On the day he was sentenced to 40 years in prison, a former Eastern Kentucky University student apologized in open court for his role in the 2010 kidnappings and deaths of a Richmond couple.
Daniel Keene was sentenced Tuesday for the deaths of Sonsaray “Sonsi” Warford, 30, and Charles DeMarcus “Chew” Walker, 30. The couple were reported missing in June 2010, and their remains were found buried in a field near Richmond in 2012.
Standing and turning to Warford’s and Walker’s relatives before sentencing, Keene read from a written apology.
“I realize this experience and my very existence is and may always be a source of pain to your families,” Keene said. “I know this is a long-overdue apology. ... Words can never erase the scars through your lives and hearts.
“What transpired that night shames me to the core of my soul,” Keene said. “For that I am truly and eternally sorry. May God be always with you.”
Keene had been scheduled for trial in April, but he pleaded guilty in March to two counts each of murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse, plus burglary and tampering with evidence.
Keene had told police that he dug the grave while co-defendant Matt Denholm tortured and executed Warford and Walker.
Walker allegedly was targeted in a contract killing by a Richmond drug dealer because Walker had stolen $180,000 from the man, according to an affidavit filed in the case. Police said Warford was not a target but died because she was with Walker at the time.
Denholm pleaded guilty in 2014 to the killings and to the 2011 unrelated slaying of a third person in Berea. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 25 years.
Denholm and Keene knew each other through their work in security for a Lexington hotel, according to an affidavit.
What transpired that night shames me to the core of my soul. For that I am truly and eternally sorry.
Denholm and Keene both served in Iraq and Afghanistan but were not together during those deployments.
Keene was a physics major at EKU at the time of his arrest in 2012.
Commonwealth’s Attorney David Smith said in court Tuesday that “it was inconceivable” that someone with Keene’s future “got caught up in this and intentionally and voluntarily participated in such an act of horror.”
Smith said the “contract kidnappings and summary executions introduced a level of horror this county had never experienced.” The nature of the offenses “shocks the conscience,” Smith said, “and created an environment in which our security and our trust has been diminished and can’t be recovered.”
But for Keene’s written confession of 448 pages, Smith said, “Sonsaray and Charles would probably have never been found. That information has certainly brought comfort to the family members, but can never lessen the tragedy and the horror they experience on a daily basis.”
Madison Circuit Judge Jean Chenault Logue agreed that “this was a horrific act in this community that led to the loss of two lives.” She imposed a sentence of 40 years, although with time served, Keene has 36 more years to serve.
After the sentencing, Gregory Todd, Warford’s father, said of Keene’s apology in court: “I look at it as him making a plea for himself, not for us. ... He said it for himself. He didn’t say it for us. ... Our loved ones are not going to be here. He’s going to be able to see another day in his life.”