Previously on Death Row and now in prison for life, Kevin Keith is a convicted triple-murderer. But is he guilty? Kim Kardashian doesn’t think so, and neither does a whole movement trying to free him. A group that includes his brother, a public defender, a young investigative reporter, documentary filmmakers, a social media movement and now, Kardashian.
Supporters, lawyers and investigators claim he was framed by police.
The Justice For Kevin Keith website says the story behind the triple murder is a “story filled with drug busts, police cover ups, a love triangle between a cop and his confidential informant and how the State of Ohio tried to use the death penalty to make the story go away.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Triple Murder in Bucyrus, Ohio in 1994 & Kevin Keith’s Arrest
According to court documents, in late January of 1994, after an informant tip-off, Kevin Keith and a number of other people were arrested by Bucyrus, Ohio police for dealing drugs. The informant was a person by the name of Rudel Chatman.
A few weeks later, Marichell Chatnian, her 7-year-old daughter, Marchae, and Marichell’s aunt, Linda Chatman, were shot to death in their apartment. Richard Warren, Marichell’s boyfriend, and her young cousins, Quanita and Quinton Reeves, were also shot, but all three survived. Everyone in the house was related to informant Chatman except Warren. Police reportedly assumed it was a payback killing and landed on Keith as a suspect.
Lawyers for Keith on his many appeals have said since the beginning his name was “planted” and that the subsequent witness identification’s of Keith were flawed at best and at worst it turned out, flat-out wrong. Police claimed that Warren named Keith right after the shooting; court documents read that he did not name Keith, as was testified to by a number of state witnesses. But he would later pick his face out of a paper line-up presented to him in the hospital where he was recovering from a gunshot wound when the police chief gave him “the names of four different ‘Kevins,'” court documents show.
The state’s case also included testimony from a nurse that was reported to have cared for Warren. The police testified that nurse Amy Gimmets said that Warren had given her the name ‘Kevin,’ but it turns out there was no nurse named Amy Gimmets and his actual nurse was never told who the killer was. Paramedics and other first responders testified that the surviving victims did not name the killer.
The killer wore a mask and was a “very large” man. Keith’s half-brother Karie Walker fit that description, was new to the apartment complex and some people told police Walker was the very large man they reported seeing.
But Warren would end up testifying that the name Kevin was not only brought up, the killer was invited into the apartment by victim Chatman, was wearing a mask which may have been a turtleneck shirt pulled over his face, and was called ‘Kevin by Chatman. And Warren testified that ‘Kevin’ said before shooting the family, “Well, you should have thought about
this before your brother started ratting on people.”
But neither Quinton or Quanita Reeves identified Keith as the killer. Quanita said she was shot by her “daddy’s friend, Bruce,” not Keith. And “unlike Warren, she never claimed to have heard the name ‘Kevin.'” At the time, Reeves’ father and brothers Bruce and Rodney Melton were facing charges related to a series of pharmacy break-ins and burglaries across Ohio. Investigators say Rodney Melton was the likely suspect in the Chatman murders but that was ignored by local police.
So despite there being no physical evidence tying him to the crime, a number of other possible suspects, alibi testimony from three people, and other state testimony, deemed unreliable and false his lawyers said, Keith was convicted by an all-white jury.
2. Keith was Convicted & Sentenced to Death. His Brother Charles Was Convinced of His Innocence & Started His Own Investigation
Keith’s lawyers contend there was never any evidence to connect Keith to the murders but a jury convicted him anyway and sentenced him to die. He spent years studying the legal system and digging. And the name Melton was at the bottom.
It turns out that Melton’s family had reached out to Keith’s lawyers to say their family member was guilty of the Chatman murders and, that he “killed a German storekeeper, a jewelry store owner, two men in Detroit and two men in Georgia and feels he is involved in this case …Rodney ‘is in on the killings,'” the relative said adding that “if somebody came forward then other people would not be killed because Rodney ‘would be out in two or three years and continue to kill.’ This was listened to in court without the jury present. “However the court reconvened shortly thereafter and continued with the trial without mentioning anything about this matter.”
Charles Keith did not give up and in 2007, 13 years after his brother was convicted, he met with Assistant Ohio State Public Defender in Death Penalty Division Rachel Troutman. She’s been on the case since.
3. Thirteen Days Before His Scheduled Execution, Then-Ohio Governor Commuted His Sentence to Life Without Parole. He’s Filed Appeal After Appeal
In 2010, armed with a petition signed by 10,000 and “using all of the new evidence that they collected,” Troutman presented the case to then-Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.
“After looking through the case,” Strickland spared his life and commuted his sentence to life without parole just 13 days before his scheduled execution.
Keith is currently at Marion Correctional serving a life sentence.
4. In May of 2018, Charles Keith Went on the The Breakfast Club
Filmmakers followed the case as lawyers prepared to take an appeal for a new trial to the Supreme Court. Then Charles Keith and filmmaker Lori Rothschild Ansaldi appeared on The Breakfast Club and tips came “out of the woodwork,” crime reporter Eric Sandy said at the time.
What Keith said, and Ansaldi said they have the documents to show, that there was an alleged police cover-up, the killing was allegedly a botched hit on the informant, and even more egregious accusations; that cops were involved in the pharmacy robberies.
5. Keith Remains in Prison, but Now Kim Kardashian Is Involved
With Kim Kardashian’s social media posts and advocacy, the case is now getting global attention.
“Kevin Keith was convicted of a triple homicide back in 1994 in Ohio and was sentenced to death. I heard about Kevin Keith’s case last year & the more I learn about it, the more I believe the world needs to hear what happened to him! He was on death row & came within days of execution before the governor of Ohio commuted his sentence to life w/o parole,” she wrote.
Filmmaker Ansaldi took to Facebook.
Kardashian said, “I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Keith through a video visit & was so impressed w/ the amazing programs he created in prison to help others inside better themselves! So much evidence has been uncovered proving Kevin’s innocence. I hope justice is served soon & he is released.”
But not everyone agrees.
“He opened fired and killed three ppl and hurt others….. i hope Kevin Keith rotts in prison.”