Elderly couple held at gunpoint in Franklin home invasion

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a man who held an elderly couple at gunpoint in their Franklin home, using duct tape to restrain them to a chair and walker before leaving with their guns and in their vehicle.

A manhunt is underway, and Reese L. Keith, who also goes by Keith L. Reese, 27, of Indianapolis, is considered dangerous, police said.

Police are asking for the public’s help in finding a man who held an elderly couple at gunpoint in their Franklin home, using duct tape to restrain them to a chair and walker before leaving with their guns and in their vehicle.

A manhunt is underway, and Reese L. Keith, who also goes by Keith L. Reese, 27, of Indianapolis, is considered dangerous, police said.

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Less than 24 hours earlier, he had been in police custody on charges relating to a hit-and-run crash and possession of a stolen vehicle, but he was never jailed. Instead, Keith, after suffering three medical episodes while in police custody, was left in Johnson Memorial Hospital on his own and left on his own.

When hospital staff discovered he was missing, police were called, but Keith was not found.

Twelve hours later, an elderly Franklin came home from running errands and found an intruder in their home in a subdivision across the street from the hospital, police said.

Police said that the evidence indicates that it was Keith who went into the home, found their guns, and used duct tape to tie them up. The 90-year-old husband was taped to a kitchen chair. The 88-year-old wife was taped to her walker.

He was wearing a ski mask, and took it off in the final moments before he left their home after the 20-minute ordeal, Franklin Police Deputy Chief Chris Tennell said. Keith left in their vehicle, taking the guns and the woman’s cellphone.

“Anyone willing to go into a stranger’s home and, to prevent being caught, tie them up and leave them, not knowing when and if they’ll be found, is a threat to our community,” Tennell said.

For two hours, the couple worked to get free of the restraints, Tennell said. By 6:30 p.m., they were free and called 911.

“Their life was in danger,” Tennell said. “Luckily because they are fighters, they got themselves free.”

The couple had been gone about an hour and returned home at 4:30 p.m. and found an intruder. The man had a gun and said, “I’ll kill you if you don’t do what I say,” according to the Franklin police report. She tried to quickly call 911, but he stopped her and tied them up, the report said.

The man told the couple that he had slept naked in their vehicle the night before and was on drugs, the report said. He was wearing the husband’s clothes, the report said.

The couple have severe skin irritation due to being restrained with duct tape, but suffered no other injuries.

The intruder’s path to the Franklin couple’s house, which he likely picked at random, started with a car crash on State Road 135 in Greenwood on Sunday afternoon, police said. Keith has a lengthy criminal history that includes arrests for resisting police and possession of drug paraphernalia, Tennell said.

Three trips to the hospital

Greenwood police were called to a hit-and-run crash about 1:15 p.m. Sunday. A driver later identified as Keith had gotten out of the vehicle and ran, Greenwood Police Assistant Chief Matt Fillenwarth said. A Johnson County Sheriff’s Office deputy found a suspect who matched the description sitting in a yard a few blocks away.

Drug paraphernalia was in the car, which had been reported stolen in Indianapolis, and it had a license plate that had been stolen from another vehicle, Fillenwarth said.

Keith had needles in his pocket. Police put handcuffs on him, and he began having a seizure and became unresponsive. The sheriff’s deputy administered a dose of Narcan in case Keith had overdosed on heroin, and he was taken to Community Hospital South for an evaluation which included a blood draw to check for substance abuse, Fillenwarth said.

He was cleared by the hospital, and Greenwood police headed to the Johnson County jail in Franklin, to hold Keith on charges relating to the accident and stolen vehicle, when he started screaming about being in pain due to the car crash, Fillenwarth said.

So the officers took Keith to Johnson Memorial Hospital, located next door to the jail, where he was again checked at 5:11 p.m. and released at 7:45 p.m. to be booked into the jail, Fillenwarth and hospital spokesman Jeff Dutton said.

Keith had another seizure in the vehicle, so the officers turned around and took him back to the hospital at 8:12 p.m., and a doctor admitted him for testing, Fillenwarth and Dutton said.

Reese was being medically monitored, and when the monitoring stopped at 4:25 a.m. Monday, hospital staff checked and saw that Keith had left. The hospital notified law enforcement immediately, Dutton said.

Sheriff Doug Cox said his jail staff will not accept inmates who are not fit for confinement due to medical needs and will err on the side of caution in an effort to prevent inmates from dying in the jail.

Cox went to the family’s home on Monday night to tell the family of the elderly couple what had happened because he felt responsible, he said.

Now he is calling on the public’s help to find Keith,

“He needs to suffer consequences for what he did to these folks,” Cox said. “There is no excuse for what he did when he left the hospital.”

Police stop leads to car

The Camelot Estates neighborhood is located across Jefferson Street from Johnson Memorial Hospital. Police believe Keith walked to the neighborhood and picked a random house, Tennell said.

What time he got to the home and if he was in the home for a long period of time undetected is unknown.

He left the home with the woman’s cellphone, three guns, and in their silver 2011 Nissan Altima.

The car was found mid-day Tuesday in a bizarre coincidence.

Franklin police were called back to the Camelot Estates subdivision Tuesday morning on a report of suspicious people in the neighborhood.

Two officers found people in the neighborhood looking for discarded items, such as metal, that they can sell or repurpose, and explained to them that residents were on edge due to what had happened the day before. They told police they had given a ride that morning in Greenwood to a man who matched the description of the robber.

Acting on that information, police went to an apartment complex off Fry Road and found the couple’s vehicle. Evidence technicians were searching it on Tuesday afternoon, and the investigation is continuing.

Judgment call

Greenwood police began its own review of its officers’ interactions with Keith after learning about the assault, Fillenwarth said.

He has learned that Greenwood police officers stayed with Reese at the hospital Sunday night until about 11:30 p.m., when the decision was made to seek a warrant for his arrest and send the police officers back to Greenwood, since it was unknown how long Reese would be admitted and because he wasn’t accused of a violent crime, Fillenwarth said.

“You feel bad,” Fillenwarth said of the department’s reaction to learning that one of their suspects had left the hospital and was accused of assaulting an elderly couple. “But the city police department doesn’t have anywhere to hold prisoners, especially prisoners who require medical attention.

“If they aren’t a violent offender or showing an immediate threat to public safety, it is a judgment call,” Fillenwarth said.

The police department does not have enough officers to leave an officer with a suspect admitted to the hospital, unless the suspect was accused of a crime such as attempted murder, Fillenwarth said.

The jail provides medical care and arranges treatment for inmates who have an ongoing illness, but do not allow suspects to be booked into jail if they are suffering from a medical episode, Cox said.

Greenwood police began a review of the incident that led to Keith being left at the hospital. The department talked to the shift supervisor and some of the officers involved, and also reviewed the footage captured by the officers’ body-worn cameras, Fillenwarth said.

“He was cooperative with us,” Fillenwarth said of the suspect’s behavior on Sunday afternoon and evening. “There was nothing to indicate he was going to do a violent crime like this.

“Everyone is second-guessing. I don’t know what else we could have done. You have no way of knowing he is going to come out and do something like he did.”

 

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.