Deputies make arrest in Keener killing

Jessie Murphy

Charleston County sheriff’s deputies have arrested a 21-year-old Johns Island man in connection with the slaying of Kathryn Keener, whose body was found Aug. 6 floating in a green, stagnant pond on Bear Swamp Road.

Deputies arrested Jessie Murphy this morning without incident at his Hay Road home and charged him with murder in the shooting death of Keener, Sheriff’s Maj. John Clark said.

Keener, 49, was last heard from on the afternoon of Aug. 1 and did not appear at her mother’s birthday party that evening.

At 5:11 p.m., the day of the party, deputies were called out to the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, 712 Wappoo Road, where an sport utility vehicle had been set ablaze. The SUV had been burned so badly that the license plate and vehicle identification number were obliterated.

A few days later, after Keener had been reported missing, her body was found in the pond near the spot where her Toyota 4Runner had been found burning. An autopsy determined she had been shot once in the head. Further investigation determined she had been killed in the late afternoon of Aug. 1, an arrest affidavit stated.

A witness told investigators he and Murphy had borrowed Keener’s vehicle and Murphy was supposed to take the SUV back to her home on Aug. 1, deputies said.

A second witness stated that he saw Muprhy and Keener riding in the vehicle on Aug. 1 on Greenland Road, near Bear Swamp Road. A short time later, the man received a call that Keener’s vehicle was involved in a shooting. He then saw Keener’s vehicle abandoned behind the church, with no one in the area. The same witness also had seen Murphy with a .38 caliber revolver before he got into Keener’s vehicle, an arrest affidavit stated.

The witness told deputies he saw Murphy around 4:30 p.m. that day with blood on his red shirt. He said Murphy tossed the shirt along the side of Hughes Road. Deputies later recovered the shirt, an affidavit stated.

Investigators have not released a possible motive for the shooting. Sheriff Al Cannon will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to go over the arrest and investigation to date.

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