A Mendocino County criminal grand jury has indicted Dr. Peter Keegan for the murder of his wife, Susan Keegan.
The startling news was revealed Thursday afternoon with the posting of Friday's court calendar showing that Keegan will be arraigned at 9am Friday morning in Department B before Judge Ann Moorman.
Mrs. Keegan was found dead in the couple's South Ukiah home on November 10, 2010. Peter Keegan, a long-time Ukiah general practitioner whose patients were a virtual Who's Who of liberal Ukiah, said his wife of thirty years, and the mother of the couple's two sons, had fallen in the bathroom adjoining her bedroom and struck her head with sufficient force to kill herself. Keegan told police his wife had been under the combined influence of alcohol and prescription drugs.
Family and friends of Mrs. Keegan were immediately suspicious.
DA David Eyster, elected soon after Mrs. Keegan's improbable death, immediately began a thorough re-investigation of the case. The results of that investigation were presented to a specially convened grand jury just this week by prosecutor Tim Stoen; the grand jury agreed that Dr. Keegan should be indicted for murder.
This case will reverberate throughout Mendocino County and beyond with its startlingly unique cast of characters, beginning with the Harvard-educated Keegan prosecuted by the former consiglieri for the People’s Temple, Tim Stoen. Defending Keegan is Sonoma County's go-to criminal defense attorney, the formidable Chris Andrian.
Peter Keegan is said to be terminally ill with cancer while prosecutor Stoen, 80, has recently undergone brain surgery.
Keegan, something of a social and professional pariah since the death of his wife, has functioned as a part-time doctor with the Indian Health Clinic in Covelo.
Prominent Ukiah attorney, Norm Rosen, who'd functioned as the Keegans' marriage counselor, asked for his files on his work with the Keegans, claimed attorney-client confidentiality exempted him from testifying to Peter Keegan’s explosive temper. A search warrant of Rosen's office revealed that Rosen was not the couple's attorney but merely a counselor.
The DA's office refused comment Thursday afternoon on the Keegan matter, but did confirm it is on Friday's court calendar.
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Was Susan Keegan Murdered A Year Ago?
(AVA, November of 2011)
by Bruce Anderson
Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster said, “No comment” last week when he was asked if the investigation into the improbable death of Susan Keegan a year ago was ongoing. Eyster's terse refusal to discuss the status of the case seems to mean that Mrs. Keegan's unlikely end is indeed a matter of continuing attention by law enforcement. Additional evidence of an ongoing investigation occurred on June 15th of this year (2011) when the Keegan home was subjected to a forensics raid. The results of the June visit by a team that included outside specialists are not known, but the fact that there was enough preliminary evidence that Mrs. Keegan may not have died the way her husband said she died satisfied a judge that there were grounds for an additional search of the home at 120 Whitmore.
Soon after his wife's death, Dr. Peter Keegan hired the formidable Ukiah criminal defense attorney, Keith Faulder.
One of the Ukiah Valley’s most active and popular figures, Mrs. Keegan was a vivacious and active 55 years old when she was found dead in the bathroom of her Whitmore Lane home in South Ukiah.
The shock of the terrible news had no sooner ricocheted through the Ukiah Valley than a unanimous disbelief set in: Susan Keegan could not have died the way she was said to have died.
By noon Thursday, on the perfect late fall day of November 11th, the most prevalent story of Mrs. Keegan's death sometime late the previous night or early on the 11th, went like this:
“Susan was drunk and on drugs when she fell in her bathroom, hit her head and died. Her husband, Dr. Peter Keegan, found her about 7:00 in the morning.”
According to sources close to the investigation, a neatly arrayed tableau of the painkiller medication Vicodin, a couple of marijuana roaches and a glass of whiskey were found on Mrs. Keegan’s nightstand. The fatal injury was described as “blunt force trauma to the head.”
Mrs. Keegan had never been seen drunk or seriously impaired, although her circle of close friends knew she smoked marijuana and enjoyed the occasional cocktail. As active as she was in the small community of Ukiah someone certainly would have noticed the telltale signs of uncontrolled substance use — the permanently flushed face and broken veins of hard drinking, the missed appointments, whole days spent incommunicado. Instead, Susan’s friends and family saw the same steady, reliable, prudent woman they’d always seen, rather more matronly in her middle age, but a person whose personal behavior was unchanged over the years.
The only person who would say that Susan Keegan was a clandestine substance abuser was her husband, and he’d only begun saying that to his wife’s best friends and family about the same time he’d told Susan that he wanted out of their 32 years of marriage.
Which was early in October of 2010.
There hadn’t been a word from the doctor about Mrs. Keegan’s sudden descent into dipsomania and indiscriminate pill popping until a month before the doctor found her dead in their shared home. The couple had traveled together that summer, and the people they visited saw nothing amiss in their relationship. Prior to October, the doctor had made no mention of his wife’s alleged dependence on opiates.
Both Keegans were well known in Ukiah, so well known you could say that they were synonymous with the town, the proverbial pillars come to life. Parents of two grown sons, the Keegans had lived in Ukiah for many years. Dr. Keegan had functioned as family doctor “to half the town one time or another,” as a former patient put it, while his wife Susan fashioned a social and professional life that ranged from work as a newspaper reporter, English teacher at Mendocino College, head of the local American Cancer Society, to after-hours commitments to a book club, a singing group, and the area's amateur theater troupes.
In early October, Mrs. Keegan's husband of 32 years had told his wife he wanted a divorce. The demand had surprised Mrs. Keegan, but it hadn't plunged her into the immobilized depression that often paralyzes a spouse caught unawares. Susan wasn’t one for self-pity. She immediately began to plan a new life for herself.
Susan had written a friend, “Things have been bad here, at least for me. It is hard to have a choice made for you, especially one as big as this, and with what seems to me to be no warning.”
Dr. Keegan had had a heart attack the year before his surprise announcement that he wanted out of his marriage. Mrs. Keegan had pushed him to get medical care and urged him to make some lifestyle changes; the doctor told friends he was grateful for his wife's help and support. But Susan had also told her closest friends that he could be moody, and the couple’s marriage had survived a rough patch of marital turbulence a decade prior. The heart attack seemed to remind Peter of his mortality, and his behavior became more erratic in ways described by the catch phrase “mid-life crisis.” By the last month of Susan’s life, the doctor had become impossible.
Susan told a friend, “Much venom has come my way…. He has these brain stutters from time to time, and this feels very like the others. They are not fun.”
Below are links to previous AVA stories on the Keegan affair followed by a time-line of events:
- The Improbable Death Of Susan Keegan (February 25, 2011)
- Susan Keegan Was Murdered (August 22, 2012)
KEEGAN CASE TIMELINE
November 11, 2010
Susan Keegan reported dead at her Ukiah home by her husband, Dr. Peter Keegan.
November 11, 2010
Family and friends call Sheriff’s office and explain why death should be treated as suspicious.
November 13, 2010 (approx.)
Body released to husband and cremated shortly afterward.
Fall 2010, Winter/Spring 2011
Family and friends begin calling the Sheriff’s office and the DA’s office urging a full investigation.
Search warrant executed at Keegan home.
Summer/Fall 2011 - Winter/Spring 2012
Family and friends continue to call DA's office inquiring about the status of the investigation. DA tells the public the case is “under investigation"
Susan Keegan’s death certificate officially changed to “Homicide.” Sheriff's office tells media "there is a person of interest."
Family and friends continue to call DA's office inquiring about the status of the investigation. DA again tells the public the case is “under investigation."
Second search warrant executed at Keegan home. Family and friends continue to call DA's office inquiring about the status of the investigation.