Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Murder victim, 76, confided fear of husband, 40

Joseph Wayne Keeler, 40, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Lisa, 76.

Joseph Wayne Keeler, 40, faces a charge of first-degree murder in the death of his wife, Lisa, 76.

LARGO — For years, Rita "Lisa" Keeler and her husband, Joseph, seemed like a happy couple, despite a 36-year age difference.

But in recent years, according to Joseph Keeler's mother, Lisa Keeler's poor health and his deteriorating mental state took a toll on their relationship.

The downward spiral culminated this week when the 76-year-old woman was found dead in her mobile home. She died of multiple cuts to her head and neck, Largo police say.

Joseph Wayne Keeler, 40, was arrested early Friday on a first-degree murder charge. He admitted responsibility, and blood inside the home at 614 Woodrow Ave. NW linked him to the crime, police say.

For the past year, Joseph Keeler's mother, Judy Mettes, had checked on the couple from her home in Lafayette, Ind. Lisa Keeler confided to Mettes that she was afraid of her husband. Mettes tried to help and get her son into treatment.

He refused, and Lisa Keeler didn't want Mettes to press the issue.

"She wanted to keep peace in the family," Mettes said.

But Lisa Keeler confided an incident that may have foreshadowed her death.

"She told me Joe was running around one time through the house with a knife," said Mettes, 60, who came to visit in July.

And he told her he heard voices.

"One voice was telling him to go to work and another would tell him he had a job," she said. He wasn't working, but she thinks he used to have a job cleaning an office.

Mettes also said her son would come and go.

"My son had left her probably a year ago. The power was shut off," she said.

Mettes had also called the police months earlier to check on her son, who didn't have a phone. She had sent letters and he hadn't responded.

Over the past year and half, Largo officers checked up on Lisa Keeler and her husband several times. They also dropped off food and forms for social services.

Almost every morning, Joseph Keeler hung out on his porch or on the benches near the mail slots at the park, residents said. He wasn't there Wednesday, the day Lisa Keeler's body was found, said Dennis Fahey, 46, the park maintenance man.

Friday, neighbors at Blue Skies Mobile Home Park said they were relieved there was an arrest. But they were horrified that such a violent crime could take place in their park.

"It's terrifying to know that somebody next door could be like this," said Tanisha Hopewell, 26. "I'm sure it's going to haunt me."

Mettes said she didn't think Lisa Keeler had any living relatives. She was born in Finland and was close to her brother, who died a couple of years ago, she said.

The couple had met more than two decades ago, after Joseph Keeler came to the area from Indiana and was living on the beach.

"In her younger days, she was pretty," Mettes said.

Lisa asked Joseph Keeler to move in with her, Mettes said.

They decided to get married.

"She took him on vacations. She bought him cars. She had money when she married him." Mettes said. "But living with him used it up."

Two years ago, Lisa Keeler had a heart attack, Mettes said.

"He started taking her pain pills," she said. "When I got down there, he was skinny. He'd lost a lot of weight."

Lisa Keeler got around with a scooter or a cane.

"She wasn't able to do stuff she used to do," Mettes said.

In June, the couple celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

"Lisa was a sweetheart," Mettes said. "She just loved my son to death."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4155.

Murder victim, 76, confided fear of husband, 40 08/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 2:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

  2. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.
  3. Study: Pollution kills 9 million a year, costs $4.6 trillion


    NEW DELHI — Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

    New Delhi’s landmark India Gate, a war memorial, is engulfed in morning smog on Friday.
  4. Quarterback Jameis Winston will start Sunday for the Bucs


    TAMPA — Jameis Winston hadn't thrown in practice since he injured his right shoulder in Sunday's loss at Arizona, and with that uncertainty, a wide line of TV cameras and reporters' cellphones were all out Friday morning, recording the moment as Winston tested his shoulder with his first throws early in …

    Despite a sore shoulder, Jameis Winston will be making his 38th consecutive start since being drafted first overall in 2015.
  5. Paul Rodgers replacing ZZ Top on Ribfest 2017 lineup


    In looking to replace the ailing ZZ Top, Ribfest found some good company in Bad Company.

    Paul Rodgers