Man charged in Southfield cold case murder

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

A Toledo man has been charged in the 2011 murder of a woman whose body was found in a burning vehicle, officials said.

Darrin Bruce Keener, 52, was formally charged Monday with murder and disinterment and mutilation of a dead body, Southfield Police officials said Monday. The murder charge is a felony punishable by up to life in prison and the mutilation of a body charge is a 10-year felony.

A Southfield district court judge ordered Keener held without bond. She also scheduled him to appear in court next for a preliminary examination of the case against him on May 30, according to authorities.

Police accuse Keener of killing Helen Gale, 81, of Southfield, in November 2011. Highland Park Police and firefighters found Gale's body in a burning car that was parked in an alley behind a home in the 100 block of W. Buena Vista.

After authorities were able to identify the body through dental records and determined the fire was intentionally set, the Southfield Police Department began an investigation into her death, police said.

Last year, Southfield Police detectives focused their investigation on Keener – who had been Gale's former next-door neighbor – after they received assistance from the Special Investigation and the Cold Case units of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, according to authorities.

“I would like to thank and commend Sheriff Michael Bouchard and the members of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit for their dedication and tireless efforts to seek justice for the family of Ms. Gale," Southfield Police Chief Eric Hawkins said in a statement. "This is a great example of how county and local law enforcement investigators can effectively work together to solve heinous crimes.”

The detectives' findings and evidence was submitted to the Oakland County Prosecutor's office, which authorized an arrest warrant for Keener.

On Friday, the U.S. Marshals Service located and arrested Keener at his home in Toledo. He is currently housed in the Lucas County Jail and waived extradition to Oakland County, police said. He was arraigned in 46th District Court in Southfield via video conference.