Stop at Rainbow Bridge leads police to scene of homicide - The Buffalo News

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Stop at Rainbow Bridge leads police to scene of homicide

The first indication that something was amiss at the Keenan home in an upscale Orchard Park neighborhood was a phone call to local police from authorities at the international Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.

Canadian officials had stopped a young man who was acting strangely Monday morning. He had disguised himself to look older by dressing in a suit, shaving back his hairline to make it appear receding and, most oddly of all, using his 70-year-old father’s passport to cross the border, though he was obviously in his 20s.

When Canadian bridge inspectors asked Sean P. Keenan how his father was doing, the young man indicated not so well.

At about 9:30 a.m. Monday, when Orchard Park police showed up at the Keenan home, they found the bludgeoned and stabbed body of John Paul Keenan, authorities said.

In a fight between father and son, Sean Keenan picked up an end table and began striking his father before stabbing and killing him, law enforcement officials said. The cause of the fight has not been disclosed by Orchard Park Police Chief Mark F. Pacholec, who explained that it remains part of an ongoing investigation that may end in additional charges.

When asked if evidence was taken from the residence, Pacholec said, “That will come out in court.” A felony hearing for Sean Keenan in Orchard Park Town Court is set for 4 p.m. Friday.

A 2011 graduate of Orchard Park High School, Keenan is being held in Erie County Holding Center without bail on one count of second-degree murder. He has no prior arrest record, but police have been to the Keenan home at different times in the past, the chief said, declining to discuss the nature of the calls.

Kathleen L. Keenan, the wife of the deceased, was in Texas caring for her elderly father when the slaying occurred. The couple’s only other child, Christopher, 31, lives in the Madison, Wis., area and works with prison inmates, according to a close family friend.

John Keenan was a globe-trotting educator, founder and president of the Institute for Leadership and Global Education, which specializes in teaching corporate executives the latest concepts in productivity and best practices. His Facebook page promoted conferences in the United States, Europe and Asia.

But to his neighbors, he was rarely home, and few recalled ever seeing him.

His 62-year-old wife, neighbors said, behaved strangely at times. She sometimes strolled the picturesque neighborhood and stopped in at neighbors’ homes unannounced to express worries. One neighbor said she felt her home was under observation.

“She’d stop by our house and come in for coffee and vent to my mother,” said one young man, who recalled seeing Sean Keenan late last week out mowing the lawn.

Another neighbor said, “Kathleen thought people were casing her house.”

Others described Sean as about as average as you can get.

“I’d ride the school bus with Sean when we were in high school, and he seemed shy, but he was always nice,” said Brian Krastav, 19. “Why would he throw his life away? If you had a problem with your father, move out, even if it would be difficult to do.”

The family had moved here from Wisconsin more than 12 years ago, according to neighbors and real estate records, purchasing a 4,500-square-foot home valued at about $400,000. The house has been for sale, on and off the market, over the last year.

“I don’t think anyone knew the father. Sean was alone with his mother a lot,” neighbor Ann McCune said. “He was a very kind and sweet-spirited young man. A couple of us got together and said prayers for Sean and the family.”

Late Tuesday, yellow crime scene tape cordoned off the corner house at Hillsboro and South Freeman Road, not far from Jewett Holmwood Road.

Tom Barth, a close friend of Christopher Keenan, who graduated from Orchard Park High School in 2002, said the older brother was in shock.

“Chris was the glue that held that family together. He was the normal one, and I know he was concerned about his brother. He always worried about his brother,” Barth said. Christopher Keenan, Barth added, recently completed a master’s degree at Ohio State University.

The police chief said the widow also was struggling. “She’s having a hard enough time,” Pacholec said.

For residents of the neighborhood, it was difficult to reconcile the Sean Keenan they had known – a kindhearted young man who had participated in Boy Scouts fundraisers and played street hockey as a teenager – with the murder allegation and strange mug shot released by police.

A large portion of Keenan’s wild brown hair is shaved away above his forehead, purplish marks freckle his scalp and face, his brown eyes sparkle and his lips part to reveal a toothy smile framed by a scruffy beard. The photo was taken when he was charged later Monday and arraigned in court.

Asked at a news conference Tuesday morning outside the town police station if drugs or alcohol figured into the slaying, Pacholec said: “There are no indications of that.”

The chief also credited the State Police, Erie County Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory and Erie County District Attorney’s Office with assisting town detectives.

Friends of Sean Keenan described him as a Buffalo Bills fan, an avid soccer player who has participated in recreational leagues, a former student at Erie Community College South, and a student at the University at Albany, where he studied accounting. Neighbors and friends said he had a girlfriend.

The last post he shared on his Facebook page featured a photo and quote from the late rock star Jimi Hendrix:

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

He commented, “Words to live by.”

John Keenan also was active on Facebook, promoting his institute, which held conferences this year in London and Singapore. In one of his final posts, he wrote:

“Dear Friends and Colleagues here on Face Book – ILGE is committed to bringing the best minds, thinkers, scholars, professionals, and students from diverse countries and organizations to share the latest new models, strategies, and best practices related to developing true 21st century leaders, transforming minds, and achieving peak performance levels.”

In March when he celebrated his 70th birthday, he posted thanks to all who took note of it:

“Am overwhelmed!! Didn’t realize I had so many friends and to each one ... a special THANK YOU!! You made my birthday special this year!! The years go on for us all ... and am blessed to be enjoying each passing one so much ... and to be able to share with good friends and colleagues such as you. Let’s make this current “year of the horse” – a great one ... and get galloping forward to bright days. Each one gives us an opportunity to leave a mark to be remembered by. ...”

News Staff Reporter Aaron Mansfield contributed to this report. email: and

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