Man convicted of killing pizza delivery driver will have chance for parole

Judge resentences David Keegan, who was juvenile at time of murder

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The brother of Greg Wells, who was killed while delivering a pizza in 2002, said he was upset with Friday’s resentencing of the man who attacked and killed his brother.

“Nothing will bring back Greg, but this is so hard for families who have to go through it,” Paul Wells said after David Keegan, 32, convicted at age 17, was resentenced to life in prison with the immediate possibility of parole.

After the hearing, Paul Wells and his sister, Teresa Ellickson, were struggling to understand the judge’s ruling.

They said they hoped the parole board would look at the fact that Keegan helped plan the robbery and killing of Greg Wells, 31, of Cedar Rapids, on Jan. 6, 2002.

Podcast: 'On the Record' discusses Keegan's resentencing

A Linn County jury convicted Keegan of first-degree murder and second-degree robbery in 2003. He was originally sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

Testimony showed Keegan called and ordered a pizza on Jan. 6, 2002, and that he and his friend, Brandy Byrd, planned to rob the pizza delivery driver. Byrd hid in a utility closet in Keegan’s Marion apartment, so she could ambush Wells and steal his money and car.

Byrd struck Wells in the head 10 to 12 times with a claw hammer, and then Keegan attempted to smother him with a pillow, according to testimony. Wells tried to defend himself, and Keegan slit Wells’ throat with a butcher knife.

Wells died from multiple blunt force injuries to his head and the laceration to his throat.

Keegan has served 14 years in prison.

But because of a Supreme Court decision in 2012, which banned life sentences with no parole for juvenile offenders, Keegan was granted a resentencing.

During that hearing, which started in May, the judge considered factors such as home environment, education and circumstances of the crime.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Lars Anderson on Friday said he had decided, based on recent juvenile cases before the Iowa Supreme Court, that a life sentence with the possibility of parole was the appropriate sentence for Keegan.

Anderson noted that Keegan has taken full responsibility for his crime and, at his last hearing, expressed remorse.

Anderson said he also considered Keegan’s progress reports from prison. Those reports said Keegan was a model inmate who took advantage of all the rehabilitation programs.

On Friday, before the judge announced his ruling, Keegan admitted he had murdered Wells, saying he (Keegan) had acted as “a coward, I had the opportunity to do the right thing, and I didn’t.”

Keegan said it was “despicable” of him to have minimized his role in the killing, trying to blame it on Bryd.

“I’m not asking for a second chance,” he told the judge. “I’m asking for an opportunity to demonstrate I’m worthy of a second chance.”

First Assistant Linn County Attorney Nick Maybanks argued that recent state Supreme Court rulings did not forbid district court judges from ordering a mandatory minimum sentence for prisoners convicted as juveniles.

He argued Keegan should serve a mandatory 30 years of his life sentence before becoming eligible for parole, citing the gruesome factors in the murder.

Wallace Taylor, Keegan’s lawyer, argued that recent case law did make it unconstitutional to impose a mandatory minimum on juvenile offenders. He also noted how Keegan had changed and matured in prison.

In his remarks, Anderson said he, too, was “skeptical” the state Supreme Court would uphold a 30-year mandatory minimum.

After the hearing, Taylor said he appreciated the court’s decision, and that he felt it was justified, based on Keegan’s progress while in prison.

Byrd, who was 20 when she and Keegan murdered Wells, was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in 2003 and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

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