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St. Petersburg drive-by shooter Donald Keehn, 88, gets clemency

Donald Keehn was convinced he'd die in prison.

In 2006, the 85-year-old St. Petersburg man was sentenced to five years in prison for a series of drive-by shootings in which he fired into the home of a neighbor who owed him money.

But the wheelchair-bound inmate, now 88, got a break Thursday when the Florida Board of Executive Clemency unanimously voted to commute his penalty to time served.

The panel, chaired by Gov. Charlie Crist, agreed to release Keehn — Florida's fourth-oldest prison inmate — after his lawyer promised that Keehn would move out of state. Keehn intends to live with his daughter in Joliet, Ill., where he once was a sheriff's deputy.

Keehn's arrest and sentencing were unusual because of his advanced age. At his sentencing hearing, Keehn cited his age and health as reasons a judge should spare him from prison.

That day, he wore a catheter and an adult diaper under checkered pants. He said he suffered from prostate cancer, heart problems and depression.

Prosecutor Aaron Slavin pushed for five years in prison, and Judge Doug Baird agreed.

Before being led off by deputies, Keehn glared at Slavin and said: "I hope you're happy!"

Slavin said Thursday he stands by his handling of the case, though he acknowledged he took some flak for pushing for prison. "You still can't take a gun and shoot someone's house," said Slavin, who is now in private practice. "Age is still not a valid or legal defense."

Keehn had never been in trouble with the law until 2005, when he went "off the rails," said his lawyer, David Weisbrod.

Five times over a five-month period, Keehn wheeled his silver Mercury Grand Marquis slowly through the Silver Lake Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg and shot at the mobile home of a 66-year-old neighbor. His gun was a .22-caliber pistol he once used as a deputy.

It was his way of getting back at Virginia "Missy" Prittslawton, to whom he had loaned about $7,000. Keehn had been trying to get the money back for years.

He sued Prittslawton in 2003 after she refused to repay him. He received an order that she repay part of the money. She wrote him a check that bounced.

Prittslawton, who owed money to several neighbors and served nearly four years in prison in Arizona for theft, was at home each time the shots were fired. One of the bullets lodged in the mattress where she slept.

"The bottom line is he got no relief and then acted out," his lawyer said.

Prittslawton, who could not be reached for comment Thursday, wasn't injured, but the shootings left her frightened.

Keehn no longer can drive and does not possess a firearm, Weisbrod told the panel. He said Keehn has renal and congestive heart failure, diabetes, and skin and prostate cancer. He's been held at the prison system's Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler, but has spent some time in the hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

St. Petersburg drive-by shooter Donald Keehn, 88, gets clemency 03/12/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 13, 2009 8:08am]
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