You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 9:56 a.m.

Webster Township man sentenced to 13-30 years in fatal shooting of his brother

By Art Aisner

Garth Keehl had enough.

His older brother Brett, a former U.S. Marine who was always on the better end of their frequent physical fights, was again knocking him around, Garth Keehl says.

Their dispute over fixing a three-wheeled, all-terrain vehicle was into its third day by May 20. That day, Keehl said, he decided to end it - and their tumultuous relationship - by emptying his gun at close range with several witnesses looking on.

“It’s true. I had it up to here with it that day,” said Keehl, motioning to his temple during an emotional sentencing hearing Wednesday in Washtenaw County Circuit Court.

“He wouldn’t stop your honor. He hit me one last time and I pulled the trigger,” he said, covering his face with his shackled hands as he cried. “I didn’t stop until I was out of ammo.”

Keehl, 49, was shot five times, including twice in the back as he tried to flee, prosecutors said. After the shooting, his younger brother sped to his nearby home on his bicycle and was still holding the weapon when Washtenaw County Sheriff’s deputies arrived.

Circuit Judge Archie Brown sentenced Keehl to 13 to 30 years in prison Wednesday as part of a sentencing agreement that coincided with Keehl’s no contest plea to second-degree murder. He’ll also serve an additional two years for weapons violations.

The punishment was at the lower end of state sentencing guidelines and was less than the 45-year maximum recommended in a pre-sentence report. Brown called it an "unpremeditated intent to kill." 

Ralph Keehl, their father, recounted for the court how the brothers brawled from adolescence through adulthood. The weekend before the shooting, he said he witnessed an altercation between the two where Brett said he would put his brother in the hospital and nearly did.

He said he urged Brett to “let it go” and stop fighting his brother, but it was too late.

Ralph Keehl described the last time he saw his son, gasping for breath on the lawn.

“I saw Brett coming to me for help,” he recalled. “But I couldn’t help. I could tell by the way he looked that was going to die. I still see that, your honor, and I’ll never forget it.”

Their mother shook her head repeatedly and cried during his remarks and a statement from Anissa Troutt, the victim’s fiancée.

Troutt, who was also at the scene with her children, said she distinctly remembers Garth Keehl's facial expression right after the shooting. She said he’s yet to show any remorse.

“I asked where Brett was and he had this smirk on his face as he pointed me in (Brett’s) direction,” she said. “He deserved better than that.”

Art Aisner is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

For one, I know Brett, Garth and the family all personally. This was not an on-going fued. They had there ups and downs but they were brothers, that loved one another. Self defense is way different than what happened here. Garth came to brett's house, where he knew he would be, where he knew both kids would be, where he knew his fiance would be, brought a gun and shot Brett till he killed him his own brother. In order for someone to kill there own brother, his own flesh and blood.. Is a monster for that. Self defense is a push or a shove, or even a punch because someone is coming at you because you feel threatened. It does not involve a bullet, or someone dead in there own back yard. My whole heart and prayers go out to Anissa, and the kids, and the mother and father. They lost there only sons, one to prison, and one because he is dead. They will never get Brett back. This family has all been through too much, to say the least. Noone should have to barry there child, or fiance. Garth could've handeled it all in a different way, I have no sympathy. This shouldn't be a hard case to figure out. The man rode his bike over to THERE home, with a GUN. There is your evidence - he did not belong at the home at this time, he was not invited, he was told to stay away.. That is PREMEDITATED. Then he shot and KILLED his brother. Those kids will never see brett again, and it is really sad that there last memory of him is him dead in there back yard. God bless you guys. You get all my praise for being strong through it all, and making it this far. You are all still in my prayers.


Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 7:25 a.m.

If this case would have gone to trial you would have heard the whole story not just what Garth wanted you to think. He wanted everyone to believe this was a common thing and it was not. For the past 5 years the only physical fight was this and the one three days before. For at least the years of 1999 to 2003 Bret lived in NC and very rarely saw Garth. Bret did not nearly put Garth in the hospital as his father claims. If that where the case he would not be able to still come to our home on Tuesday to leave a Playstation in our kitchen while we where gone. He did not try to get away and there was a punch thrown by Bret and then and Garth threw a punch Bret tried again and it missed and that is when he shot Bret. I saw it all and can recount it like it was yesterday because that is all I see everyday. I relive this nightmare and see everything up to the point when they covered Bret's body after his death. He tried to make it look like Bret was the bigger of the two and he was not he was at least 20 pounds lighter and and inch shorter than Garth. Bret loved his brother and said a lot of things in anger like we all do but never would have hurt Garth to that point. He always made sure that he never missed Garth's birthdays and always got him something for Christmas. Bret had his issues but never would have hurt Garth in that way and never would have killed him. Bret had let this go and all he wanted was for Garth to stay away from him and told him so but Garth just would not let this go. Bret called his mother daily just to say hi and I love you but they could not have a conversation without Garth getting on the phone and trying to keep the argument going and Bret would just hang up the phone. It was on speaker so I heard the comments made by Garth, I heard his mom crying tell him to stop and I heard Bret say, "just stop Garth your making mom cry." All he had to do is stay away not come over to our home with a gun. He never carried a gun around but on that day he decided he was coming over here to start the fight and end it. It was premeditated and not self defense. No one invited Garth to our home that day, Bret did not go to Garth's home so how in the world would anyone think it was self defense? He still has not said he regrets what he has done or even told his parents he is sorry for killing Bret. He was crying because of himself that day in court and i guess he found sympathy with some but not with me. My sympathy goes out to his mom who struggles daily with her loses.

Larry Kestenbaum

Fri, Oct 2, 2009 : 2:55 a.m.

Good time (time off for good behavior in prison) has been abolished in Michigan. As pointed out, given the circumstances, a jury might have let him go, after a long and costly trial. And 13 years is not a light sentence.


Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 11:33 a.m.

Why is no one is mentioning the availability of the gun? If we did not have such a culture of guns in this country this might have been settled with a scuffle and a trip to the hospital not the funeral home. Fighting with your fists is one thing, access to a weapon that will cause great bodily harm if not death is another.


Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 11:16 a.m.

"After the shooting, his younger brother sped to his nearby home on his bicycle and was still holding the weapon when Washtenaw County Sheriffs deputies arrived." - He brought the gun with him... Presumably on his bicycle... Sounds a bit premeditated to me. So with good behavior he can be back on the street in what? Do the "additional two years" get tacked on the end or does he serve them concurrent?


Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 10:32 a.m.

Please read what the judge said before commenting. From the article: Brown called it an "unpremeditated intent to kill." Also, let's be luck this guy decided to take a plea deal. From the article is does seem like this might have been self-defense in some regards: He wouldnt stop your honor. He hit me one last time and I pulled the trigger, How much would Brett's life had been worth if a jury had gotten to see that he regularly threatened his brother and according to the father "The weekend before the shooting, he said he witnessed an altercation between the two where Brett said he would put his brother in the hospital and nearly did. " It would have been very interesting to see how a jury would have handled a case like this given all of the circumstances of this case. I'm not as sure 13-30 is a bad sentence considering everything invovled in the case.


Thu, Oct 1, 2009 : 10:21 a.m.

Another example of an Ann Arbor Judge who likes to be lenient. Pre-meditated killing,and all he gets is 13 years?