A North Carolina man whose first wife died mysteriously more than a decade ago is now facing murder charges in the death of his second wife after her body was found last week in a wooded area. Lynn Keel, 57, was arrested March 17 in Arizona, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office says.
His 38-year-old wife, Diana Alejandra Keel, was reported missing by her daughter on March 7 and was found dead in an apparent homicide by North Carolina Department of Transportation workers five days later, the Nash County Sheriff’s Office said. Keel was questioned by investigators and named as a person of interest, but was released without charges.
Authorities have also said they will look into the death of his first wife again.
Lynn Keel and his wife, a nurse and mother of 2, lived in Nashville, North Carolina. Diana Keel’s body was found in Edgecombe County. The investigation into her death is ongoing, Nash County Sheriff’s Office said. An autopsy was completed Wednesday, but details of the results have not been made public.
Diana Keel’s friends and family told WTVD-TV that she had been trying to leave her husband, but he would not let her. Keel’s mother told the news station her daughter was planning to get a divorce from Lynn Keel and had already met with an attorney.
Here’s what you need to know about Lynn Keel:
1. Lynn Keel Was Arrested With a ‘Large Sum of Money’ in Arizona, Police Say
Lynn Keel, whose full name is Rexford Lynn Keel Jr., was arrested Sunday, March 17, in Tucson, Arizona, after police obtained a warrant charging him with first-degree murder on March 16.
“A traffic stop on Interstate 10 near Tucson, Arizona, 30 minutes from Benson, earlier this morning resulted in Rexford Lynn Keel Jr being taken into custody without incident. No statements were made by Keel, but there were many Wells Fargo receipts and a large sum of money with him,” the Nash County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release. “Rexford Lynn Keel Jr. is being taken to the Pima County Jail in Tucson, Arizona.”
Keel was brought in for questioning by the Nash County Sheriff’s Office after his wife, Diana Keel, was found dead on Tuesday, March 12. The sheriff’s office said at a press conference that Keel was “very cooperative” with investigators and was released.
Investigators also seized evidence from the Keels’ home on Old County Home Road in Nashville. Diana Keel was reported missing on March 7 by her 18-year-old daughter. The sheriff’s office has said they do not know why Lynn Keel did not report her missing first. He told investigators he had last seen her on Friday, March 8, when questioned on Saturday, March 9, the sheriff’s office said.
“He said that she leaves from time to time and will stay gone a couple of days,” Stone said. The sheriff said Keel appeared to be surprised when he learned his wife’s body had been found.
Diana Keel had also not reported to work for several days, her employer, a local hospital, said. Her car was still parked at her Nashville home and her cell phone and credit cards had not been used. “There’s been no use of her cell phone. We’ve reached out, tried to call her several times and can’t get anything,” Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone told reporters in the days before Diana was found dead.
Diana Keel’s body was found Tuesday by workers with the NCDOT in woods in Edgecombe County about two to three miles away from Leggett on Polk’s Hole Road, the sheriff’s office said. Stone said the body was decomposed and foul play was suspected from the beginning.
Stone said there was a “domestic issue” between Lynn and Diana Keel about a year ago.
“There had been concerns between the husband at one time and Mrs. Keel but there has been nothing lately that has been reported on that,” he told reporters at a press conference.
He said the previous incidents were “small domestic issues” and “communication problems.”
Stone said it was unusual for Keel to disappear. He said she never missed work and would keep in touch with family. When they hadn’t heard from her and when she didn’t show up at the hospital, her family grew concerned, according to Stone.
“She talks to other family members quite often, every day, texting, communicating, FaceTimes and then all of a sudden it stops. And there are no sightings of her since Friday. There’s no communications, there’s no track record of financials that she’s did. Her vehicle’s still in her yard and nobody’s heard from her,” Stone told reporters.
Diana Keel’s body was found about 30 miles from her home in Nashville.
2. He & Diana Keel Have a Son Together Along With Her 18-Year-Old Daughter, Who Was the One to Report Diana Missing, Police Say
Diana Keel has an 18-year-old daughter, who reported her missing, who is in college, according to her Facebook page. She also has a 10-year-old son with Lynn Keel. According to the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, the boy has been staying with his grandparents.
“The most difficult aspect of this case is a 10-year-old son and an 18-year-old daughter are without their mother,” Sheriff Keith Stone told WTVD-TV.
Diana’s daughter, Laura Keel, who is a student at UNC-Wilmington, posted on Twitter on March 10 with a plea for help in finding her mother. “… this is insane.. you see this happen to everyone else and you don’t think it’s every going to happen to you You guys, my mom is missing… if you see or hear anything please please let me know. And please please retweet this. Help me get the word out. Thank you.”
