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UPDATE: Keene sentenced to 10 years in drunken-driving death of neighbor

Under plea agreement, prosecutor promises not to see second trial on murder charge

Posted: February 25, 2013 2:08 p.m.
Updated: February 25, 2013 7:16 p.m.

Dennis Dean Keene, the Agua Dulce man convicted in October of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated in the death of his neighbor, Lori Lindlief, was sentenced Monday to 10 years in state prison.

Keene, 65, sat handcuffed and motionless in Antelope Valley Superior Court as he listened to the terms of an agreement struck with prosecutors. Under the agreement, he accepts the maximum prison sentence for having struck and killed Lindlief with his truck while drunk.

In exchange, Deputy District Attorney Susan Choi agreed not to prosecute him a second time for murder — an option for Choi when Keene was found guilty of other charges in October by a jury that couldn’t agree on second-degree murder charges.

Keene also agreed to give up his right to appeal the decision.

In February 2012, Keene was charged with murder and drunken driving in the 2011 crash that killed his Lindlief, 55, while she was walking her dogs on an Agua Dulce street.

In October, a jury deliberating the case against him told Superior Court Judge Bernie LaForteza they could not reach a unanimous decision on the charge of second-degree murder.

But the jury found him guilty of all other criminal counts, including gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, causing injury while driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood alcohol level exceeding the legal limit, causing injury.

As a result, Keene was ordered to stand trial for murder a second time. Keene’s re-trial for murder was scheduled to begin this month.

In passing sentence Monday, the judge allowed Lindlief’s relatives to tell the court how her death affected their lives.

Without turning around to face his accusers, Keene heard tearful and heated testimonials from Lindlief’s son, her sister, her niece and fiancee.

First to offer a victim impact statement was Lindlief’s son, David Lindlief.

“You have a serious drinking problem,” he said. “Previous judges let you off the hook, the DMV somehow gave you a driver’s licence despite the DUIs.

“The country club served you alcohol like everything was OK. But calling you names won’t bring her back,” he said.

“I suffered unbelievable amounts of pain,” Lindlief said, describing the horrific scene at the hospital the night of the collision.

“I had to call my (other) sister in Arizona and tell her,” he said, recalling the “horrible tone” of her response.

“We had to decide when to turn the (life support) machine off,” he said. “I cannot tell you how painful this is. “You took my mom’s life and that’s never going to change.”

Second to speak was Lindlief’s older sister, Karen Ward, who apologized for not being as forgiving as her sister’s son.

“You murdered a woman because you couldn’t stop your drinking,” she said.

“That, flat out, makes you evil and I hope you rot in hell,” she said.

“She was the epitome of what a good person should be,” she said of her sister.

Lindlief’s fiancée, Austin Dingman, at first waved off a suggestion to speak.

“I can’t do it,” he said from his seat in the courtroom.

Eventually, he spoke.

“Lori was my fiancee,” he said. “Her biggest dream was to raise horses and retire.

“She got it,” he said of the home of her dreams. “To see her smile when we got that place — I will never forget it,” he said.

“I miss her so much,” Dingman said, pausing, trying not to cry.

“I’ll never be the same.”

Last to speak was Lindlief’s niece, Kady Lamson, who said to Keene, “All I want to ask you is: Why?

“Why didn’t you take a cab from the country club?” she asked.

“It’s horrible how the worst things happen to the best people,” she said.
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt




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