A Maryland teen is poisoned, but police say he committed suicide.

A school portrait of Keith Warren

Keith Warren

A rope tied around a tree

The scene looked like suicide


On July 31, 1986, a mother’s quiet world was shattered. Her only son, 19-year-old Keith Warren, was dead. Keith had lived with his sister and mother since his parents’ divorce when he was 10. By all accounts, Keith seemed destined for a promising future. Instead, his life had come to an untimely end.

Body of Keith Warren wearing someone else's shoes

Whose shoes was he wearing, and why?

Paramedics found Keith in a wooded area behind his family’s townhouse. He was hanging by the neck from a small tree that was bent double with his weight. The elaborate arrangement of the hanging rope would later be the source of bitter debate. The cord was anchored around the base of a large tree. It extended some 25 feet to a small sapling. It encircled the sapling’s trunk and then arched up through a fork. However, authorities saw nothing suspicious about the scene. After a brief visual inspection, the county’s deputy medical examiner determined that Keith Warren had committed suicide. No autopsy was ordered and the body was dispatched to a funeral home for embalming. It was already dark when Keith’s mother, Mary Couey, was informed of her son’s death:

“I didn’t realize at the time that Keith’s body was not in a morgue. There’d been no investigation and his body had been discovered maybe five or six hours earlier… I didn’t know at the time that the officer had chosen a funeral home.”

Initially Keith’s mother accepted the finding of suicide, but over time she found discrepancies too numerous to ignore. Her doubts began after she heard from a friend of Keith’s named Rodney Kendell. Rodney reported that a parade of suspicious characters had been looking for Keith shortly before his death:

“It was mainly black males that were in the car. And Keith did not associate much with black males. Most of his friends were white males, so I thought that was pretty strange. After I told them I hadn’t seen Keith, they left.”

The back of Keith Warren with leaves sticking onto his shirt

Leaves on his back suggested he was lying down

Several days later, Rodney Kendell had another odd encounter, this time with a high school acquaintance of Keith’s named Mark Finley:

“He seemed pretty urgent. I thought it was strange because he acted like he needed to find Keith very quickly. And I told him I didn’t know where Keith was and he left.”

Weeks after Keith’s death, Mary asked Rodney to show her the tree where her son’s body was found. But when they arrived to the site, they noticed that only the stump remained. Mary panicked and called the police:

“And they were very rude and told me that ‘Well, what do you want us to do? Yeah, we cut it down. What do you want us to do about it?’”

The exhumed caskett of Keith Warren being taken to a lab on a trailer to be tested

The body was exhumed and tested

The police said they needed to cut down the tree for evidence, but this seemed strange since they had already closed the case. Keith’s mother no longer trusted the police or their explanations. She launched a letter-writing campaign, targeting state and federal officials. But for six long years, Mary Couey hit a stone wall every way she turned.

Then came April 9, 1992, her son’s birthday. Keith would’ve been 25. That afternoon, Mary found a plain manila envelope at her doorstep. The stunning contents swept her back to the day of her son’s death. There were five pictures inside the envelope. Each showed a different view of Keith hanging by his neck. Mary forced herself to look, and in the process, found a glaring discrepancy:

“His clothing didn’t fit him. He was wearing somebody else’s clothing. But the real eye-catcher was that he was wearing white sneakers.”

For Mary Couey, it was a nightmarish inconsistency. It was her son in the photographs but whose clothes was he wearing? Whose white tennis shoes, and why was he wearing them? The only items of clothing the police returned to the family were Keith’s jacket and brown boots. Neither was shown in the photographs, although authorities said that they had been found near Keith’s body. Mary now feared police were working against her and hired private investigator, Joe Alercia:

“The police department conceded that they were copies of original police photos, but they had no idea where they came from, none whatsoever. They were questioned numerous times.”

