The Mysterious Death of Keith Warren - Unsolved Mysteries

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

Keith Warren

The scene looked like suicide

CASE DETAILS

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.

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.”

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 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 FarinaVarious seasons available now on Hulu.

 

13 Comments

  1. 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.

    Reply

  2. Gerald

    This crazy

    Reply

  3. 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?

    Reply

  4. 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 :
    Either,
    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.

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

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

    Reply

  6. 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…..

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    Of Course, it is murder, but why?

    Reply

  8. Ab

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

    Reply

  9. 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.

    Reply

  10. Anonymous

    His mother died in 2009

    Reply

  11. 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.

    Reply

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4.1 This Website may make available chat rooms, blogs, forums, message boards, and news groups. Please remember that any information that you disclose in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information. Information disclosed by you or by others enters the public domain and may be freely used by any other persons or entities using the site.

ARTICLE 5. Information Sharing With Third Parties
5.1 From time to time we may enter into a special relationship with another company that is not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. to provide additional features at this Website. These special relationships may include “powered by” partners, business partners, sponsors, and co-branded sites (referred to here as “co-branded pages”). These might include, for example, pages that share our name and that of another entity. You should look for a specific privacy statement on any such co-branded page. Any personal information that you provide when signing up at one of those co-branded pages may be shared with our third party partner. You should also check our partner’s website for information regarding its privacy policies.

5.2 Also, the nature of some features of our Website may require that we share personal information about you with persons or companies outside of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. For example, this may occur at a feature that enables you, via our Website, to ask questions of persons or entities that are not part of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. By responding to those features of the site, whether by email or direct entry of information on our Website, you are consenting to our transferring that information to such persons or entities.

5.3 With respect to specific registration modules, like contests, we may disclose personal information collected, and we may post a conspicuous statement on the registration module to the effect that we will be disclosing the information collected with third parties.

5.4 Finally, we may share any of the information collected from you with these other non- Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc companies in an aggregate basis. The aggregated information is not linked to any information that can identify you.

ARTICLE 6. IP Address and Log Files
6.1 We may use your IP address to administer our Website, to help diagnose problems with our server, to analyze trends, to track users’ webpage movements, to help identify you and your shopping cart, and to gather broad demographic information for aggregate use.

ARTICLE 7. Cookies
7.1 This Website may use a standard technology called a “cookie” to collect information about how you use the Website. Cookies reside on your computer and help our Website to recognize your computer’s browser as a previous visitor. This information allows us to customize delivery of information. For example, our Website may use cookies to save and remember registration information or preferences that you may have set while browsing the Website, to keep track of your shopping cart, to ensure you don’t see the same ad content repeatedly, to deliver content specific to your interests, and to save your password so you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit our site. We use cookies only to gather information as indicated in this policy.

7.2 In addition, on occasion our site may also set a “session cookie” which helps us administer the Website. The session cookie expires when you close your browser and does not retain any information about you after it expires.

7.3 Finally, we may also use an ad network provider to help present advertisements on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. websites. This ad network provider, like other advertising service vendors, uses cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies on the hard drive of your computer to serve you advertisements tailored to interests you have shown by browsing on this and other sites you have visited, and to determine whether you have seen a particular advertisement before and to avoid sending you duplicate advertisements. In doing so, the provider collects non-personal data such as your browser type, your operating system, web pages visited, time of visits, content viewed, ads viewed, and other clickstream data. The use of cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies by these ad network providers is subject to their own privacy policies, not ours, and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the collection or use of such information.

ARTICLE 8. Banner Advertising
8.1 We have contracted with an ad-service to place banner advertising on our Website. All of the data provided and generated by the ad-server software remains in our possession. This feature of our Website may, on occasion, set “cookies” on your computer. Any information collected or stored by the ad-service or the cookies is treated in the same manner as other information described in this statement.

ARTICLE 9. Children’s Personal Information
9.1 Consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act:

9.1.1 This site does NOT collect, use, or disclose personal information (including online contact information) of children under the age of thirteen (13).

9.1.2 In the event that a child under the age of 13 attempts to register on our site, we will NOT accept the registration and will delete information received from the child.

9.1.3 In the event that a child posts personal information in a public forum such as a chat room, we will attempt to delete that information once we become aware of it.

ARTICLE 10. Security of Your Personal Information
10.1 Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for information collected through this Website. We believe that we have adequate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information we collect on our Website. We also use internal protections to limit access to users’ personal information to only those employees who need the information to perform a specific job.

ARTICLE 11. Sale or Merger
11.1 If this Website is sold to, or merges with, another company not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc., you should expect that some or all of the information collected from this Website may be transferred to the buyer/surviving company. If so, CMP will seek to obligate the acquiring company to use any personal information transferred by this Website in a manner consistent with this statement, but cannot guarantee that it will be able to impose that requirement or that the acquiring company will comply.

ARTICLE 12. Legal Process
12.1 You should be aware that Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. may be required to disclose your personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances, such as in court or regulatory proceedings.

ARTICLE 13.  Contacting the Website

13.1        If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of this Website, or your dealings with this Website, please contact us at: unsolved@unsolved.com.

ARTICLE 14.  general information

14.1        Choice of Law:  This Agreement and the Additional Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of California , as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such state, without regard to conflict of law principles.

14.2        Choice of Forum:  You agree that any cause of action you or Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. brings to enforce this Agreement and/or the Additional Terms, or in connection with any matters related to this Website and/or the Privacy Statement, shall be submitted to arbitration in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America in accordance with the commercial rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association then in effect (as amended herein), provided that said arbitration shall be heard before a single arbitrator, who shall be a retired judge, selected pursuant to such rules and regulations, and shall be conducted on an expedited basis and in confidence. The arbitrator’s decision shall be controlled by the terms and conditions of this agreement and any other agreements I may enter into with you, and shall be final and binding, and shall provide for each party to bear its own costs of arbitration and attorneys’ fees.  Each party expressly waives any right to a jury.  Judgment upon the award of the arbitrator may be entered or enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction. 

14.4        If any provision of this Agreement, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or for any reason unenforceable then such provision shall be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that matches, as closely as possible, the original provision, and the other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.  The failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right.  Unless expressly provided otherwise, this Agreement is the entire agreement between you and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. with respect to the use of this Website and shall not be modified except in writing, signed by an authorized representative of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc.

ARTICLE 15.  European Union and Other Foreign Nations

15.1        This Website is governed by and operated in accordance with the laws of United States of America and is intended for enjoyment of residents of the United States.  Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. makes no representation that this Website is governed by or operated in accordance with the laws of other nations.  By using this Website and submitting any personal information, visitors from outside of the United States acknowledge this Website is subject to U.S. law, consent to the transfer of personal data to the U.S., and waive any claims that may arise under their own national laws.