THE MURDER OF SUSAN KEEGAN

Susan Keegan 2003

On the morning of November 11, 2010, Susan Keegan, age 55, was reported dead in her Ukiah, California home by her husband, Peter Keegan, MD. Her death certificate identifies the cause as HOMICIDE.

Peter Keegan, always the lone suspect in the case, was indicted on the charge of second-degree murder and arrested almost seven years later, on August 9, 2017. He pleaded not guilty on October 20, 2017, and preparations for his trial are underway.

Family, friends and the taxpayers of Mendocino County waited a very long time for justice, and while movement on this case is welcome, that wrong can never be made fully right. The story of the delay and ultimate indictment unfolds on the Homicide, Blog and the Press pages of this website. Also see highlights from the criminal Grand Jury testimony, which led to Dr. Keegan’s indictment.

Pleading for Attention: From the moment Susan’s death was announced, her friends and family began pleading with Mendocino County law enforcement to find out what happened. We beseeched investigators in the Sheriff’s Office, and Sheriff Tom Allman himself, to conduct a rigorous investigation and called the coroner’s office repeatedly asking for a careful autopsy.

At first, we were ignored, and precious evidence was forever lost. With the Sheriff’s office turning a deaf ear to us, we set our sights on the Mendocino County District Attorney’s office, which determines whether a crime has occurred, and if there is sufficient grounds to prosecute. In addition to countless letters and phone calls to law enforcement authorities at every level, we contacted elected officials, promoted media interest, spearheaded a community petition drive, hired a private investigator, mailed hundreds of postcards asking the community for help, and launched this web site. We were passionate about seeing justice done and exceptionally careful to honor rigor and accuracy in the information we shared.

We didn’t win a lot of friends in high places along the way, but with the help of local press, especially the Anderson Valley Advertiser, and other behind-the-scenes pressure points, we won something more important – attention from law enforcement and a full investigation of Susan Keegan’s death.

False Claims: Peter Keegan claimed that his vibrant, healthy wife was actually depressed and suicidal and had been intoxicated enough to fall, hit her head, and die in the midst of their highly acrimonious divorce proceedings. No one ever came forward to substantiate any portion of that claim, because no one who knew Susan had ever seen her so much as stumble.

Instead, we saw in her an actor completing a run in Macbeth, a public health administrator, an art student, an energetic host, the star of the Ukiah Public Library, a kind and engaged confidante, and an all-around smart, clever, and wise woman. 

The Official Word is Homicide: Law enforcement eventually agreed Susan’s death had been no accident. In August 2012, almost two years after her bruised body was found in her own home, they amended her death certificate to read “homicide.” The indictment of Peter Keegan came five years after that.

While we are deeply grateful that this case ultimately moved forward, no one was well-served by a seven-year delay – not Susan or those who loved her, not the Mendocino community, not even the defendant. Peter Keegan is seriously ill, and there may never actually be an opportunity to hear the full body of evidence against him. Facts matter, and without timely legal proceedings, it is easy for the Ukiah community to resort to rumor and opinion. No one profits from that.

Botched Investigation: Significant responsibility for the delayed prosecution rests with the Sheriff’s Office. As the District Attorney’s hand-picked prosecutor, Timothy Stoen, told the Grand Jury:

“It will be clear from the evidence that when this incident took place the law enforcement response and investigation was flawed. For example, there was no search for a weapon at the time of discovering the body of the victim. The person then living in the house, who appeared under the influence, had no blood taken. There were no efforts to seize or preserve the natural records, phone records, Internet records or, at an early stage, computers. Nor was evidence obtained as to Peter Keegan’s or Susan Keegan’s medical history or prescribed narcotics.” (p. 27, Grand Jury transcript)

Sergeant Scott Poma, chief deputy coroner at the time was blunt: “We actually did a horrible job at the onset of the investigation.” (p. 363, Grand Jury transcript)

The District Attorney’s gumshoe investigators, and District Attorney David Eyster himself, were ultimately heroic in pursuing this case. Despite the Sheriff Office’s initial failures to gather evidence at the Keegan home or to conduct a competent autopsy, the DA kept the case alive and ultimately built back sufficient evidence to earn the indictment. But great harm was done by the seven-year lag, with Peter Keegan free to live his life even as Susan had lost hers. The Ukiah community is entitled to an explanation for that.

Who should be held accountable for the unconscionable delay in prosecuting the murder of Susan Keegan? What role did Dr. Keegan’s professional standing play in discouraging authorities from initially treating him as a suspect? What steps have been taken to acknowledge the failures that occurred here, and prevent them from happening again in Mendocino County?

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Know something about the case? If you have any information that may be important to this investigation, please contact:

Kevin Bailey, Lead Investigator
Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office
Ukiah, California
(707) 463-4211

All calls will be treated in complete confidence.

About the Justice4Susan Committee:

We are personal friends and family members who knew both Susan Keegan and Dr. Peter Keegan well, and loved them both. Immediately after Susan’s death, each of us independently contacted the Sheriff’s Office to share our suspicions. In time, we found one another and agreed that we had an obligation to Susan to seek the truth from the law enforcement community. Justice is our only goal.

Contact us: Justice4SusanKeegan@gmail.com

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9 thoughts on “THE MURDER OF SUSAN KEEGAN

  1. Perhaps the prosecutors have evidentiary reasons for moving so slowly, but there is a kind of madness — and a real and towering injustice — in the bottom line in this case: That Susan has been gone now for nearly three years, while the “person of interest” remains at large, at liberty, unfettered and still at home in the bosom of the Ukiah community.

  2. There’s nothing more painful than a badly handled murder case. The fact however is that it requires more time and more work on behalf of officials. If you truly want to see justice, be patient (doesn’t mean uninvolved w/ officials nor not asking questions and prodding!) and let them complete a “thorough” investigation. Taking a murder case to court before substantial evidence is gathered will only work to your disadvantage. You want a strong and thorough case to be presented not one that will leave a reasonable doubt. Double jeopardy applies here.

    I am truly sorry for your loss and for the lack of proper procedures by the local authorities. Your sister and friend is blessed to have you actively pursuing justice for her. Justice will prevail.

  3. Regarding the most recent post (“Husbands Who Choose Murder Over Divorce”), what a chillingly apt explanation, although certainly not a justification, for Susan’s tragic death.

  4. I’m really happy to see this website. I remember the day I heard about Susan’s death and thinking that there was no way it was an accident. Her funeral was such a sad sad day. By the way, I used to work with Susan at American Cancer Society.

  5. There is coverage of a case in the Sunday, Nov. 10th Press Democrat (page A12) that has many possible parallels to this one. That case began in 2007 and only ended with a conviction now. Headline: “Doctor’s conviction spurred by family’s pursuit.” The murder occurred in Utah; the convicted man’s name is Martin MacNeill; this in case you want to look up further information. Recommended reading.

  6. I grew up as kids with Peter Keegan. Knew his family well. Always the smartest kid in school. Surprised to hear this about him. Funny how time changes people. Wondering how this turned out?

  7. I remember Susan Ettinger from both Copper Beech Middle School and Lakeland High. Over the years we shared maybe twenty or so classes together. I was looking up old classmates on the internet, just to see if I could find anybody, when I accidentally found Susan’s obituary. It was a very sad moment to find out that Susan had passed away so young. I remember her as tall, pretty and as smart as they come. Rest in peace, Susan.

  8. Sending you love Susan. You are in my heart always and in my self because of what you taught me about living with gusto, about the power of passionate argument, about tile making, about the bonds of friendship still shared, about commitment and justice and love.

Contact us by email: Justice4SusanKeegan@gmail.com

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