When Joe Alercia examined the pictures, he noticed leaves on the back of Keith’s shirt. To Alercia, this suggested Keith had been lying on the ground and was hoisted into a hanging position by someone else. Alercia said that his theory was bolstered by the complex path of the rope found at the scene:

“The perpetrators noticed that the tree was small and wouldn’t hold the body. Therefore they needed some security by tying it around the big tree.”

Finally Keith’s family had his body exhumed for an autopsy. The results were shocking. Tests on Keith’s body showed deadly levels of several powerful chemicals that are usually found in glue and solvents. According to forensic pathologist Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, the levels found in Keith’s body were more than enough to kill him:

“These substances can get in there by inhalation, or they can actually even be taken in by mouth… I believe that Keith Warren’s death being listed as suicide is medically not supportable.”

Maryland’s chief medical examiner reviewed the report and claimed the toxic chemicals were part of the embalming process. But Dr. Mihalakis disagreed:

“The substances found in Keith Warren’s body could not have been introduced by the embalming fluid because, the embalmer, in his report never mentioned using any of those substances… Secondly the distribution of the key substance trichloroethane is more consistent with inhalation… And third, two additional substances were found which are totally unrelated to any embalming solution.”

But if the chemicals were not in the embalming fluid, where did they come from? Joe Alercia had his own theory:

“He could’ve been at a party with some drugs involved and he accidentally killed himself and they were afraid. And then they decided to take and hang him, make it look like a suicide… Or he could’ve been attacked from the back. And that particular chemical is so potent, that one chemist said that he was dead before he hit the ground.”

If Keith Warren didn’t hang himself, then who did hang him? In a final disturbing twist, the one person who might’ve answered that question also turned up dead under suspicious circumstances. Mark Finley was one of those who came looking for Keith a few days before he died. Six years later, when Mary received the photographs, a note attached to one said “don’t worry, Mark Finley will be next.” Two months after Mark learned he had been singled out, he contacted Mary Couey:

“Mark called my residence, left a message on my answering machine to the effect of something that said ‘Miss Warren, this is Mark Finley. I got your message and I will be by to see you.’ I do remember the specific words were ‘I need to unload.’”

One month later, Mark Finley was dead. According to the police, Finley died accidentally when he struck a curb and was thrown from his bike. But why was Mark Finley targeted in a threatening note? Did he truly have information about Keith Warren’s death? As with all the other nagging questions, the authorities have a standard answer—this case is closed.

Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season two with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.



  1. Goddess

    This is why I tell my children to never trust white people you can be cordial but always remember that they are different and if they kill you mostly it will not be looked into. 8,000 years of conquering the world murder, deception and corruption.


  2. Cristal Leonard

    Sherri Warren my heart goes out to u and your Family…. It brings tears to my eyes what happened to him and how the justice system works he is a man who deserved more then what he got. I support you guys u keep doing what your doing in praying that Keith gets justice and I believe that his death certificate should be changed and that the police take responsibility


  3. G26

    Just watched Uprooted on Discovery plus. Oh man his sister is a hero and God bless her


  4. Love Justice

    Sounds like to me that the friends knew. The police involved was a relative or friend. To these boys.They had to cover up for the boys involved. They had to clean the scene. Cut down a tree. no investigations. This was a cover. Those whites boys he hung out with did this. One or more knows what happened. Keep investigating. I pray that he gets justice. Suicide please…stop that was a homicide.


  5. Dong daddy

    Is mark finley related to anyone on the police force in that town? Why else would the police help cover it up unless they were somehow involved? Mark finley clearly helped with his “i want to unload” comment.


  6. Cover up

    I watched this show those Police were definitely KKK and I hope all their family grandkids blood line are cursed for what they did. They covered this up .


  7. Sharon Jones

    Regardless of the circumstances he was someone’s child.and he was African American he was killed due to that open up your eyes sad case no other way around it race played a huge factor


  8. Tiffany Powell

    I watched this on discovery plus and I was mortified. I think the police murdered Keith. Why? We may never know and I’m so furious with the fact that his mother spent all her years until her death not knowing who murdered her son and why. Justice may not take place on earth but it will in front of God. People who get away with murder ultimately is sent downstairs. I pray for his family that they find peace. His sister is a true crusader just like his mother. They are in my prayers.


