Advertisement
  1. News

Man accused of holding five captive in Clearwater home

Jeffrey Keowin was diagnosed with a personality disorder as a boy, his mother says.
Published Jan. 22, 2014

CLEARWATER — While Jeffrey Keowin slept, his victims slipped out of the Osceola Avenue home where authorities say he held them captive.

At a neighbor's house, one of them called police. After officers arrived Jan. 13 at 1412 N Osceola Ave., the five victims, some mentally disabled and others underage, told stories of violence, sexual abuse and human trafficking that spanned two states, Clearwater police said.

Keowin, 37, was arrested later Jan. 13 on five counts of false imprisonment, two counts of sexual battery and one count of human trafficking.

"He was in charge of every aspect of their lives," said Clearwater police spokesman Rob Shaw.

The victims are a 38-year-old woman and her 17-year-old son, a 51-year-old woman and her 20-year-old son, and a 17-year-old girl. Police said the last three are mentally disabled.

According to police, Keowin met the victims in his hometown, Peru, Ind. Some had been staying with him for as long as nine months, while others had only been with him for a few weeks.

Keowin and his victims moved between Peru and Clearwater several times, and he sometimes placed the victims in the back of a U-Haul truck, police said. They moved to Clearwater early last year and then back to Peru in April. This month, they returned to Clearwater.

But even here, they stayed on the move, living in three different homes just this month, including 214 Waverly Way, where Keowin sexually assaulted the 20-year-old disabled man and the 17-year-old girl between Jan. 2 and Jan. 5, according to police.

They moved into the house on Osceola Avenue the weekend before Keowin's arrest, neighbors said.

According to police, Keowin controlled the victims' money, which included government benefits, and did not allow them access to it. Shaw said Keowin also forbade them to venture outside without him or call their loved ones. Keowin is also accused of slapping, punching and kicking the victims.

Detectives said the victims had "limited access" to food and other necessities and were denied medical treatment for diabetes and psychological conditions.

According to an arrest affidavit, Keowin forced the 38-year-old woman into prostitution and drove her to locations throughout Clearwater and Peru, where she would meet with men and Keowin would collect the payments.

The woman told detectives Keowin often beat her and threatened to call the Florida Department of Children and Families to say she was abusing her son. She was "fearful of the continual physical beatings and her son's welfare," according to an arrest affidavit.

Keowin tried to force two of his other victims into prostitution, but it was "unknown if he was successful," Shaw said.

The victims are staying with a friend in Clearwater and may return to Indiana, Shaw said Tuesday.

Keowin has no prior criminal record in Florida, state records show.

Police in Peru said they have had extensive contact with him over the years, but he has never been arrested.

Gracie Nice, Keowin's mother, said her son was diagnosed with split personality disorder as a boy and stopped taking his medications as he got older because he was concerned about side effects.

"One time, he can be very nice and the next time he can be hell on wheels, is how that doctor explained it to me," she said.

Nice, who lives in Peru, said she doesn't believe the allegations against her son, adding he has known some of his alleged victims for years.

"Jeff can be very demanding and a problem child. But I do not believe Jeff would do anything to harm those people like that," she said.

"I don't believe why they got back down there and told all these damn lies."

Shaw said additional charges related to Keowin's financial control over his victims are expected.

Keowin was booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he remained Tuesday in lieu of $165,000 bail.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to call Clearwater police at (727) 562-4242.

Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Laura C. Morel can be reached at lmorel@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Meaghan Leto, (center facing street), a speech therapist from Twin Lakes Elementary, protests over pay with the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association outside of a School Board meeting.
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Ryan Cummings, 23, left, and Alex Frey, 25, both of Tampa, rent Spin electric scooters from a corral located along Zack Street in May. St. Petersburg hopes to soon launch it's own scooter program. CHRIS URSO  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The city wants to avoid other cities’ mistakes. Scooters will not be allowed on sidewalks and must be parked in designated corrals.
  3. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is hoping to secure a $21.8 million federal grant to help pay for a bus rapid transit line connecting downtown St. Petersburg and the beaches. St. Petersburg City  Council approved an interlocal agreement Thursday supporting the project. ALESSANDRA DA PRA | Times
    Pinellas transit officials hope the project will get a federal grant in 2020. However, St. Pete Beach and South Pasadena still oppose it.
  4. Marissa Mowry, 28, sits in a Hillsborough County courtroom court before her sentencing hearing Thursday. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting a boy when he was 11-years-old. She was his former nanny, and became pregnant with his child. Photo courtesy of WTVT-Fox 13
    Marissa Mowry was 22 when she first assaulted an 11-year-old boy. Now he’s a teenager raising a son, and she was classified as a sexual predator.
  5. The tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico that’s projected to strengthen as it approaches Florida could put a crimp ― or much worse ― in Tampa Bay’s weekend plans. National Hurricane Center
    The National Weather Service warns that the Gulf of Mexico disturbance could strengthen and bring wind, rain and possibly tornadoes to the bay area.
  6. Pat Frank, at a 2016 candidate debate with then-challenger Kevin Beckner. She won. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
    From school board to state lawmaker to clerk of courts, she just keeps on going, Sue Carlton writes.
  7. Researchers from the University of Central Florida and International innovation company, Imec have developed a camera that uses specific wavelength of light to easily find pythons in habitat where they are typically well camouflaged. 
 Imec
    University of Central Florida researchers worked with Imec to develop the cameras.
  8. Pasco County Sheriff's deputies lead three teenagers from a Wesley Chapel Publix store after responding to reports that the boys had been showing off handguns there in a Snapchat video. PASCO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    The three Pinellas boys were apprehended while they were still walking the aisles of the Wesley Chapel store.
  9. The 59-year-old pastor was arrested Oct. 2 after a young woman told investigators he began abusing her in 2014 when she was 14 and he was senior minister at the First Congregational Church of Winter Park. Orange County Sheriff's Office via AP
    Rev. Bryan Fulwider was released Wednesday night after posting a $700,000 bond.
  10. Sam's Club fulfillment center manager Nick Barbieri explains to a shopper how the new Scan & Go shop works at 5135 S Dale Mabry Highway. SARA DINATALE  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The shuttered store has been reinvented and debuted to the community.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement