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Father testifies that he saw daughter shot

Tuesday, October 27, 1998

By John M.R. Bull, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Bill and Michele Keitel's divorce was ugly; the battle over their children, intense and rancorous.

Lawyers, judges, police officers, constables, private investigators, family and friends of the Keitels all were sucked into the case.

Finally, on Jan. 1, the bad blood that had grown for a year exploded.

On that day, police said, Bill Keitel shot Michele Walker Keitel in the head, killed her boyfriend and wounded her father in front of the couple's children.

Yesterday, Michele Walker Keitel's father, Charles Walker, acknowledged that the divorce had grown ugly. But he said Bill Keitel killed his daughter without mercy.

"Out of the corner of my eye I saw Bill's arm come out, right to her head, and he shot her," Walker testified, crying. "If you never seen your child murdered before you, you don't know how I feel."

Bill Keitel, 44, a former USAirways customer services representative, is arguing that he fired the shots in self-defense. He says he was ambushed by his wife and her friends and family as he picked up his children.

The prosecutor calls it premeditated murder and wants Keitel convicted and sentenced to death.

The trial began last week and is expected to continue through this week.

The shooting occurred about 9:30 p.m. after the Keitels met at a Stop 'N Go in Ohio Township to exchange their children, William, 6, and Abbee, 3. Michele Keitel was hours late in dropping off the children.

Angry words were exchanged. Bill Keitel flashed a gun and then drove off with his children. But then he suddenly stopped the car.

Keitel fired once, hitting Michele Keitel's boyfriend, Charles Dunkle, 34, Walker testified.

He said he jumped on Keitel, and the two struggled over the gun before Keitel shot the 57-year-old man in the stomach.

As Michele Walker Keitel knelt by her fallen boyfriend, Bill Keitel shot her in the head at point-blank range, even as he continued to struggle over the gun with her father, Walker testified.

"I don't know if she saw him or not," Walker testified in a broken voice.

An autopsy showed the gun barrel was pressed against Michele Walker Keitel's head when the bullet was fired.

Michele Walker Keitel, 35, was killed instantly. Dunkle was dead by the time paramedics arrived. He had been shot through the heart.

Prosecutor Edward Borkowski noted that said all the bullets were fired at close range, showing an intent to kill -- an aggravating circumstance necessary to seek the death penalty.

But defense attorney William Difenderfer is using the nastiness of the divorce as the cornerstone to his argument that Keitel shot in self-defense. Difenderfer told the jury that Keitel feared for his life and that threats had been made against him.

Keitel bought a gun legally and often had constables or police around when the children were exchanged.

Difenderfer said Keitel fired the gun that night when others attacked him and his father, William Keitel Sr., who was with him at the time.

Difenderfer said Michele Walker Keitel constantly ignored a detailed court order that spell out custody arrangements with the children, when the children were to be exchanged, where and whose presence was allowed or forbidden. Dunkle was one who was not permitted at the exchanges, nor were other friends of the family, such as Terry Miller, who was with Dunkel that night.

On cross examination yesterday, Walker conceded that the divorce was ugly.

"There was continuous litigation in this case, correct?" Difenderfer asked.

"Correct," Walker replied.

"Everything brought on letters. Everything brought on litigation, right?" Difenderfer asked.

"Right," Walker answered.

Walker testified that no one that night attacked Keitel or Keitel's father, nor threatened them in any way.

Difenderfer has told the jury that Keitel had insisted on public exchanges of the children because he feared Walker and his estranged wife's friends.

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