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Pinellas deputy killed in crash leaves behind six children, quadriplegic wife

Timmie and Richard N. Keyser married in 2007. He became her caregiver in 2008 after surgery left her paralyzed.

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Timmie and Richard N. Keyser married in 2007. He became her caregiver in 2008 after surgery left her paralyzed.

CLEARWATER — Pinellas Deputies Richard and Timmie Keyser were still newlyweds when a 2008 surgery left Timmie paralyzed.

Richard Keyser became his wife's primary caregiver, helping her to bathe and eat and brush her teeth.

In a bizarre accident Wednesday, Sgt. Richard Keyser, 44, was killed about 2:30 a.m. when his truck crashed through a perimeter fence and slipped into a retention pond at the Pinellas County Jail, said Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda.

Keyser was a detention deputy who had worked for the Sheriff's Office since 1995.

He was driving his own Nissan pickup and was not on duty at the time of the crash. He was last scheduled to work Sunday night, but sheriff's officials could not immediately confirm if he worked that last shift. Deputies did not know what Keyser was doing at the jail at that hour on his day off.

"Everyone is asking me why he was here," Barreda said. "At this point, we're trying to figure it out and come up with an answer to those questions."

A jail cook saw Keyser accelerating before the crash, Barreda said. The crash was in an area of the jail that is not accessible to the public.

Results of an autopsy conducted Wednesday were not released and toxicology tests are pending, Barreda said.

Richard and Timmie Keyser had six children between them, and Timmie's parents, also retirees of the Sheriff's Office, have helped the family since Timmie's accident and surgery.

Timmie Keyser, 41, declined a request for an interview. Reached at the Keysers' home Wednesday afternoon, Timmie's mother also declined to comment.

Timmie Keyser, who also was a Sheriff's Office sergeant at the jail, was seriously injured in March 2008 when she was riding as a passenger in a car driven by her husband and they were hit from behind by an on-duty sheriff's deputy on Curlew Road, said her attorney, Web Brennan.

Timmie Keyser became paralyzed a few months later after surgery to repair herniated discs went awry, Brennan said. She requires around-the-clock care, according to the website, which family friends set up to collect donations.

The couple filed suit against the Sheriff's Office in February 2009 and litigation is pending against the doctor who performed the surgery.

In court filings, Timmie Keyser said she had "incurred much anguish" over her condition. Her injuries and the effects of the subsequent surgery meant she had to leave her job, which "isolated me from great friends," she said.

Timmie said she relied on her husband and her mother, Gail, to take care of her basic needs. Timmie's disability also affected her husband, she said.

In court documents, she said Richard had lost weight, got limited sleep and missed "a lot of time at work which has been causing difficulties there."

Richard Keyser was "one of the kindest men I've ever known," and was very supportive of his wife, Brennan said.

"It's a horrible tragedy," Brennan said. "They were the original Brady Bunch. He had three children and she had three children. … They had met, dated and gotten married within a year of the accident."

The two were married in July 2007, according to court records. Richard Keyser served 18 years in the Army and National Guard and three years in the Navy Reserve. In 2004, he was deployed for seven months during the Iraq war, stationed primarily in Kuwait, Brennan said.

Carl Lucchi, who organizes donations for the family through the website, said he spoke with the family Wednesday morning, and everyone was waiting to hear more about the accident.

"They're watching the news," he said. "It's a sad situation."

Times staff writers Andy Boyle and Danny Valentine and Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

Pinellas deputy killed in crash leaves behind six children, quadriplegic wife 08/11/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 11, 2010 11:18pm]
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