Friday, April 13, 2007
By Larry Keller
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 13, 2007
UPDATED: 5:12 p.m. April 13, 2007
Fred Keller listened intently at his sentencing today as his ex-wife's family tearfully described the loss they suffered because he murdered their sister, their daughter. The normally stoic Keller even dabbed his eyes a few times.
Then the Palm Beach millionaire shuffled to the witness stand in his jailhouse blues and leg chains. He immediately shocked the family, blaming Rosemarie Keller's brother, Wolfgang Keil, for her death. Then he ripped the entire Keil family as greedy opportunists.
"Wolfgang will carry this burden of accidentally shooting his sister and killing her, and lying about it," Keller declared. "Your lies caused the conviction of an innocent person."
Rosemarie Keller's family "wants $25 million to make all this go away," Keller continued. "That's Fred's money," he said, meaning his 12-year-old son, Fred Jr. "Do you think you've earned that? Most of you have not worked for years, if at all."
Family members quietly gasped as Keller continued his diatribe. When he finished, prosecutor Andy Slater spoke: "This defendant has given lack of remorse new meaning in this courtroom."
Circuit Judge Edward Garrison then sentenced Keller, 72, to two consecutive life terms in prison - one for killing his fifth ex-wife in November 2003, and one for attempting to kill Wolfgang Keil in the same incident.
In another wrinkle to an already extraordinary hearing, Garrison ordered Keller to pay his prosecutors and jailers $252,604 in restitution for costs they incurred in his case. Murder defendants often pay restitution, but seldom so much. Keller's fortune has been estimated as high as $100 million.
Another wealthy felon, Ronald Samuels, was ordered in January to pay $308,000 in restitution for hiring hit men to kill his ex-wife, who was left a quadriplegic.
"Most murder defendants are indigent or near-indigent," Slater said. "It's certainly not the usual."
And Keller's restitution tab could soar much higher. Under Florida law, defendants convicted of a capital felony can be ordered to pay $250,000 in future incarceration costs. Slater wants Garrison to do just that.
Defense attorney Doug Duncan is opposed. Given Keller's age and capricious health, that would be "an unjust windfall to the state," he said.
Garrison will rule later on that, and on whether to order Keller to pay restitution to Keil for his injuries and Keller's son for the loss of his mother. His attorneys and the central jail's lawyer also are haggling over $71,000 that jailers say Keller racked up for medical care.
Still pending are a civil wrongful death suit filed by Rosemarie Keller's estate, and a personal injury suit filed by Keil, 35, who says he still is in pain from the two bullets Keller fired into him. Each lawsuit could result in millions of dollars being awarded to the plaintiffs.
"The pain you caused by your actions is irreparable," Keil said, looking at Keller. "You ruined all our lives, including your own. And for what? For what? You committed the ultimate sin and you show no remorse for your actions."
One of his sisters, Angelika Emory, testified about Rosemarie Keller in personal terms. She and her fiance have custody of Fred Keller Jr., called Fredchen. Rosemarie Keller played the piano and enjoyed classical music and art and gave her haircuts when they were children, Emory said.
"I think about Rose every day. I miss her so much."
"She would have loved to have more children," Emory said. "She was healthy and vibrant. She could have lived a long life. But you took that from her. She loved you, and you systematically destroyed her over the last three or four years of her life. Then you hunted her down like an animal in a closed room."
The Keil family's matriarch, Brigitte Keil, said Rosemarie made a mistake in marrying "a hateful man. I think your only love is money and controlling people."
When Keller followed the Keils to the witness stand, he urged Brigitte Keil to visit him in jail so they could talk one-on-one. Then he began addressing Wolfgang Keil.
"Take responsibility for what you did, and stop lying to your family," Keller said. "Be a man. Look at yourself in the mirror."
He also began a critique of the justice system, saying it was biased against defendants.
"I don't need your opinions about the criminal justice system," Judge Garrrison said.
Afterward, Wolfgang Keil was almost speechless. "He murdered my sister. Sitting there and blaming me is just unspeakable," he said. "I was just disgusted by his comments."
His mother said she has no interest in accepting Keller's invitation to visit him in jail. She said she doesn't want to "look into the eyes of the devil."
In another dramatic development, Keller's stepson by his first marriage, Brian Bohlander, 52, came to court from his home in Virginia. He and his two stepbrothers were kidnapped by Keller when they were youngsters and told that their mother had been killed in a car accident.
Bohlander - which is Keller's birth surname - has said that his stepfather physically and mentally abused him when he was a child.
Today, he said he came to court "to see him walk away in chains where he belongs. He's not human."