Story of the Death of Keith Warren
Keith died in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1986, one month away from starting college. Paramedics found Keith in a wooded area behind the family townhouse, hanging from a tree by the neck, bent double with his weight. After a very brief investigation, the authorities concluded that Keith had committed suicide and closed the case despite the fact that the rope was tied around the bigger tree to support the smaller tree, and the fork in the tree through which the rope was pulled was at least 18 ft. high. How can a suicide victim tie ropes around two separate trees and hoist themselves up?
Facts of the case:
1. The family was notified of the death about 6 hours after the body was found.
2. The lead Detective used information from a third party, unrelated, unknown source to determine Keith Warren’s death a suicide.
3. No one with a medical background examined Keith Warren’s body prior to being released to the funeral home chosen by the lead detective.
4. The body was immediately taken to a funeral home for embalming, no criminal investigation or autopsy was performed. The family was not informed prior to the embalming.
5. The clothing that he was wearing when found was not his own.
6. The tree from which Keith Warren was hanged was cut down quickly and taken into “evidence” but cannot be found.
7. There was no evidence of a criminal investigation, no yellow tape, no questioning of witnesses or other steps to evaluate if a crime had occurred.
There are many more instances of questionable behavior on the part of the police department and the coroner’s office.
“It just does not add up, and more importantly I question why there was a rush to write “suicide” on the death certificate and an unwillingness to investigate a 19 year old African American male found lynched in Montgomery County, Maryland,” says Sherri, his sister.
A month after burial the Warren family had returned home from an outing. One of the relatives wanted to see the tree in the back, where Keith was found. When they arrived at the spot, the tree had been cut down without the family’s knowledge by the police (who admitted cutting it down and were holding it for evidence). Two years later the police disposed of the tree. On Keith’s birthday in 1992, six years after Keith died, his mother came home from work and found a large manila envelope on her doorstep. The envelope contained five official police photos, which showed different angles of Keith hanging by the neck, wearing someone else’s clothing. The personal items and clothing the family received in 1986 was not the same clothing Keith was wearing when he went missing. Someone knew the right items to give the family and destroyed the other clothes. At the time of Keith’s death, a police officer gave the family his boots. In the photos of Keith hanging, he was wearing athletic shoes which he did not own. The police tried to explain away the discrepancy by saying the items given to the family were around the body. Who would take a change of clothing to hang themselves?
The family hired a private investigator who was instrumental in having the body exhumed. The independent forensic pathologist whom the family hired found high levels of TCE (potent chemical found in glue and solvents) in his body. Keith had so much of this chemical in his body, he couldn’t even have been conscious enough to string himself up in the tree. The forensic pathologist stated, “I believe Keith Warren’s death being listed as a suicide is medically not supportable.” The Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office claimed that TCE and other chemicals were injected into Keith’s body with the embalming fluid. However, the forensic pathologist and other professionals did research that proved two chemicals in Keith’s body are not contained in any embalming fluid, and that the distribution of the chemicals in Keith’s body were not consistent with post-mortem injection. Several years later, the Sheriff’s office received a tip that someone slipped something into Keith’s drink at a party, and dressed him in the wrong clothes. We believe that since Keith’s family was not given the opportunity to do an autopsy prior to embalming, the least the Medical Examiner’s office can do is change the death certificate from “suicide” to “undetermined.”
Keith’s friends who were interviewed by a private investigator all said they saw no signs of Keith being suicidal nor being heavily involved in drugs. Also the paramedic who arrived to the original crime scene prior to the police officer wrote and signed a notarized document that he did not believe Keith’s death to be a suicide. There is a copy of the document on this site as well as on Facebook. Along with the pictures, Keith’s mother received a note which said, “Ms. Warren, don’t worry, Mark Finley will be next.” Finley was an associate of Keith’s. Finley found out about the threatening note and contacted Keith’s mother, “Ms. Warren, I will be by to see you, I need to unload.” Finley was also rumored to have bragged at several parties after Keith’s body was found in 1986, that he helped put Keith in the tree. One month later, before he could visit Ms. Warren, Mark Finley was found dead. According to police, Finley died accidentally when his bike struck a curve and he was thrown from the bike at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. The ambulance crew was interviewed by the private detective and they said the damage to Finley did not fit the accident. The damage to his face look like someone hit him with a baseball bat. This case was never reopened and remains closed. Keith’s sister and a handful of friends have launched a Facebook campaign to bring awareness to this situation.
Sherri’s (Keith’s sister) question is, “If you think about it, who holds the entities that hold us accountable for our actions, accountable for theirs?” The thought and premise is to use the network and web to update the situation, to show how the state of Maryland local and state government every day for the last 28 years have allowed someone to get away with murder and turned their backs on the family. It is also to let those involved know that the family and friends are not going away. We are in desperate need of support in getting the cause of death changed from suicide to homicide. This situation could happen to you or someone you know. You have a black man strung up on tree in 1986, you have physical evidence that was admittedly destroyed by local law enforcement, you have an additional questionable death surrounding this situation, and you have crime scene photos which clearly show evidence of cover-up. What more would you need if you were in law enforcement to re-investigate, re-open or at the least care about Keith Warren. The family and friends of Keith Warren are working hard to put as much information out to show that this is not speculation but FACT! The friends and family have to now step outside the State of Maryland and show how utterly ridiculous it is for the Maryland judicial system to continue to ignore this situation, hoping it will go away. There are other victims of the Maryland State Medical Examiner in the 1980s and 1990s and we hope to find them and join with them to expose the inaccuracy and laziness of that office. We want everyone to know that as you sit comfortably in your house, office, car or wherever you may be, you are just a moment in time from your life being changed and damaged by those sworn into office to protect and serve. Whether or not the police were directly involved, why won’t they try to do right? Their silence is just as damaging as the crime of putting Keith on the tree. Keith’s story was profiled on Discovery Channel, Unsolved Mysteries and Jet Magazine. Ms. Mary was interviewed several times on the local ABC news channel 7 as well as local print. There is a Facebook (Keith W Warren) campaign to get this case re-opened and re-investigated. Ms. Mary (Keith’s mom) passed in 2009. The last 23 years of Mrs. Mary’s life, Sherri watched her mom try to get help from those who are in the position to give it. But all she got was ignored and disrespected.
About the Foundation:
Keith Warren was a son, brother, grandson, cousin and friend. Keith was loved and adored by his family and friends. The untimely death of Keith Warren brought sorrow and sadness of which my mother Mrs. Mary Couey suffered for 23yrs until her untimely death in 2009. “The Foundation’s mission was born out of my family’s experiences and my hope to help other families in similar situations. In 1986 my mother Ms. Mary Couey did not have the money to hire a legal representative to give her direction on what path to take to bring justice and accountability in the death of her only son Keith Warren. She spent countless hours over the years doing her own investigations, seeking assistance, pursuing documents from the police and legal system, attempting to navigate the justice system. I stood by her as a young girl and into my womanhood and personally witnessed the pain, frustration, disrespect, untruths and secrecy that surrounded this case. As I grew, I too became passionate about the search for justice. I made a commitment to my mother and my brother Keith that I will work to ensure no other individual or family would have to walk our scary and horrific path in their pursuit of justice and accountability. If the Foundation can help even one family in this journey; then my brother’s death will not have been in vain. Although my mother did not see the fruits of her labor of love for her only son Keith Warren, her legacy will live on through The Keith Warren Justice Foundation and my big brother may rest in peace.”