Sean P. Keenan, who killed his father during a fight in their Orchard Park home last July and then tried to disguise himself in a bizarre attempt to flee to Canada, was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison and five years supervised probation.
In announcing the verdict, Erie County Court Judge Michael Pietruszka described the crime as a tragic case resulting from a failure to deal adequately with a mental illness.
The Sean Keenan who appeared in court Tuesday morning looked dramatically different from the image seen in a now infamous mug shot photo, in which Keenan’s bruised face was beneath a roughly shaved forehead, an attempt at the time to look like his slain father’s passport photo.
After nearly a year in jail, Keenan’s red hair is grown back and neatly cropped, and he appeared robust and healthy.
His attorney, Kevin Spitler, said after the sentencing that he wanted the court to see that his client has responded well to the mental health treatment he has received in jail.
“The image everyone has is that picture, and that’s not him,” Spitler said.
He added that Keenan’s mother and brother have been visiting, along with many of his friends, more than a dozen of whom also appeared in court Tuesday.
“He has a lot of support,” Spitler said.
Keenan was arrested within hours of the homicide and originally was charged with second-degree murder in the beating death of his father, John P. Keenan, 70, in their Orchard Park home on July 7. On April 13, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of first-degree manslaughter. Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable said Tuesday that her office had consulted with the victim’s family about the plea agreement.
“It is a unique set of circumstances,” she said, since the family represented both the victim and the accused.
Spitler said in court that Keenan suffered from bipolar disorder and cited the letters of support he had received from friends, family and even his high school band leader.
“This was such ... unusual, out of character behavior,” Spitler added. “He hopes if any good can come out of it, it would be if anyone noticed someone acting out, acting troubled, they’d get help.”
Keenan also addressed the court before his sentencing, speaking in a quiet but clear voice.
“It is something I think about every day and every night, and it will haunt me every day of my life,” he said.
After telling his family members he was sorry for what he had done, he added, “I feel more clearheaded now. I can think better than I could before. I take medicine every day.”
After the fatal encounter with his father, the younger Keenan tried to flee to Canada using his father’s I.D., but his bizarre appearance and effort to pass for a 70-year-old led Rainbow Bridge authorities to call Orchard Park police to check on the elder Keenan at his home on Hillsboro Drive.
Keenan’s attorney said he is hopeful his client will continue to receive adequate treatment while in the custody of the Department of Corrections and pointed out that, if all goes well, he could be released to probation in about 12 years, taking into account the 11 months he has already been jailed.