Maury Griffith prides himself as the kind of man who engages neighbors in conversation.
"The wife calls me ‘The Mayor,’" he said. "That’s because I know everybody."
But there was one person in the Valencia Gardens subdivision of Land O’ Lakes that the gregarious Griffith had not been able to crack: Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy Kirk Keithley, who took his own life Sept. 24 after first killing his wife.
"He seemed shy and non-social," Griffith said.
The two lived across the street from each other for five years, until the Keithleys left in February, moving a few miles away with four children.
Kirk Keithley’s unfriendliness was one of a few small signs, perhaps imperceptible without the aid of hindsight, that not all was happy at the tan and gray home at 22647 Cliffside Way.
The signs took on greater meaning as news spread of the murder-suicide that claimed the lives of Samantha Keithley, 33, and her husband, 39. Griffith and others searched their memories for answers and found few.
"On Facebook, he would post how much he loves his wife," Griffith said, "and she would post how much she loved her husband."
She always had a smile, Griffith said of Samantha.
He was a retired computer programer who once worked inside CIA headquarters.
He didn’t mind pitching in when she needed a hand, and the two became good friends.
Once, she had a basketball hoop stand too big for the trash collectors. He cut it up for her.
They talked often, but there was a noticeable chill whenever her husband entered the picture.
"She was very friendly to me unless Kirk was around, then she would just say hello or wave," he said. "I got the impression that he was jealous and did not want her to talk to other men."
"I’m 77," he said. "Old enough to be her grandfather."
People who lived next door to the Keithleys considered them to be good but distant neighbors.
"We were never really close but she was always sweet and always running after her little one, who would run over to my yard," Tiffanie Klein wrote on Facebook.
She had noticed the boys playing hockey in the driveway, sometimes with the dad. She saw that the mom had her hands full once the youngest started walking.
"It just absolutely breaks my heart that he took away so much from those children and scarred them," Klein wrote.
Not everyone in Valencia Gardens was enamored of the Keithley family.
Pasco County Animal Services records show that the family was visited twice after anonymous complaints about the condition of their two dogs. But a family veterinarian vouched for the animals’ care, attributing one’s wasted frame to illness.
"I saw the dogs," Griffith concurred. "They took care of them. Samantha used to bring steaks home from work."
Still, the issue sparked a neighborhood spat, and the Keithleys "went ballistic," Griffith said.
Griffith said he never passed up an opportunity to get Kirk Keithley to open up.
He recalled visiting a neighborhood playground with his son-in-law, a deputy from Georgia. Griffith tried to introduce the two, hoping that the presence of another law enforcement officer might thaw his neighbor.
"He just turned his back and ignored us," Griffith said.
Al Wise, 59, said he was moving into the neighborhood as the Keithleys were moving out.
Wise, a plumbing contractor, said that he tried to introduce himself to Keithley.
"He never spoke back," Wise said. "He looked right through me. I thought that was rude of him. I was quite shocked that he burned a hole through me like I was irritating him."
In retrospect, he was glad Keithley moved out.
"I don’t want a neighbor like that," Wise said.
Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman