The Wrong Keith
It seemed that the Broward Sheriff's Office had neatly arranged Keith King's future date with the State of Florida's electric chair. Detectives had built a case against the teenager for the murder of one of their own, Deputy Patrick Behan, who was gunned down in 1990. Homicide-unit investigators had a witness who identified King as being at the scene of the crime. Others swore that King and his then-14-year-old codefendant, Tim Brown, had boasted of shooting the cop. And, in the coup de grâce, BSO detectives extracted a confession from King.
The King indictment was the culmination of one of the most intense investigations in Broward history, with as many as 50 deputies and thousands of man-hours involved. Brown, the first to be tried, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. During Brown's trial, assistant state attorney Chuck Morton declared in court that it was King who had coldly pulled the trigger on Behan, whom the prosecutor declared had been killed on a random, drug-addled dare.
But King would never make it to Death Row. Instead, as potential jurors were being chosen to try him in March 1994, Morton decided to cut King a deal. The prosecutor didn't want a trial; he conceded publicly at the time that his case wasn't very strong. That admission was a gross understatement. In fact, the case was in a shambles.
Morton's offer to King confirmed just how sorry the BSO investigation had been: 15 years. And that prison sentence would also cover four other, unrelated felonies -- three sexual batteries and an armed robbery -- King faced at the time that could have put him away for life. In effect, the cop-killing was erased from the board, and King was assured that, with time off for good behavior, he would be a free man before his 25th birthday.
King accepted the offer as a plea of convenience, refusing to admit he murdered Behan. And, with that remarkable deal, the Behan murder case was officially closed.
Until last year, that is, when a former BSO detention deputy named Andrew Hughray Johnson boasted to undercover agents that he had killed the deputy. An extensive BSO investigation that ended this April found insufficient evidence to file charges against Johnson, who now denies any involvement. The new claims prompted Gov. Jeb Bush last week to order the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the entire case.
If FDLE does at least a serviceable job, the agency will find its way to the heretofore confidential file of private investigator Randy MacCoy, who worked on King's defense for two years. While evidence contained in public court archives casts considerable doubt on King's guilt, MacCoy's investigation virtually exonerates his former client and completely discredits the BSO investigation.
Deputies' work on the case played out like a movie about bad cops. Several witnesses complained that detectives shackled them to the floor, promised leniency in their own crimes, and coerced them into implicating King in the murder. By the time the trial was set to begin, everyone who had accused King had recanted. King himself claims he was physically abused and manipulated into his confession -- which was full of untenable contradictions. Ultimately, the case against King not only lacks evidence; it also makes no sense.
Some witnesses held fast to their contention that Brown, who is still in prison, had boasted of the murder; MacCoy privately concluded that Brown was likely involved in the killing. In his estimation, another man was much more likely to have been with Brown that night: Keith Maddox, a violent felon now 35 years old and in prison. Maddox, who has never before been publicly named as a suspect, may well be innocent of the murder, but, as MacCoy puts it, "everything kept pointing at him as the perpetrator."
The private investigator's intriguing theory is that detectives didn't just get the wrong man.
They got the wrong Keith.
At 1:42 a.m. on November 13, 1990, while Patrick Behan was sitting in his patrol car in the parking lot of a Circle K store at 3990 W. Hallandale Blvd. in Pembroke Park, someone fired a .38-caliber bullet into his skull. The deputy's blood splattered onto the report he was writing on a theft of cigarettes. There are no known witnesses, but forensic evidence shows that he was shot at near point-blank range through his partially open driver's-side window. The bullet pierced Behan's left hand, which was raised in defense, before it struck his face.
The slain deputy was by all accounts an upstanding and decent person. An extensive investigation into Behan's life found that he was a clean-living man whose chief goal was to start a family with his new wife.
The death of a good cop, however, exposed a nest of bad ones. One of the first tipsters to come forward was a Circle K clerk named Jackie Bain, who said she gave sexual favors to several deputies in exchange for protection. Though Bain had a history of mental illness, an investigation not only substantiated her claim but found evidence that deputies were engaging in further criminal activity at a warehouse near the Circle K.
Bain's most explosive allegation, however, was never borne out: that a jealous boyfriend of hers, Curtis McGill, had killed Behan. McGill, who had a lengthy criminal record, was excluded as a suspect after an interrogation. In a deposition, he complained that BSO detectives tried to force him to confess. "If I wasn't strong, I might have would have had a nervous breakdown," McGill said of his experiences with the BSO homicide squad.
If history is any guide, McGill had good reason to believe he was in peril. In at least four cases filed since 1979, BSO has coerced confessions or partial admissions to murder -- from Jerry Townsend, Frank Lee Smith, John Wood, and Peter Dallas -- that were later proven false. Because of revelations in the Townsend and Smith cases, BSO is now reviewing all its death-penalty cases.
During the first three months of the Behan investigation, then-Sgt. Richard Scheff (who was deeply involved in the false conviction of Smith) coordinated an unwieldy task force to find Behan's killer. Some deputies followed the Bain angle, while others worked with a man named Eddie Lopez, who lived in a house behind the Circle K. Lopez said he had seen a black man wearing only blue jeans running from the store at the time of the shooting. He told detectives the man he saw was five feet, eight inches tall, weighed about 185 pounds, and had a muscular build. Detectives showed Lopez hundreds of photographs of potential suspects, to no avail.
Another seemingly promising lead came from Robert McGriff, a regular on the seedy streets near the store. McGriff claimed that he had witnessed two area drug dealers -- 14-year-old Tim Brown and Keith Maddox, then age 23 -- kill the deputy. McGriff said the pair used a .38-caliber snub-nose revolver.
McGriff, however, failed a polygraph test and admitted he lied about witnessing the murder so he could collect a $130,000 reward. But he insisted that Brown and Maddox had told him they had killed the deputy and continued to swear that it was the truth until his death the next year from AIDS.
Acting on McGriff's tip, deputies tracked down Brown and Maddox a couple of days after the murder. Both ran with a group of low-level street hoods in the depressed neighborhood of Carver Ranches, near the Circle K. Brown, who was estranged from his mother, lived in an apartment with Maddox, a father of five with three gold teeth and a taste for guns and violence. The evening before Behan was killed, Hollywood police had been called out to quell a disturbance at Maddox's apartment involving a man who was complaining that Brown had sold him "perfs" -- fake crack rocks.
During an unrecorded interview on August 15, 1990, a high and barely coherent Brown told detectives that Maddox shot the deputy, according to BSO reports. Then the boy began crying and said he himself had killed Behan. Despite the alleged confession, the detectives let Brown go and didn't seek him out again for three months. Scheff later said in a deposition that Brown -- who has a reported IQ of 58 -- was released because he was "like clay, and you could get him to say whatever you wanted to."
Maddox, meanwhile, vehemently denied killing Behan. Maddox said that he and Brown watched TV in his apartment the night before the deputy was killed. He said he went to bed around 10 p.m., five hours before Behan was shot. About midnight, Maddox told detectives, Brown woke him and asked if he wanted to go out. Maddox said he declined, went back to sleep, and didn't see Brown until morning. Strangely, Maddox called police the next afternoon and reported that Brown had stolen a beach cruiser-style bicycle and a .25-caliber automatic pistol -- which couldn't have been used in the murder -- from him. The bicycle would later play a significant role in the King case.
Maddox relied on his wife, Margaret, for an alibi. She said she wasn't aware of her husband leaving the apartment that night. Sheriff's Det. Thomas Gill gave Keith Maddox a lie-detector test and found no deception. "Based on my opinion, after an interview and interrogation, I felt that he wasn't involved," Gill said later during a deposition.
Maddox, who didn't respond to New Times' request for an interview mailed to him at New River Correctional Institute in Raiford, was never again seriously questioned as a suspect. In fact, in the ensuing months, BSO would seemingly ignore new leads and witnesses who implicated him. The sheriff's office still refuses to discuss it. Sheriff's spokesman Jim Leljedal says that the Behan case is still being reviewed by deputies and that neither the agency nor any sheriff's employees were authorized to comment for this article.
In February 1991, the task force disbanded, and two sheriff's detectives, Eli Thomasevich and Jimmy Carr, took over the case. Both former New York City cops, they made a formidable pair. Thomasevich, tall and smooth, played good cop, while Carr, short and curt, was the enforcer who witness after witness said terrified them. Their investigation was largely based on hunches. "We don't have much [evidence] at all," Thomasevich said during a deposition. "We had to use our gut feeling most of the time."
Thomasevich said his first gut feeling was to return to Brown, who he felt "was the one." King's name, however, wouldn't surface until more than four months after the homicide.
Then age 17, Keith King was certainly an unlikely suspect in the Behan murder. He lived in a foster home 15 miles from the Circle K and didn't have a car. King wasn't a very mobile kid: He walked with a pronounced limp caused by a disease from childhood and also suffered from diabetes, leaving him with little stamina.
As a child, Keith King was sexually abused by a family friend and former Boy Scout leader named James Bush and, during much of his boyhood, lived in foster care. King had a long juvenile rap sheet that included charges ranging from molesting younger children to theft. The court had enrolled him in state programs to help him deal with his emotions and also put him to work in various branches of Broward County government. Despite these efforts to help him, King kept getting into trouble.
In a bid for a regular job, as a dishwasher at a Ponderosa restaurant, he was fired for being too slow, both physically and mentally. In the months after Behan's murder, King was involved in an armed robbery with several other boys. He was also charged as a juvenile with four counts of sexual battery for allegedly molesting two girls, ages five and six.
Still, King wasn't under suspicion for the murder until April 26, 1991, more than five months after the shooting. On that day, Solomon Gibbs, a 15-year-old crack peddler nicknamed "Shorty" on the street, told Thomasevich that Brown had boasted that he and Keith Maddox had killed Behan. But there was a problem with the story, according to BSO reports: Gibbs said that Maddox walked with a limp and lived in a foster home. Thomasevich reported that he had Gibbs drive him to the foster home in Fort Lauderdale where Keith once lived. Thomasevich checked state records and discovered that a boy named Keith King had lived there.
Since BSO had dismissed Maddox as a suspect, detectives now had a new "Keith" to investigate -- and they went after King with a vengeance. Once Thomasevich and Carr had the teen in their sights, other suspects suddenly began implicating him. On May 18, 1991, Frankie Adderson, another crack dealer, gave the detectives a sworn statement in which he too said Brown had boasted that he and Keith King had committed the crime -- which would seem to confirm Gibbs' story.
In June, Thomasevich and Carr sought King out at his new foster home. In an interesting ploy, the detectives rearrested the boy for the sexual assaults, only this time they charged him as an adult. King tried to run but was quickly caught. "They slammed me onto the car," King says. "They told me right then I was going to get the chair."
He was taken to the sheriff's office, where King contends he was threatened, physically assaulted, and shackled to the floor during an unrecorded interrogation, which he estimates lasted about ten hours.
"They said Tim Brown had already given a confession but he was intoxicated," King says. "They said both of us would get the electric chair and that [Brown] was blaming me. So I just told them what they told me to say. I was scared. It was a made-up story."
On the audiotape of the official confession, King's voice is weak and halting. He says he knew Brown from childhood in Hollywood and met the younger boy on the night of the murder at Brown's mother's house on Mayo Street. "He just told me, 'I'm going to hurt somebody,'" King says on the tape.
According to the confession, the boys took off on Brown's black bicycle, with King riding on the handlebars, to the Circle K store, where Brown, who had a black pistol, declared that he was going to shoot a police officer.
"A snub-nose like the one I showed you?" Det. Carr asks him.
King answers yes. Then he says that Brown walked up to the deputy, started talking to him, then killed him. "And that's all I know," King says. "He done pulled it out and shot it one time."
Then Brown took off on the bicycle, and King set off on foot, he tells the detectives. King says he went back to Brown's mom's house on Mayo Street to find out why Brown had shot the deputy and what he'd done with the gun. Brown answered the door but refused to answer his questions. Then King says he walked the 15 miles home.
Brown also gave a sworn confession -- only he told BSO that King was the shooter. Brown has also claimed through his attorneys that he was detained without a warrant, shackled to the floor in a BSO room, and interrogated for hours. In his confession, Brown said he and King threw the gun in a nearby rock pit, but an ensuing search by deputies and volunteers turned up no weapon.
Bolstering the confessions were statements from roughly a half-dozen witnesses, most of them teens, who said Brown had boasted of killing the deputy with Keith. Almost all of them, however, said Keith Maddox, not King. Only Gibbs, Adderson, and another youth named Andre Butler specifically fingered King as Brown's accomplice.
Then came the coup de grâce: Witness Eddie Lopez positively identified a picture of King as the person he had seen running from the Circle K. Now the detectives had someone putting King at the scene.
On August 1, 1991, prosecutor Chuck Morton brought the case before a grand jury. In a foreshadowing of what was to come, the state's argument began to crumble. Butler testified that Thomasevich and Carr had pressured him to lie about the murder. Butler told the grand jury he had never met Keith King but knew Brown from the streets. At one point, Morton asked Butler if he knew Keith Maddox.
"He the one with all them golds in his mouth?" Butler asked the prosecutor.
In a display of how pervasive the confusion between the two Keiths had already become, Morton replied, "To be honest, I don't think so."
Morton, however honest he was trying to be, was wrong. Maddox had three gold teeth, King none.
Butler told the grand jury that he knew absolutely nothing about the murder. He claimed that deputies picked him up against his will, took him to the station, handcuffed him, and shackled his legs to the floor. "They kept threatening me, that I am going to jail, and they put all kinds of pressure on me," Butler told the grand jury. "I just couldn't take it.... They brought up Timothy Brown, and they said something about he told me something, but he didn't tell me nothing."
Butler said deputies threatened him with the electric chair if he didn't implicate Brown; he said he truly believed they were going to charge him with killing the cop. "I don't know no Keith King, and I kept telling them that," Butler said. The only thing true in his statement, Butler told the grand jury, was that Brown really did have a snub-nose .38 revolver at one time.
Despite Butler's unwavering recantation, the grand jury returned an indictment of first-degree murder against Brown and King, in part because of the testimony of Solomon Gibbs, whom Thomasevich drove to the proceeding.
During the spring of 1992, as King sat in jail on the murder charge, Victor Tobin, who was then King's attorney (and is now a Broward judge), hired Randy MacCoy. The private investigator would soon rip the BSO case apart.
MacCoy lives alone in an apartment off Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale but can usually be found in a cramped office near the Broward County Courthouse. The 47-year-old trained polygrapher says he has a hard time separating his job from his personal life. He routinely works weekends; his social circle doesn't extend much further than the perimeter of the courthouse and the jail next door. MacCoy talks almost exclusively about cases and girlfriends, both of which seem to cause him great consternation.
Before she died last year, his chief confidante was his mother, who loved to hear about the details of his job. "I can't get away from the work ethic I've set for myself, which is that I will get the job done no matter what it takes," he says. "I wish I could have a normal life."
Keith King, however, is glad MacCoy has an abnormal life. Without the PI's two years of dogged investigation, King might have landed in the electric chair. But even before MacCoy began knocking on doors and tracking down witnesses, he was struck by the wild factual inconsistencies in King's "confession":
King told BSO that he met his accomplice on the night of the murder at Brown's mother's house on Mayo Street. It made sense for King to say that, since he was an acquaintance of Brown in the mid-1980s, when Brown lived on Mayo Street. When Behan was killed, however, Brown was estranged from his mother and living with Maddox. And Brown's mother didn't live on Mayo Street -- she had moved a year before the murder.
It would be a miracle, MacCoy says, for the partially disabled and diabetic King to walk from Hallandale Beach Boulevard all the way to his foster home off Oakland Park Boulevard -- a distance of 15 miles -- in a few hours. He required two insulin shots a day and regularly became dizzy and weak. Further, it's highly unlikely that one of the largest ground and air searches in Broward history would miss him as he ambled down the street.
King had an alibi: No one in the foster home where he was living said he had been missing. There was a 10:30 p.m. curfew at the home, and the doors were locked at 11. MacCoy found that King was never known to have been missing from the foster home at night. "Back then, I be in at 9 o'clock every night," King says.
The confession may have verged on the ludicrous, but there were still potentially damaging witnesses, most prominently Lopez, whom MacCoy tracked down in Miami in the spring of 1992. Lopez, a recovering alcoholic who had been in and out of jail himself, initially told MacCoy that he was positive that it was King he saw running.
But a highly upset and remorseful Lopez later called MacCoy and came clean. He said his identification of King was bogus. On April 17, 1992, MacCoy recorded an interview with the witness. On the tape, Lopez recounts how he met with BSO deputies on several occasions and was shown more than 1000 photographs in the days following the murder. Then, in early 1991, Lopez was sentenced to a short stint at the Avon Park Correctional Institute in Central Florida, where Carr and Thomasevich paid him a visit. He said they played the "boo game" with him -- good cop, bad cop.
"They kept running through my story like I was lying to them. I was confused," he said. "They mentioned my work past and my control of alcohol and that I was known as a chronic liar, so I felt pretty much intimidated.... By that time, I had no remembrance at all of the person I had seen that night."
The detectives left but again interviewed Lopez shortly after the King confession. This time, he was in a rehabilitation center; Thomasevich and Carr weren't intimidating at all. "They were nice to me. They pointed out six photos to look at," he recounted. "I pointed at a picture that I thought this may be the person I had seen, and they stood up and looked at each other and said, 'You just ID'd the person who had come in and confessed to the killing.'"
It was, of course, a picture of King. Lopez admitted to MacCoy that he picked the picture randomly and that the deputies had manipulated him into making a positive identification. He also admitted that he was thinking of collecting the $130,000 reward. "The picture I looked at, no, I was not sure that was the guy," Lopez told MacCoy. "I made a random pick of someone that was a guess. It was a lucky pick.
"At this time, I could tell you... I have no memory of that night whatsoever."
The identification never really made sense in the first place: Lopez described the suspect as five-foot-eight and muscular; King was six-foot-one and skinny.
So much for the witness. Next, MacCoy found Frankie Adderson in a little bungalow in Hollywood. After initially refusing to answer the door, Adderson's mother told the PI that her son was hiding in the closet. She invited him inside, and Adderson, who was 19 years old at the time, emerged. Soon he was telling his story, which MacCoy captured on tape on November 4, 1992.
Adderson said that because he dealt crack on the street near the Circle K, deputies harassed him regularly with questions about the Behan murder. One night in early 1991, a BSO officer stopped Adderson on his bicycle, searched him, and found three crack rocks in his shoe. Then the unidentified deputies offered to dispose of the drugs and let him go if he gave a statement about the murder, he said. He agreed because he didn't want to go to jail. They crushed the rocks in front of him, took down his address, and told him detectives would soon visit him.
They came to Adderson's home on May 18, 1991, and took him to the sheriff's office, where Thomasevich and Carr interrogated him. Adderson claimed to MacCoy that the detectives gave him a "summary" of how the murder occurred. "They said that the rumor is that Keith pulled the trigger.... They just said Keith. They said Keith pulled the trigger and Tim was there," Adderson recalled. "I told them what they really wanted to hear... thinking that I could get off the hook with what they got me with... but I really didn't know nothing."
"So you lied to the police?" MacCoy asked Adderson.
"And you did that because you were scared?"
After Adderson's revelations, the only remaining witness against King was Gibbs, the boy who steered BSO to him in the first place. In a deposition on August 4, 1993, Gibbs insisted that he knew absolutely nothing about the murder. He said he knew only one Keith: Keith Maddox. "My Keith don't stay in a foster home," he told defense attorney Tobin. "Like I say, I don't know what they're talking about."
And with that, the final witness against King was nullified.
"I felt immortal on this case," MacCoy says. "I really felt like there was no way we could lose. The prosecution had nothing."
While the sheriff's case was evaporating, the Federal Bureau of Investigation stumbled onto information on the Behan murder during an unrelated investigation. And once again, suspicion fell squarely on the shoulders of the other Keith.
Some witnesses stuck to the story that Brown had boasted on the streets of committing the murder with Maddox -- never King. One of them was Maddox's own half-brother and a onetime best friend of Brown's, Terrance Warner. Warner told defense attorney Tobin that deputies forced him to give a statement after chasing him into a crack-house bathroom and spraying his eyes with Mace. Warner swore that Thomasevich and Carr promised not to charge him with cocaine possession if he gave a statement against Brown.
Warner basically stood by the story when questioned by King's defense team. He swore again that both Brown and Maddox boasted of a murder but said he was "too high" to find out exactly whom they killed. Warner, like Butler, also said that Brown was known to carry a snub-nose .38 revolver. Warner deemed it "impossible" that King was involved in any murder with Brown. The accused pair weren't even friends, he said.
Maddox, meanwhile, was proving to be a chronic lawbreaker. During the four years following the Behan murder, he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault, possession of a sawed-off shotgun or machine gun, delivery of cocaine, possession of cocaine, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and armed robbery. Convicted of several of those charges, Maddox is set to be released from the Raiford prison in 2004.
At the beginning of 1993, new witnesses came forward to implicate Maddox. A confidential informant named Donald Johnson told the FBI that Maddox had admitted to him that he was the "trigger man" in the Behan killing. Johnson said Maddox told him that while an unidentified friend distracted the deputy, he "eased up" alongside the car and shot Behan in the head. The witness also swore that Maddox moved to Homestead after the murder to hide from police.
Another witness, Teresa Johnson (it isn't known if she and Donald Johnson are related), told a similar story. Teresa Johnson, who was Maddox's girlfriend, told BSO detectives that during a party on New Year's Eve 1992, Maddox began crying and admitted that he was there when Behan was killed. But he didn't pull the trigger, she said.
"He said that they had the right Keith but he is the wrong Keith," she told Thomasevich.
"Who is the wrong Keith?" the detective asked her.
"Keith Maddox," she said.
Prosecutor Morton and BSO stonewalled Tobin for months before handing over the information from the two Johnsons. It wasn't until February 1994 that Tobin was allowed to depose Donald Johnson, who swore that Maddox had said he had killed Behan.
To MacCoy, the evidence clearly points to Brown and Maddox. MacCoy says he wonders if Maddox escaped BSO simply because Maddox was older and mentally stronger than King, who was released in December 1999 at age 24.
Today, King, whom the State of Florida still officially calls a cop killer, is the father of a one-year-old baby girl and lives with his mother outside Orlando. He says his dream is to become a cook, but he complains that the cop-killer label keeps him from getting a job. He has hired Orlando attorney Bruce Blackwell to represent him on a contingency basis in a bid to seek damages from BSO for violating his civil rights. "I'm going to get some get-back," King says.
Brown, meanwhile, remains behind bars. His public defender, Tim Day, has filed new motions seeking his release. King says he was never friends with Brown before the BSO brought them together, though he had met him as a child. Ironically, the two became friends in prison. "I don't think he done it," King says of his codefendant. "But I may be right, and I may be wrong."
When the name of Keith Maddox is brought up, King says he sometimes wonders if he just had the wrong first name. "I ain't never met that man in my whole life," King says of Maddox. "I wouldn't know him if I seen him."
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