    • ???

      I don’t think it was the police since i teen name Mark said that he helped hanged Keith and was about to say something until he ended up dead. However, I do believe it was a police officer’s son that was involved in it and is more likely why they are trying to cover it up.


    • Alley

      Nope…. There’s no god ..too bad ..


  9. Key

    Who to say he didn’t mess with one of those cops daughter or maybe knock them up and they killed him for that could be a baby out here that belongs to him


  10. Becca C

    I just watched Uprooted. I’m so sad for this family. It’s so unfortunate we can’t trust our law enforcement to be honest and just. I’m so sorry.


  11. Joy

    I am so sorry to this Mom
    I can’t even imagine the pain. I will be praying for you.


  12. Yolanda

    This was a cover up by the police. So so sad.


  13. Tyisha

    It was Mark Finley sheesh!!! Karma finally caught up to him thus the freak accident on the bike.


    • Ladi Yari

      I don’t know who u are you most definitely didn’t pay attention it’s the bestfriend and that circle this case is similar to Kendrick case. He was found in a gym at school and died by the hands of one of his peers who ‘s playing that fake football shit….. The truth will come free soon its killing someone of those friends ..


  14. Mag

    MoCo is the worse! this is terrible … something about that bel pre corridor thats shady … the police later messed up the sniper case … creeps me out because I was a kid when this happened but I later raised my kinds in this area because I thought it was safe … I hope they solve this… my heart aches


  15. Charles

    You can push the suicide probability up until the quick and nonsensical death of Mark Finley. This is definitely a dirty case.


  16. Keisha Antoinette Susan Gordon

    Praying for his family


  17. Vicki Crawford

    My name is Vicki Crawford and I am looking for Buddy who worked with Keith Warren. I am a researcher working on a new documentary for the Discovery Channel on the case. Buddy, if you get this, can you reply back to me? My email is vicki.gsd@gmail.com – thank you!


  18. Buddy

    Keith worked for me at the Kendall’s Shell station on Bel Pre Rd. He was found in the woods behind Georgian Colony Townhomes where my future wife and her parents lived. Keith was a great kid. Always had a smile on his face and was a very positive, happy go lucky person. He would never had taken his own life voluntarily.


  19. Gabriel Alfaro

    This is a truly sad story. I’m from the same town of Aspen Hill as Keith. I was hoping if anyone knew or what part of Aspen Hill he was found. I would like to do a lot more research on his death. If anyone knows please reply. Thanks!!


  20. Jacqueline Epstein

    My dad made a call to 911 after my mom discovered him while walking our dog and she returned frantic. He was told “we are aware of it. “ Someone apparently discovered him first. Right? But why no rush to the scene? And why was his mother not notified until 6 hours later after having been whisked away to a funeral home and embalmed!?
    That is inexcusable.


    • Anonymous Reply

      Sounds like to me that law enforcement knew what happened and covered it up


    • Spikestar01

      Jacqueline, are your parents the same people who’ve been reported that called 911, or did they call in addition to the people who have been reported that called (Lawson & Wynn)?


  21. Jason

    This is an odd case. In my opinion, the rush to determine the manner of death, then a contact dies “unexpectedly?” My first instinct is it sounds like there’s something dirty in Maryland (police).
    But, why the elaborate hanging?? This took someone with more of a brain than just a noose and a tree. Strange case. I hope this family finds peace


  22. J

    The police that handled those 2 murder cases are absolutely horrible people. There probably has never been a more serious crime in that area and this is how it gets treated? Hopefully the dirty cops involved with those 2 cover ups get what’s coming to them. Very bad people that don’t deserve to live and breathe with the rest of us and they give good, honest, hard working police a very bad name and ruin our trust for them


  23. Linda

    Come on Maryland police, reopen the case


  24. c

    Why is there a picture surfacing with him hanging and two people standing there just looking. Am I the only one seen this. I believe the people involved are police affiliated. The clothes should have been tested. The boots should have been tested. Although they weren’t the ones he had on. So many mistakes were made it’s frustrating that no one is trying to help solve this case. So many inconsistencies. he May have been found naked originally and police dressed him to prevent …… Found the shoes as they say…. My sympathy really goes out to the family. I pray someone seen this show when it was aired and decided to help call or something.


