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Tampa jury ponders murder case after ice cream man waives closing argument

Michael Keetley is accused of killing two men and wounding four others while trying to avenge being robbed in his ice cream truck.
Michael Keetley is brought into the courtroom during his murder trial Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 in Tampa. Keetley is the former ice cream truck driver who is accused of shooting a group of men in 2010. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

TAMPA — With his freedom on the line, former ice cream man Michael Keetley wanted to stay quiet.

He instructed his attorney, Lyann Goudie, to refrain from giving a closing argument in his defense in his double murder trial Thursday, waiving her final chance to address the jury directly.

“He knows that I am completely prepared to do this closing argument,” Goudie told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher C. Sabella. “And he has instructed me not to.”

The decision seemed to surprise the judge, who asked Keetley a series of questions to ensure his instruction to his attorneys to stand down wasn’t being made under duress. Was he being forced or threatened into this? Was he under the influence of drugs or alcohol?

“That is your decision?”

“That is my decision,” answered Keetley, who sat with his chin in his hand, a brown cardigan sweater slung over his shoulders and his feet chained together underneath the defense table.

That decision marked the end of 11 days of testimony and evidence. Keetley, 49, is accused of killing brothers Juan and Sergio Guitron and injuring four others in 2010. He is being tried on two counts of first-degree murder and four counts of attempted murder.

By 4:30 p.m., after about five hours of deliberation, jurors asked to go home for the evening, telling the judge that “several of the jurors wish to reflect upon the case." The judge obliged, sending them home until Friday morning. If they find Keetley guilty of murder, he will face an automatic life sentence.

Hillsborough Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella presides over the murder trial of Michael Keetley, the former ice cream truck driver accused of shooting a group of men in 2010 in Ruskin. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

Keetley was once an ice cream man who drove his purple truck through southeast Hillsborough County neighborhoods. In January 2010, someone robbed him, getting away with $12, and shot him four times, leaving him permanently disabled.

During his closing argument, Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner told the jury of the anguish Keetley felt after his attack. His injuries required surgery and therapy. He was forced to move back in with his parents and slept in a hospital bed in the dining room. Pruner said Keetley told a detective that “he wished every day that the people who did this would be brought to justice.”

But for months the case languished and nobody was arrested. Pruner told jurors that Keetley turned into a vigilante, seeking a man called “Creep” who Keetley believed was responsible. Keetley’s hunt for Creep, Pruner said, brought him to a Ruskin front porch early Thanksgiving morning, where he asked a group of men for identification before gunning them down.

Pruner also offered jurors an explanation for a discrepancy in the ballistics evidence: The bullet casings were ejected from a Glock handgun, but the bullets were not fired from a Glock barrel. Pruner said Keetley may have altered the gun. He also said the casings and bullets found at the shooting scene in Ruskin matched the ballistics of rounds found on Keetley’s property.

Michael Keetley, right, in court with defense attorney Brian Gonzalez. Keetley is a former ice cream truck driver accused of shooting a group of men in 2010 in Ruskin. [DIRK SHADD | Times]

“I anticipate you’ll hear from the defense that that tells you the ballistics assessment… is wrong, it doesn’t make sense," Pruner said. “It absolutely makes sense, it’s very easy to swap out the barrel.”

Pruner’s closing argument took only about 10 minutes. He told jurors he would have more to say during his rebuttal.

But Keetley’s waiver of his closing argument meant Pruner had no chance to rebut.