BY JULIE MANGANIS STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — PEABODY — Finding that John Keegan continues to minimize his role in the brutal 1996 slaying of a young woman outside her Peabody condominium, the state Parole Board has voted to deny him parole.
Keegan, now 42, was one of two men charged in the death of Kristen Crowley, 27, who was found bludgeoned to death in the woods near Ledgewood Condominiums off Lowell Street on June 2, 1996.
A second man, Timothy Dykens, was convicted of first-degree murder following a trial in October 1997. Dykens is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole. A day after Dykens was convicted, Keegan pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, making him eligible for parole after serving 15 years.
During an emotional, four-hour parole hearing that took place more than a year ago, in October 2011, both Crowley’s family members and the Essex District Attorney’s Office spoke out against his release, with a prosecutor pointing out that Keegan, who had recently married in the summer of 2011, continued to carry on an extramarital affair with another woman through phone calls, and that he still advertised on a website, “hotprisonpals,” for additional female companionship.
But some of the toughest comments came from board members themselves, who grilled him on the inconsistencies between his testimony at the hearing and his prior versions of what happened.
During the parole hearing, Keegan sought to portray himself as a would-be “Good Samaritan,” who was thwarted in his efforts by his co-defendant and who acted primarily as a lookout.
But board members, including chairman Josh Wall, weren’t buying it, honing in on the fact that Keegan, who had been with Dykens at the Golden Banana before the killing, not only sought information on dancers who might be willing to provide sexual services, but that he was the one who spotted Crowley in a convenience store and inquired about her to a store clerk.
And, board member Roger Michel noted during the hearing, Keegan was at the wheel as the pair followed Crowley to her condo.
The two attacked Crowley as she walked to her door, dragging her away toward a wooded area. Dykens attempted to sexually assault Crowley, who was struck in the head with a 47-pound boulder and a smaller rock. Keegan also kicked her four to five times.
In addition to acting as a lookout for Dykens during the attempted sexual assault, Keegan helped collect potential evidence from the scene, including her shoes, and disposed of the items.
In a written statement submitted to the Parole Board before the hearing last year, Keegan appeared to take more responsibility, acknowledging his participation in targeting Crowley and diverting potential witnesses.
But during the hearing, Keegan “absolved himself of blame for nearly every activity that night,” the board found in its decision. Keegan repeatedly claimed that he was only seeking out sex for Dykens, at the other man’s behest. In addition, he added a new claim that he had tried to stop Dykens by punching and kicking him, the first anyone had heard of that.
“Keegan’s version of his involvement and actions in this heinous crime conflicts with his previous admissions, his conviction, the witness statements, and facts presented at Dykens’ trial,” the board wrote. “Mr. Keegan consistently portrayed himself as a Good Samaritan who tried to prevent his co-defendant from inflicting harm on the victim, yet he could not explain his failed opportunities to render aid, enlist witnesses for help, contact the police and cooperate with the authorities.”
The board also noted Keegan’s ongoing troubling relationships with women, a pattern that dates back to before the murder. At the time of the killing, he was on parole for the beating of his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend and had lied to his then-girlfriend, who had just given birth to their child three weeks earlier, about his plans for the evening.
“John Keegan had a concerning pattern of objectifying and mistreating women,” the board found in its decision.
And despite taking part in several treatment programs in prison, “he persists with mistreating women and refusing to deal honestly and candidly with others,” the decision states. “Because he is not rehabilitated, he is likely to re-offend if released and his parole is not compatible with the welfare of society.”
His parole hearing last year was his first attempt at parole. In its decision, the Parole Board ordered that he cannot come back before the board again for five years.
“This decision keeps a dangerous criminal behind bars,” District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a press release. “Mr. Keegan committed a heinous crime in the kidnapping and brutal beating of Kristen Crowley. He has never taken responsibility for his actions. I will continue to oppose his release as long as I am District Attorney.”
Susan Ramunda, Crowley’s mother, could not be reached for comment on the decision before last night’s Salem News deadline.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.