  25. Nijiah

    This is a young black man, at the end of the day if it was an overdose albeit accidental or otherwise, the police would have loved to be able to leave it at that, making him just another statistic.
    I believe this was a murder wherein great lengths were gone through by the police to cover it up and disguise it as something else.


  26. Gerald

    This crazy


  27. Debbie

    It’s Terrible How Easy It Is For Some People To Kill. Whoever Killed Keith, More Than Likely Also Killed Mark Findley. How Sad This Is…Who Could Live With This?


  28. Carrie

    I thought I recalled reading somewhere that a 911 call came from one of the houses right next to the wooded area his body was found in shortly before it was found? Saying that someone was dead or overdosed in a basement?? Then they found him in the area behind the houses. At least I could have sworn I read that a while ago when I first read into this case.

    One of two scenarios I believe occurred :
    A. The boy was purposefully inhaling the solvent on his own in an attempt to get high by huffing, probably with other people around doing similar, and accidentally overdosed either directly or by passing out with a rag covered in the substance still over his mouth and or nose
    B. Someone deliberately forced him to inhale something that contained the trichloroethane, and intended to either incapacitate him, get him high against his will, or actually kill him. this seems unlikely because of the effort it would take to restrain a teenage male to force them to inhale something, but still plausible and possible.

    The parties involved then may have tried to revive him, perhaps they removed his shirt in an attempt to give CPR, and when he failed to respond, placed the 911 call, but then panicked when they realized he was dead or thought he was dead, so they quickly redressed him (perhaps this is why he was redressed in certain items that didn’t belong to him, like the shoes) and moved the body to the woods directly behind the house the group was partying at, and faked the scene of his suicide by quickly stringing his body up by the neck and around a tree branch that was too small and low to the ground, and the lack of time meant that they had to then try to wrap the rest of the length of rope around another branch instead of undoing and redoing the job.
    It is totally possible for an individual to hang themselves from a much shorter distance off the ground than most people would think is possible, but his weight, especially in the throes of death via asphyxiation, may have caused the branch to lower so much that his body would have been making enough contact with the ground to alleviate the pressure around his throat, thus not killing him. It seems like the scene of hanging is entirely fabricated after the fact of death.


    • Becca C

      The amount of poison was so high in the coroner’s report he said that it would have killed him instantly so there was no huffing.


  29. Anonymous

    KKK, was involved in police and the legal System there.


  30. Anonymous

    I think police is cover up, why give the mother some of his cloths that was near the scene and not on his body, why cut down a tree for evidence when they rule it suicide…..


  31. Anonymous

    Of Course, it is murder, but why?


  32. Ab

    Sad sad sad story for the family, the people involved will take this to there grave.


  33. Pretty Pony

    Or… The boys who killed him parents are on the police force and they covered it up to protect them? This story reminds me of the young black boy who was killed at his school and rolled up in a gym mat.


    • Plusbabydoll

      You’re right! I remember that case. So sad. The people in this world is just disgusting!


    • SW

      His name was Kendrick Johnson and the Valdosta Police are definitely involved in his murder too! The level of hate in this country is truly ridiculous!


  34. Anonymous

    His mother died in 2009


  35. John Thomas

    I believe it is foul play is involved Why was keith warren poisoned or later hunged then his friend Mark fenley accidentally dies when his bike struck a curb and thrown from his bike. but why Mark Finley targeted in a threatening note.


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