After nearly three hours of deliberating, a Harrison County jury sentenced 63-year-old Charlene Keigi to 18 years in prison Thursday for the September 2020 murder of her ex-boyfriend Terry Thomas.

Representing the state, First Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood thanked the jury for the guilty verdict rendered Wednesday and holding the defendant accountable for the crime.

“You realized the importance of someone taking a life, taking measures in their own hand,” said Hood.

In the case, Keigi pleaded not guilty, claiming she fatally shot Thomas in self-defense when he arrived at their residential property to collect his belongings.

Evidence in the case, including a self-recorded video by the defendant, proved otherwise, showing that there was no act of provocation or violent behavior displayed by the victim, leading up to the moments of his death.

Keigi was facing a punishment range of five to 99 years or life in the matter. Her defense attorney, Brendan Roth, asked jurors to assess the minimum punishment at five years.

“I think subjectively, in her mind, she was scared,” said Roth. “Today I ask you to show mercy, consider her life as a whole, as a citizen, as a mother and a grandmother.”

Reflecting on Keigi’s age, he additionally asked the jury to consider the fact that she’ll be 64 in May.

Representing the state, Hood asked for the mid-range of at least 30 to 40 years in prison.

“This was a cold-blooded, calculated murder,” said Hood. “She ambushed Terry Thomas and she shot him in the back. Nothing less than 30 years will be justice in this case. That’s what we believe and the family believes is justice in this case.”

Defense Closing

In his closing, Roth noted that the Legislature gives a punishment range because evidential facts vary in cases. He said he hopes the jury would agree with him that this case lies on the lower end, as he thinks Keigi actually felt afraid of Thomas.

With that in mind, he asked the jury to also consider the character witness testimony of Keigi’s daughter, who revealed that her mother was once a victim of domestic abuse by her daughter’s father.

Reflecting on testimony about the character of both parties, Roth said the two were both described as really good people with no issues in the world other than the ones caused when they were together.

“They were like oil and water,” he said.

Roth referred to the testimony of Sgt. Jana Vanwert, a supervisor at the Harrison County Jail, who described the defendant as a good, polite inmate who stays away from conflict, and has a quiet demeanor. Roth told jurors that Keigi has been a model client for him, as well.

“She has been the best client I’ve ever had,” said Roth. “There is no reason to protect her from society for any future danger.”

“You have heard testimony from her daughter about the grandmother she is and single mother she was. “I’m going to ask you to give her five years.”

He said because Keigi has been found guilty of murder, she’s not eligible for probation. Asking them to consider the livelihood she would have in prison, he asked them to also keep in mind the fact that she’s aging and will be 64 in May.

State’s Closing Arguments

In her closing arguments, Hood argued that the defendant’s age shouldn’t be a factor when considering punishment. She also noted this was the first time the defense ever mentioned any testimony of domestic abuse by a prior ex.

“Mr. Roth wants you to feel sorry for Ms. Keigi when Ms. Keigi is the reason we’re here,” said Hood. “If you’re going to feel sorry for anyone, feel sorry for this [the victim’s] family.”

Hood said the jury must determine the proper punishment of taking a life, and decide what’s fair.

“It’s not fair he was taken away from his family,” she said of the victim.

“Just because she’s older doesn’t bring Terry back,” Hood argued. “She still took a life.”

“It was over greed of that property — nothing else,” said Hood.

“She became the executioner that took matters in her own hands,” the prosecutor said.

“We’re going to ask you to give the family closure,” said Hood. “Terry’s life was worth something.

“He’s asking for mercy,” she said of the defense attorney, “but she sure didn’t have mercy for Terry that day. Why would we have mercy for her?”

County/Courts Reporter

Robin Y. Richardson is an award winning print journalist, serving as the county government and courts reporter. She earned her journalism degree from TSU and master's from LSUS. She is the proud mother of one daughter.