Friday, June 5, 2009

The Keith McGuire Rape Case


"He stated he had a problem." - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely speaking of Keith McGuire

We expect those in the teaching profession to care for our children as their own and we should expect no less. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There is always the John Mark Karr or Debra Lafave. When any teacher takes a sexual interest in his or her student, we are just that more wary of them all, sometimes judging them wrongly.

How do we know the difference between an innocent touch and something more sinister? How can we judge the intent of a teacher we barely know? More importantly, what happens if we're wrong? When there's two, or perhaps three, sides to every story, how can we discern the truth from fiction?

Such is the case of Brian Keith McGuire, a Lauderdale County native, now free on bond of $125,000.00 and facing a 1st Degree Rape trial in December. The son of Bobby and Jo McGuire of Lexington, Keith attended Lexington School for 12 years. By all accounts he was an average student and better than average athlete. His parents had helped establish the Lexington Rescue Squad, and his mother was held in high esteem by the community. Bobby, the current mayor of the small Lauderdale County town, was a strong presence in both the town and his own home. Those familiar with the family generally acknowledged that the soft-spoken Jo deferred to her husband.

Keith, as his parents called him, also deferred to his father, but adolescence brought changes in the youth. Physically resembling his mother, Keith boasted a shock of red hair and an outgoing personality. Sometime after elementary school, Keith began to call himself Fox, a name that still follows him. Whether because of his auburn coloring or his fancied desirability to the opposite sex, Keith was well-pleased with this new persona. Many in the Lexington community describe him as the all-American boy, but others began to see a darker side as McGuire grew to manhood.

Graduating from Lexington High School in 1978, Keith McGuire seemed at loose ends. No longer the high school jock, he began a career as a barber, but was always dissatisfied away from the lime light of athletics. Ending one's education after high school was not unusual in the rural atmosphere of Lexington, but other things about McGuire troubled some in the small town. Still others saw nothing wrong with boys being boys or sewing a few wild oats.

In the autumn of 1992, McGuire returned to college at Athens State University, receiving his teaching degree two years later. Now married to a young woman from a well-respected Waynesboro, Tennessee, family, McGuire used family influence to secure a coaching job at Clements High School, just across the county line in Limestone. Here Keith McGuire taught Physical Education, but some students began to report that his style of teaching was just too physical, especially where young women were concerned.

It was early in 2002 when Robin Greene’s 12 year-old daughter came to her with a story of being touched by her physical education teacher. Coach McGuire had touched her breast while they were playing one-on-one basketball and she knew it wasn’t right. Soon a 16 year-old girl came forward with a similar story concerning the Clements coach.

Clements, a rural school in western Limestone County, was a tight knit institution. Such things didn’t happen at the sprawling school where Keith McGuire had access to girls in the 7th through 12th grades. The school board called a special meeting and convened behind closed doors on March 7, 2002, to accept McGuire’s resignation.

The board stressed that McGuire, who had not retained an attorney, had taken a polygraph with inconclusive results. No charges were filed against the teacher even though according to Sheriff Mike Blakely, McGuire stated that he had “a problem.” The board also agreed to take no further action on the Clements coach’s teaching license on the condition he agree to counseling. Keith McGuire attended one session.

McGuire soon returned to the hamlet of Lexington where his father was a member of the town council. The town’s water department was in need of a meter reader, and Bobby McGuire made sure the job was offered to his son. Keith McGuire’s salary at the financially strapped water department was barely enough to meet his basic needs, and he began searching for another teaching position.

Without any official black marks on his record and a still valid teaching license, McGuire found work in the nearby Haleyville school system. He began coaching at the Winston County school in September 2002, but the problem of his mounting debts remained. Not eager to give up his job with the town of Lexington, but unable to fulfill his obligations on his free weekends, he sought an assistant to help with meter reading and related duties. Soon his friend Lloyd Hayes, a former Florence City Fire Marshal and convicted sex offender, joined McGuire in the field. It wasn’t long before residents realized the two men spent an inordinate amount of time working around one local entity--Lexington High School.
When board members of the Lexington Water Department heard of the job sharing agreement between Keith McGuire and Lloyd Hayes, they too met behind closed doors. Even though Hayes was not an official employee of the town, such an arrangement was ill advised. McGuire gave up his job with the town, but once again many questioned his actions. Was Keith McGuire determined to insinuate himself into a position of familiarity with young girls, or just a man attempting to make a living during a difficult period in his life?

McGuire taught at Haleyville High School for two years, with ostensibly no complaints. In the fall of 2004, McGuire moved to J. F. Shields High School in Beatrice, a small Monroe County town in South Alabama. After a year at Shields, McGuire moved again, this time to Jackson High School in Clarke County, even farther from his Lexington home. By this time, McGuire was divorced from his wife Tammy, who had taken their children and moved to Waynesboro. While it’s not unusual for some coaches to move frequently, many found it odd that each relocation moved McGuire farther from his family.

McGuire publicly blamed any problems on Robin Greene of Limestone County. After the physical education teacher left Clements High School without any official sanctions, Mrs. Greene took it upon herself to warn Keith McGuire’s new employers of his past record. According to Mrs. Greene, she had collected the names of 50 students at various schools, all alleging to have been molested in some manner by McGuire. On February 14, 2006, McGuire filed a slander suit against Robin Greene, claiming her campaign to discredit him had hurt his reputation and brought undue hardship on him. The wheels of justice grind slowly, and this suit is still pending in Limestone County; however, McGuire also initiated a restraining order against Mrs. Greene, preventing her from contact with any school at which he is employed.

