Nashville, N.C. — A Nash County man plead no contest to the 2019 murder of his wife to avoid going to trial. Rexford Lynn Keel Jr., 59, who goes by Lynn, will face up to 41 years in prison on murder and kidnappings charges.
Police in Arizona arrested Keel Jr on March 17, 2019, in connection with the murder of his wife, Diana Alejandra Keel, 38.
An autopsy report shows that Diana Keel was severely beaten to death.
Prosecutors said that Keel was seen having a heated argument with Diana on the morning of March 8, right before she was killed. Keel went on to “savagely beat” Diana in her bedroom, clean the room and roll her body up in a tarp, according to the prosecution.
The state said on Monday that two years before killing her, Lynn Keel took out more than $1 million in life insurance on his wife Diana, and he was the sole beneficiary of the policy.
“He did stand to benefit from her death,” the prosecution said.
She had suffered a number of blows to her head by both a blunt-force object and a sharp object, leaving her with “extensive skull fractures” and brain injuries, as well as cuts to her face, neck and scalp, according to the autopsy report.
Diana Keel’s body was found in a wooded area about 30 miles from the Nash County home she shared with her husband. Investigators said Lynn Keel originally told them that his wife had left home to run some errands before she vanished.
After the murder, Keel fled nearly 2,000 miles to Arizona with what the prosecution said was a truck full of canned goods.
A no contest plea, similar to a guilty plea, means that the defendant accepts responsibility for the charge. Keel pled to second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. Keel’s defense attorney’s asked that the judge takes into account that he has been experiencing kidney failure and has been incarcerated for the past two years.
Diana Keel’s mother spoke at Monday’s hearing, asking the judge for a harsh sentence.
“I want you to have the same compassion for Keel that he had when he killed her,” she said.
Lynn Keel was indicted by a grand jury for first-degree murder in the case in October 2019.
Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said that investigators are also looking into the death of Lynn Keel’s first wife, Bess, who died in 2006 after a fall that was ruled accidental.
More than 60 guns and several other weapons were seized from the home where Diana Keel lived with her husband before he was charged with her murder.