Nash County man pleads no contest, sentenced to up to 41 years in prison in death of wife

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Rexford Lynn Keel, the Nash County man accused of killing his wife back in 2019, was in court in Greenville on Monday as jury selection was complete and a trial was set to begin.

However, Keel plead no contest to the murder of Diana Keel, 38, and was sentenced by a judge to up to 41 years in prison on murder and kidnapping charges.

“She was hoping for life in prison but thinking about everything, it’s fair,” said Esperanza Prada, the mother of Diana Keel, through an interpreter.

On March 17, 2019, Rexford Lynn Keel, now 59, was charged with first-degree murder in the death of Diana Keel, 38. Court documents from 2019 show she was found wearing only underwear and her wedding ring. Tire tracks were found close to her body.

Diana Keel was reported missing more than a week before her body was found. Lynn Keel was questioned following her disappearance but later released. 

After an extensive manhunt, Keel was arrested near Tucson, Arizona in 2019 after a manhunt for him. According to the Arizona search warrant, he was found with a knife, camping gear, and medication. Court documents show his pickup truck was spotted by a license plate reader. 

Pima County (Arizona) Superior Court Judge Lee Ann Roads found Lynn Keel knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently gave up his right to challenge extradition and signed the waiver. 

Attorney David Braswell, who represented Keel, believed a plea deal of no contest was the best choice given the situation.

“It was a difficult decision for him to make. If you were present in the courtroom, you heard the facts that were presented by the district attorney and they’re difficult facts,” Braswell said. “He made the decisions based on what we thought the evidence would prove in the case.”

Braswell said Keel has some medical issues which also aided in the decision.

“It is a lengthy sentence. He is 59 years old. He has kidney failure and is losing his eyesight. If this thing would have gone on two, three-plus weeks, I don’t think we would’ve gotten anywhere,” Braswell said. “There is just a tremendous amount of evidence, so this would have been something everybody would have been hearing about every day.”

Diana Keel’s mother hopes her daughter’s death can serve as a lesson to others.

“The only thing she wants to tell women, if they are close to a man that is abusive, run. Because she doesn’t want another mother to go through the same thing she is going through,” Esperanza Prada’s interpreter said.

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