With the Clements charges now seemingly behind him, Keith McGuire began to make a reputation for himself at Jackson High School--this time a good one. Besides his duties as assistant coach, McGuire taught Physical Education, Drivers’ Education, and Health. In the autumn of 2006, the National All-Star Football Association chose McGuire to coach a regional game in Cookville, Tennessee.

Keith McGuire was finally receiving the kind of success and attention he thought he deserved. Then a Shoals area woman filed rape charges.
In 1990, Jan Simpson* was 19 years old. According to Simpson, Keith McGuire raped and sodomized her at a Florence residence--it took 16 years before Simpson was emotionally able to report the crime. McGuire, who would have been 30 at the time of the incident, steadfastly denied that any force was involved in his encounter with Simpson. Allegations that a 30 year-old McGuire had sexual relations with a teenager obviously did nothing to bolster his claims of having no prurient interest in pubescent girls, and Jackson High School declined to renew his teaching contract.

The rape allegation was not McGuire’s only worry; at this time new reports of McGuire’s misconduct with Clements students surfaced, making their way to the Alabama Board of Education in Montgomery. The Board sought the revocation of Keith McGuire’s teaching license, and an inquiry was held at Clements on June 25, 2008. The Board stated that McGuire was guilty of “immoral conduct or unbecoming or indecent behavior.”

After five hours of testimony, including statements from some who had only recently come forward, the hearing ended. The moderator then had 30 days in which to consider the evidence brought forward; however, McGuire now had more serious problems in Lauderdale County. After a police investigation spanning almost two years, a Lauderdale grand jury indicted the former physical education teacher on charges of 1st degree rape, 1st degree sodomy, and 3rd degree sexual abuse, crimes that carry a mandatory sentence of 20 years to life. McGuire turned himself in to the Lauderdale County Detention Center on August 18. His bond was set at $125,000.00. The Clements charges were then placed on hold until after the criminal proceedings.

Knowing in advance that his bail would be substantial, the ex-teacher’s family had made prior arrangements, and McGuire left the detention center the same day. McGuire’s family in Lexington had also hired Florence criminal defense attorney Jeff Austin to defend the charges. Austin had previously represented Trey Wells, the Tuscumbia youth charged with the brutal deaths of both parents, and Dewon Jones who took part in a heinous liquor store robbery and murder. The attorney announced he was prepared to present a staunch defense of his client and was seeking an immediate trial.

Unfortunately, the McGuire family’s participation in the rescue squad and other Lexington civic endeavors had made them known to Lauderdale County judges, and the trial was moved back until a new jurist could be engaged. A trial date was set for the second week in December, with Judge Terry Dempsey of Franklin County presiding and Assistant State Attorney General Pamela Casey prosecuting the rape charges.

Pretrial/Status Call was to begin December 2; at that time McGuire could assert his innocence and the trial would proceed the next week, or he could accept a plea and be immediately sentenced and remanded to the Detention Center to await transfer to Kilby Prison in Montgomery for processing. For whatever reason, Jeff Austin, who had filed copious motions, requested a delay, and the pretrial was rescheduled for December 22. Legal machinations are often unfathomable to the lay person, but in this case it would seem the intent is to allow Keith McGuire to spend one last Christmas as a free man.

Such delays are always hard on the victim, but Jan Simpson has used her time to act as an advocate for other victims of sex crimes. One can only imagine how Keith McGuire has spent his days since his dismissal at Jackson High School, but his Classmates’ profile is revealing. In the popular website, he states he’s there to find Ms. Right and lists his principal occupation as “channel surfing.”

May justice be served, the guilty punished, and the innocent vindicated.

*****

On July 29, 2009, a jury of six men and six women, after deliberating over a period of three days, returned a "not guilty" verdict in the rape and sodomy trial of Brian Keith McGuire. It is doubtful the victim will initiate any civil proceedings against McGuire, who has not worked as a teacher in over a year.

The victim is hardly a total loser in the proceedings. Testimony in the trial revealed that McGuire had been diagnosed with an STD at least two years before his unprotected sexual encounter with the young woman and that during his divorce proceedings he initiated DNA testing on his children. Such tests proved him not to be the biological parent of the older child, perhaps one reason the Lexington native has distanced himself from his family over recent years.

However, McGuire still faces the loss of his teaching license due to allegations he fondled at least four students while teaching at Clements School in Limestone County. Robin Greene of Athens has stated she has the names of at least 50 young women McGuire has sexually touched over his teaching career. The former teacher is suing Greene for slander.

Within the next few days or weeks, Chief Administrative Law Judge Walter Turner will announce his ruling in the license hearing of Brian Keith McGuire. It's a verdict for which many have waited years and one in which we should all be interested. Our children deserve a good education. While we may not be able to provide the best educators in every classroom in the state, we should be able to provide those who have their students' best interests at heart. It's time Alabama made an effort to ensure that.


* The victim’s name has been changed for the purposes of this account. This account taken from columns originally published November 29-December 2, 2008, and July 29, 2009.