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After almost 11 years, Ruskin ice cream man’s murder case gets new trial date

Michael Keetley’s first trial for a 2010 double homicide ended with a hung jury.
Michael Keetley sits in court during his trial in February 2020. A jury deadlocked on whether he was guilty. He will go to trial again next year.
Michael Keetley sits in court during his trial in February 2020. A jury deadlocked on whether he was guilty. He will go to trial again next year. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Aug. 20, 2021|Updated Aug. 20, 2021

TAMPA — The long-running case of Michael Keetley keeps getting longer.

The former Hillsborough ice cream man has lingered in jail now for 3,914 days — a decade since the state accused him of killing two men and wounding four others in a Ruskin shooting spree.

A conglomeration of complex legal matters added years to the case. When Keetley finally saw a jury in February 2020, the 12-person panel couldn’t agree whether he was guilty, causing a mistrial.

The state is poised to try again. But in 18 months since the first trial, lawyers have departed and new faces have appeared as the case has taken unexpected turns.

On Friday, a judge set a new trial date for June of 2022. It’s the soonest that the court and the case’s new lawyers can be ready.

By that time, Keetley will have been jailed for close to 12 years.

In a statement, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said his office will continue to prosecute the case as long as it takes.

“This is a difficult case, and it’s even more difficult a decade later,” Warren said, “but we won’t just let this man get away with murder.”

The crime occurred early Thanksgiving morning in 2010, when a dark van rolled up beside a house on Ocean Mist Court in Ruskin. As a group of men chatted and played cards on the porch, a man got out of the van wearing a shirt that said “police” or “sheriff.” He held a long gun. He made the men get on the ground. Then, he began shooting.

Brothers Juan and Sergio Guitron, who were known as “Magic” and “Spider,” were killed. Four others were injured.

Hillsborough sheriff’s investigators came to suspect Keetley. Months earlier, he had been the victim of an armed robbery and was shot several times while selling frozen treats in southeast Hillsborough County. The state’s theory was that of a man on a mission of vengeance, that Keetley mistakenly believed the victims were connected to the robbery.

Keetley, 50, has maintained his innocence. His longtime attorney, Lyann Goudie, shepherded his defense for nine years, identifying inconsistencies in the ballistic evidence, and picking away at problems with eyewitness accounts of the shooting, among other issues in the largely circumstantial case.

After the mistrial, a judge set Keetley’s retrial for May 2020. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which put jury trials statewide on pause.

In the interim, attorney Goudie became a judge. Attorney DeeAnn Athan, of the Tampa firm of Escobar & Associates, took over the defense, but she died unexpectedly in May from cancer.

Attorney John Grant, a former public defender who recently joined the Escobar firm, will now handle the defense. The work ahead of him includes a review of 10 years worth of pretrial litigation and transcripts of the three-week trial.

“There’s a lot here,” Grant told Circuit Judge Christopher Sabella in court Friday. “I don’t know that I can realistically be ready before April of 2022.”

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At the same time, two of the three prosecutors from the first trial, Jay Pruner and Ada Carmona, are set to retire. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Doherty will lead the new prosecution team. She told the judge Friday that they understand the defense’s need for time to prepare, but wanted a definite trial date.

The judge first suggested August 2022. Grant said Keetley would like the case to conclude sooner.

Judge Sabella set aside four weeks beginning June 20, 2022.

The judge encouraged both sides to consider the possibility of resolving the case short of another trial, noting that 12 jurors in the first trial could not agree on a verdict.

“That’s always an opportunity, in my opinion, for possible negotiations,” the judge said.


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