in the Wake area of Middlesex County, Sampson said. At 9:30 a.m., Alvin B. Keyser was taken into custody. “He was initially contacted last night,” Sampson said. “He’s being interviewed several more times and awaiting more charges.”
At 11:35 a.m., the body was identified as that of TerriLynn St. John, the missing woman. “There was an attempt to cover up the body,” Sampson said. The body was found 20 feet off the road in a small patch of woods. Detectives have now switched gears and are considering the case a homicide, he said.
“The sheriff’s office would like to offer condolences to the friends and family of Miss St. John,” said Sampson. “We do know that Mr. Keyser was an acquaintance. To what degree we don’t know,” he added.
On Facebook, Keyser wrote that he lives in Middlesex, Virginia and is from Middlesex, Virginia. He was Facebook friends with TerriLynn St. John.
According to WTVR. “The body was found covered with leaves and brier bushes along Barricks Mill Road in Pine Top, Virginia.”
2. TerriLynn Vanished With the Door Open & Her Children Inside the House & Alvin Had Minor Brushes With the Law Previously
Alvin Keyser’s criminal history shows minor brushes with the law previously in Middlesex County.
The accusations included possession of marijuana, driving after revocation, and county noise ordinance violation.
TerriLynn St. John was last seen on February 27, 2018 in the morning hours. She had recently moved to Wake, Virginia. She had children who are ages 3 and 1. Terry St. John, her father, told The Southside Sentinel newspaper, “Never, never, never” would she have left the children on their own. Middlesex Sheriff’s Major Sampson said on February 28: “This is a missing person, under suspicious circumstances,” but authorities initially had not determined whether St. John was abducted.
“Her door was found open and her small children were found alone inside her home,” the missing poster for TerriLynn reported. People with any information were urged to contact the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department at 804-758-2779 or by dialing 911. The missing person’s report says that TerriLynn was 23-years-old, 5 foot 6 inches tall, 130 pounds, and had blonde hair and blue eyes.
According to a earlier press release from the Sheriff’s Department, “In the late morning hours of Feb. 27 2018 Middlesex deputies responded to 15 Mill Wharf Rd. in the Wake are of Middlesex County. This is the residence of Ms. Terrilynn St. John 23 YOA. The call was in reference to possible missing persons.”
That release said the initial call “was made by the paternal Grandfather who stated that the mother of two infant children; ages 1 and 3, did not show up for work today and that the children were in the house alone. Deputies arrived on scene at approximately 1100 hours and shortly thereafter called Detectives to the scene. The 2 children discovered in the home are safe with no reported injuries and with the Paternal Grandfather.”
TerriLynn’s dad told the newspaper he was afraid it was a random abduction. Her boyfriend, Mac Kennard, told the Southside Sentinel that he “had kissed her goodbye at 4:20 a.m. and headed to work oystering.” The newspaper reported that he “could not hold back tears,” quoting him as saying, “She’s my best friend.” The father of TerriLynn’s children is a different man.
3. Social Media Helped Lead Authorities to Keyser & TerriLynn’s Broken Necklace Was Found in Her Yard
Some aspects of the scene concerned loved ones of TerriLynn from the start. According to the missing poster in her case, her broken necklace was found in the front yard.
There were other disturbing details. Her cell phone was found in the bushes in her yard, according to the missing person’s poster. In addition, the young woman’s car was still at her home. A shoe or slipper was also recovered, according to The Southside Sentinel.
Police confirmed the account of the broken necklace, and family members told WTVR-TV that they worry there was a struggle. The young woman was described as having “multiple tattoos including R.J.M. on her right wrist, a princess crown on her left wrist, and a cross on her ring finger,” according to WTVR.
Early on, authorities told the public that social media could cause problems in the case. However, they say it proved instrumental to leading them to Keyser in the end. Social media is a double-edged sword for investigators, said Sampson, “but this was one of the good things” that came from it – Keyser’s identification in connection with the case. Sampson indicated that social media helped lead authorities to Keyser, although they were not posts made by him. Authorities weren’t more specific although they said they involved statements that Keyser allegedly made.
On Facebook, Keyser appears to have had more than one Facebook page. One of them said he went to Rappahannock Community College Glenns, VA. One recent post on one of the pages used a racial slur, saying, “my (N word) gone man r.i.p (da f*ck you mean!!!” and another said, “Party was live last night.”
