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Solider accused of wife abuse hangs self in jail { October 12 2004 }

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Fort Eustis soldier kills himself in jail
The York County Sheriff's Office responded to a flurry of domestic complaints about the man recently, arresting him twice.


October 12 2004

JAMES CITY -- A 37-year-old Fort Eustis soldier, recently returned from Iraq, hanged himself with a bedsheet early Saturday in the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail.

He had been arrested less than 12 hours earlier and charged with assaulting his wife at their York County home, authorities said.

A correctional officer checked on Brian Eugene McKeehan at 6:42 a.m., said Sgt. Jeff Vellines of the James City County Police Department. The department investigated McKeehan's death because the jail is in James City.

The guard returned at 7:05 a.m. and found that McKeehan had hanged himself, attaching one end of the sheet to a metal shelf on the wall of his cell, Vellines said.

McKeehan could not be revived, Vellines said.

McKeehan returned in September from a 45-day deployment to Iraq, said Jerry Levine, a public affairs officer at Fort Eustis.

"It's a tragic thing. It really is," Irvine said. He said McKeehan was an outstanding soldier who had just made the list to be promoted from master sergeant to sergeant major.

Capt. Pete Tingstrom, a Fort Eustis casualty assistance officer helping McKeehan's family, said the military promoted McKeehan posthumously.

McKeehan lived on Alice Court in the Willow Lakes subdivison in Grafton.

Between Sept. 11 and Friday night, the York County Sheriff's Office had responded to about six complaints against McKeehan by his wife and a neighbor, said Sheriff Danny Diggs. Most of the calls did not result in an arrest because of a lack of evidence, he said.

The Sheriff's Office, Diggs said, was called Sept. 11 by the neighbor, who said McKeehan had threatened him. The same day, deputies were called to McKeehan's house about an alleged domestic incident.

On Sept. 13, they were called again on a complaint that McKeehan had assaulted the same neighbor. McKeehan was charged with malicious wounding - which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 - because the neighbor had a cut on his forehead. McKeehan suffered a cut over his eye in the incident. Diggs said it appeared that only McKeehan was charged because he was considered the aggressor.

Deputies went again, on Sept. 15, because of another dispute between McKeehan and the neighbor.

On Sept. 20, they were called to McKeehan's house about a domestic situation involving his wife.

On Friday, McKeehan's wife called to complain about an assault the night before. She was told how to seek a warrant from the magistrate, and she did.

The Sheriff's Office served that warrant - for a misdemeanor assault - Friday night.

According to one of the earlier reports, McKeehan had told his wife that he was going to kill himself, Diggs said. But the officer who arrested McKeehan on Friday probably would not have known that, Diggs said.

Maj. Sherry Castellaw, the jail's assistant administrator, said McKeehan was not on a suicide watch. She said it was standard practice to check on inmates at least twice an hour.

McKeehan was the third inmate to kill himself since the jail opened in 1997, Castellaw said. Two other inmates have died as a result of medical problems, she said.

Tingstrom said McKeehan's funeral would probably be over the weekend in Cincinnati, where the family is from.

McKeehan was married to his high school sweetheart for 18 years. He was also in the service for 18 years. He earned a college degree in business while working, according to a written statement from his family.

The statement said he was a devoted father to his children, 10 and 15, coached Little League baseball, and attended all of the children's sports and academic events.

"Brian was a member of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and was available to family, friends and community in times of need. In recent years, Brian has had to overcome the sudden death of his brother and mother," the statement said.

"No words can express how much he will be missed. His family and friends loved him very much."

Staff writer Kimball Payne contributed to this report.
Copyright 2004, Daily Press

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