Peter Keegan was indicted for the murder of his wife, Susan, on August 9, 2017. Preparations for a trial are underway.
Born: July 23, 1955
Died: November 11, 2010
Cause of death, per death certificate: Homicide
On November 11, 2010, Susan Keegan, a 55-year-old Mendocino County woman, was found dead in the bathroom of her Ukiah home. Her husband, Dr. Peter Keegan — Harvard undergraduate, University of California, San Francisco medical school, family practice physician — claimed Susan abused drugs and alcohol and speculated variously that her death was either an accident or a suicide.
Husband goes ballistic: Dozens of friends and family members immediately questioned that account, instead painting a portrait of a healthy and active woman who was a pillar of the Ukiah community. The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department was barraged by calls to take a closer look. The couple was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce and the day before Susan’s death, Dr. Keegan had “gone ballistic” in the office of their divorce mediator.
Early investigation mishandled: The Sheriff’s early investigation into Susan’s death was completely mishandled and much critical evidence was lost, especially on the morning the police came to the Keegan home. The home was not treated as a crime scene, no blood samples were taken from Peter Keegan to test for drug use, the family’s computers were left untouched, the quality of the photographs taken of Susan’s body were poor, and a series of other basic police procedures were ignored. The doctor’s story of awakening to find Susan dead initially went unchallenged.
The autopsy was equally perfunctory–incompetent might not be too strong a word–and Susan’s body was quickly handed back to her husband, who had her cremated a few days later.
A story that didn’t make sense: That might have been the end of the case, except suspicious family and friends kept up the pressure on Mendocino County law enforcement. And newly elected District Attorney David Eyster had the nose for a story that didn’t make sense. The DA’s investigators took charge.
Cause of death changed to homicide: Authorities sought and received a warrant and conducted a search of the family home in mid-June 2011. Long delays followed, but in late August 2012, law enforcement announced that Susan Keegan’s death was, in fact, a “homicide,” and issued an amended death certificate. Mendocino County officials told the press that there is a “person of interest” in the case.
From homicide to indictment, seven long years: A second search warrant was executed at the Keegan home in January 2013. After that, the years just ticked by – the DA’s office said the investigation was open, but friends and family despaired of ever seeing justice done, and the Ukiah community was left in the dark about how events were unfolding.
An astounding three years later, in February 2016, a search warrant was served on Norm Rosen, the couple’s divorce mediator. Rosen had refused to speak to authorities about his interaction with the couple the day before Susan died, claiming attorney/client privilege. But the search warrant revealed he was serving in the capacity of mediator, not attorney, and so privilege did not apply.
In early August 2017, 17 witnesses made the trek to a decommissioned courthouse in Willits, north of Ukiah, to testify in secret before a grand jury. After five days of testimony, including an appearance by the defendant himself, Peter Keegan was indicted on the charge of second-degree murder on August 9th, swiftly arrested, and arraigned in court. He pleaded not guilty on October 20, 2017.
Court proceedings continue, and a trial is expected to begin early in 2018.
Timeline: A Long Wait for Justice
November 11, 2010: Susan Keegan reported dead at her Ukiah home by her husband, Dr. Peter Keegan.
November 11, 2010: Family and friends call Sheriff’s office and explain why death should be treated as suspicious.
November 13, 2010 (approximate): Body released to husband and cremated shortly afterward.
Fall 2010, Winter/Spring 2011: Family and friends begin calling the Sheriff’s office and the DA’s office urging a full investigation.
June, 2011: Search warrant executed at Keegan home.
Summer/Fall 2011 to Winter/Spring 2012: Family and friends continue to call DA’s office inquiring about the status of the investigation. DA tells the public the case is “under investigation.”
August, 2012: The cause of Susan Keegan’s death is officially declared “Homicide.” Sheriff’s office tells media “there is a person of interest.”
Fall/Winter 2012: Family and friends continue to call DA’s office inquiring about the status of the investigation. DA tells the public the case is “under investigation.”
January 2013: Second search warrant executed at Keegan home. Family and friends continue to call DA’s office inquiring about the status of the investigation.
July 2013: Honoring Susan Keegan’s birthday and frustrated with the long wait for justice, the Justice4Susan Committee launches web site and petition drive.
September 2013-November 2015: The Justice4Susan Committee posts a series of blogs with details about the motives in the Keegan killing; Dr. Keegan’s bizarre behavior after Susan’s death; how prosecutors obtained a conviction in a remarkably parallel case involving a Utah physician who had murdered his wife; and year after year of birthday wishes for Susan.
March 2016: The Mendocino County DA’s office finally serves Norm Rosen, the divorce mediator for Susan and Peter Keegan, with a search warrant. Dr. Keegan had reportedly gone “ballistic” in Rosen’s office the day before Susan died
August 2017: A criminal Grand Jury hears testimony from 17 witnesses and indicts Peter Keegan on charges of second-degree murder in the death of his wife, Susan Keegan. Peter Keegan is arraigned in the Ukiah Courthouse on August 11, 2017 and released on $300,000 bail.
October 20, 2017: Peter Keegan pleads not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder.
We Are Sorry for This Delay
The anguished season of suspense stalls
like a crowded subway train. We sit, we stand
we do our best to live sequestered with our grief.
We sleep, we read, we think about
the destination and the route. PA squawks hint
maybe we’ll move soon, congestion
tying up the system, need to fix, to test
to test the tests –
until we hope the wheels still roll
and aren’t rusted rigid with arrest.
But mostly there is nothing but stillness
save the drip of tunnel leaks
imagined steps of red-eyed-rat feet
cavorting in congealing gloom
yet somehow we still trust our ride
will haul us to the station up ahead
that doors will open and we’ll go our way
where all the journey’s trials will fade like mist
in daylight’s exposition of things just.