4. TerriLynn Recently Posted Many Sayings About Relationship Heartache & Was Remembered as Outgoing & Lovable
On February 25, in her last publicly visible Facebook posts, TerriLynn shared a series of graphics that described relationship angst and turmoil. “Sometimes you just have to accept what happened, smile and move on,” was the last post that St. John shared publicly on Facebook. It’s dated February 25. It’s not clear what she was referring to in the post, which was a share of a graphic with that saying.
TerriLynn worked at an area horse farm.
On Facebook, she wrote that she was single. She also shared a graphic on February 25 that read, “Sometimes the best thing you can do is fall out of love.” Her photos showed her with Kennard and young children as well as friends. However, family members remembered the young woman’s outgoing personality, with her sister, Maggie, telling ABC News, “She was a very lovable, fun, outgoing person and people were attracted to that.”
“Don’t let anyone take advantage of your trust,” said yet another graphic that TerriLynn shared on that day. “Forgiveness doesn’t make you weak, but too many chances can do some harm.”
The graphic in another post she shared read, “If you’ve gotta do it by yourself, be by yourself, period.” She also shared a status recently with the lyrics from a Tove Lo song:
We started out as lonely hearts
We started with a promise built on highs
You said I was the missing part
Looked into my eyes said
“You’re my fix for life”
But now, what I’m doing
I don’t know, what I’m doing
Cause I don’t even feel it
Bodies growing colder with the distance now
And I don’t even mean it
Got my hands all over you, but not a sound
I’m always so in love, all in
Till you lost your goal, and I’m thinking
Thought you’d make me feel it
Thought that I’d be different this time around
This time around
It’s not clear what was driving the lengthy string of posts. She appears to have had multiple Facebook pages. TerriLynn wrote on a photo collage of pictures with Kennard in December 2017, “Mac Kennard life has changed a lot with you in it ! I love you! Your the best !” In December, she also wrote, “I always thought of this guy as a good friend and I had the biggest crush on him!! I remember riding bikes around water view when we were like 14 I’m glad he finally came to his senses I love you Mac Kennard forever and ever amen !”
5. Loved Ones Turned to Social Media Seeking Information
Before the tragic news came in that her body had been found, frantic loved ones of TerriLynn shared her photos on social media as they asked for help looking for her. “She’s like my baby sister, I want her home safe,” wrote one woman on Facebook. She also provided some details on the case, such as, “Her car is at home the last time someone talked to her was this morning.”
“OMG I’ve known this girl forever everyone please pray😟” wrote another. Another friend shared a series of photos and wrote, “I love you baby girl. Wherever you are, we will find you… I promise, We wont stop. We are going to bring you home.. just pls hold on until we find you…”
Wrote another man, “Bc the baby’s were left and the door was left open her broke necklace was in the yard with her earrings,shoes,and phone found in the bushes is what I’ve been told! Something is not right and someone needs to find my sister!!!!!!!”
Law enforcement launched a massive search to find St. John, according to local news reports. “…law enforcement officials are using dogs and drones in the search for 23-year-old,” reported WTVR-TV.
Authorities wrote on Facebook, “Terri Lyn St. John is a 23 year old female who is living in Wake, Va in Middlesex County. She was last seen at her residence early this morning. Anyone with information should contact Middlesex County SO at 804 758 2779.”
The Sheriff’s Department also wrote early on, “A call was made to the Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office who immediately deployed a K-9 unit to the scene to assist in the search for St. John. An aerial search of the area was also conducted by the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office. Deputies searched the area on foot covering numerous miles of terrain around the residence. Local beaches and boat landing were also checked throughout the day on foot by Sheriffs deputies.
Evidence was collected at the scene and immediately packaged for analysis at the state lab in Richmond. Detectives worked into the early morning hours Interviewing and questioning persons of interest in the case. Detectives are asking if anyone living in the area saw anything suspicious or suspicious vehicles between the hours of 4:30 A.M. and 6:00A.M. Please contact the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office Hotline at (804) 758-5600.”
TerriLynn’s father told WTVR, “They looked through the woods and you could definitely tell there has been a struggle beside my daughter’s car. Jewelry was all around, like it had been broken off, her cell phone was found in the bushes.” According to the television station, “TerriLynn was last seen wearing a blue Outer Banks hoodie.”