On March 14, Laura Keel retweeted a relative who said, “Hug your loved ones a little tighter and tell them how much you love them.”
Stone told reporters, “We’re just going to take it step-by-step and take our time with the investigation. I’ve heard nobody that knew her had anything negative to say about this woman. What a tragic event. Even more tragic we now have a 10-year-old without a mom.”
Stone added, “It’s very difficult, especially when I see life as it is and how fragile it is and now we have a kid without a mother. It’s very difficult. We have a lot of unanswered questions. That’s the reason we, as the Nash County Sheriff’s office, operate with compassion, honor and diligence.”
3. Lynn Keel’s First Wife Died in 2006 at Their Home in Nash County
Lynn Keel was previously married to Elizabeth Bess Edwards Keel. Lynn Keel’s first wife, Bess Keel, died at the age of 42 at their home in Nash County, according to an obituary published in the Rocky Mount Telegram.
“She was born on Jan. 25, 1963, in Nash County, the daughter of the late William Creth Edwards and Mary Elizabeth Hinton Edwards. She was a lifelong resident of Momeyer in Nash County and a graduate of N.C. Wesleyan College,” her obituary said. They were married Momeyer Baptist Church in May 1982, according to Rocky Mount Telegram archives. They did not have any children together, according to her obituary.
His first wife died of blunt force trauma to the head, but the manner of death was ruled to be accidental, WTVD-TV reports. The sheriff’s office said it was reported that Bess Keel fell and hit her head on concrete steps.
Deputies plan to re-investigate the death of his first wife. “We’re going to work all the leads on that and we’re going to go back and look at the information we had on the first incident reports,” Sheriff Keith Stone told WRAL-TV. “We’re going to talk with the District Attorney’s office. It’s something that we need to be looking at.”
It is not clear when Keel met his second wife, Diana Keel, and it is also not known when they were married.
Lynn Keel has worked as a real estate broker, according to newspaper archives. He has been arrested in the past on traffic charges, including reckless driving. Other details about his criminal record were not immediately available.
4. He Was ‘Controlling’ of His Wife & Wouldn’t Let Her be Alone With Anyone, Says a Friend Who Also Accused Lynn Keel of ‘Verbal & Emotional Abuse’
Diana Keel’s friend told WTVD-TV that Lynn Keel was “very controlling” and wouldn’t let his wife be alone with anyone.
“The verbal and emotional abuse was evident to me as a friend,” Taryn Edwards told the news station. “The atmosphere of the house was always really tense. He hovered a lot, never allowed her to be alone with anybody for extended periods of time.”
Edwards said she met Diana Keel in 2009 when they were both attending Momeyer Baptist Church. Edwards told the news station she was Keel’s best friend and had been trying to help her leave her husband. But she said he found out and made her end their relationship.
“She hugged me. I was crying. She told me not to cry that everything was going to be OK. When she walked out the door, that’s the last time I saw her,” Keel told the news station. “She was such a sweet, sweet friend.”
Keel’s mother also told WTVD-TV that her daughter had been trying to leave her husband. “Years ago, my daughter wanted to separate from (her husband) but she couldn’t because he threatened her,” Esperanza Prada told the news station.
According to the sheriff’s office, Lynn Keel told investigators his wife had left him before, but he expected her to come back.
5. Diana Keel, Who Was Originally From Colombia, Was a Registered Nurse & Began a New Job in the Wilson Medical Center Emergency Department in 2017
Diana Keel was originally from Bogota, Colombia, according to her Facebook page. Her cousin, Javier Guevera, told WTVD-TV that Diana moved to North Carolina for the American dream. “I can’t believe it,” Guevara told the news station. “I can’t believe it. It’s very, very sad.”
He tweeted after his cousin’s body was found, “It’s a nightmare…”
Pastor Daniel Parker told WTVD that Diana used to attend Christian Fellowship Church. “It is hard. It is hard to have normalcy right now because someone you know is missing. Someone you know is under investigation. It’s just a very concerning time. I’m praying for everybody involved,” Parker told the news station.
Diana Keel, a registered nurse, began working at Wilson Medical Center in 2017, according to her Facebook page. She worked as an emergency department technician, according to her Linkedin profile. She graduated from Nash Community College in 2017. Previously, Keel worked as a certified nursing assistant at Autumn Care of Nashville.
On March 3, 2019, in one of only a handful of tweets on her Twitter account, Diana Keel wrote, “So long sadness….happiness has replaced you.”