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Dead man's family cannot appeal his murder conviction, federal judges rule

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 11:00 a.m.

A Crescent man said on Tuesday that he'd like to buy a cigar for the inmate who killed his daughter's murderer.

“It's a hell of a thing to say when someone's dead,” said Charles Walker, 72. “But I am very, very happy. My whole family is happy.”

An Allegheny County jury in 1998 convicted William Albert Keitel, 59, of Ohio Township of murdering his ex-wife, Michele Walker Keitel, 35, and her fiancé, Charles Dunkle, 34, during a child custody exchange at a convenience store.

Keitel had a federal appeal pending of his conviction and life sentence. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Friday that his death ends the appeal.

The attorney for William Keitel's parents had told the court they wished to continue the appeal in an attempt to clear their son's name, but a three-judge panel ruled that Keitel's death renders their challenge moot.

Ruth Keitel, William Keitel's mother, referred all questions to attorney Chris Eyster.

Eyster said the Keitels don't plan to appeal the ruling.

“They feel that their son was unjustly convicted, and they wanted to get his criminal conviction vacated and clear his name,” he said.

The state contended that Keitel shot Dunkle in the chest and then shot Michele Walker Keitel in the head as she knelt beside him.

“That's the commonwealth's version of what happened,” Eyster said. “His version is that there was a struggle for the gun and he shot Dunkle during that struggle. His ex-wife was in the vicinity and she was shot by accident.”

Keitel's cellmate at SCI-Houtzdale attacked Keitel on Aug. 2 after they returned from their work assignments, according to state police. Keitel was airlifted to Altoona Hospital and died nine days later, the incident report says.

Clearfield County's district attorney couldn't be reached for comment on whether the cellmate, unnamed in the police report, will be charged.

Michele Walker Keitel had two children, whom her parents adopted after her death. Her son, Phillip Walker, died in a car accident in 2010 when he was 18. Her daughter, Abbee Walker, 18, attends college and is studying to become a medical professional, Charles Walker said. He declined to say where she is enrolled.

Throughout the process, the couple have done what they can to shield their grandchildren from public scrutiny and give them as normal a life as possible, Walker said.

Janet Walker, Michele Walker Keitel's mother, said the appeals took a toll on her family.

“It was very stressful for 16 years, almost,” she said.

Michele Walker Keitel's sister, Charlene McGeary of Beaver Falls, said she forgave William Keitel long ago and hoped he asked for forgiveness before he died, but she is glad the appeals are over.

“It is a relief that we don't have to go through any more and have any more hearings,” she said.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-325-4301 or bbowling@tribweb.com.

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