Jump Street

Once ruled a suicide, Phoenix finance chief Kevin Keogh's leap to his death on a busy thoroughfare is a true medical mystery

Cuevas told police that the Mercedes continued to move after it struck the Dodge, but soon had come to rest against a curb on the southeast corner of the intersection.

Kevin Randolph, the driver of the Dodge, said the collision had taken him totally by surprise. He said his attention had been on a bicycle rider in the crosswalk when he got rear-ended.

Not seriously injured, Randolph ran up to the Mercedes, opened the passenger door and looked in. It was empty, though the gearshift still was in drive.

Kevin Keogh was nearing 68th Street on Camelback Road when he jumped to his death.
Tony Blei
Kevin Keogh was nearing 68th Street on Camelback Road when he jumped to his death.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, of O.J. case and Kennedy assassination fame, became intrigued with Kevin Keogh's death.
AP/Wide World Photos
Forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, of O.J. case and Kennedy assassination fame, became intrigued with Kevin Keogh's death.

Scottsdale police arrived within a few minutes.

The man on the ground was dead.

He was wearing blue jeans, a sweatshirt, and a pair of socks. Brown loafers on the sidewalk nearby presumably had come off after the man jumped.

Inside the car was a prescription for Valium issued to a Kevin Keogh, and a car registration in the same name.

Within the hour, Scottsdale detectives delivered the bad news to Karlene Keogh at the couple's home in the Arcadia neighborhood, a few minutes from the scene.

Mrs. Keogh told them her husband of four years had been depressed recently because of unusually hard times at work.

She said he'd stopped exercising, and had been complaining of exhaustion and other troubles, ostensibly because of the intense pressures at City Hall.

Keogh had worked for the city since the late 1970s, and had been its top financial official for years.

Most recently, he had been Phoenix's point man in some of the largest and most complex deals in city history — funding for the light-rail system, the Civic Plaza makeover and the proposed downtown convention center hotel.

Karlene Keogh told the detectives that she and her husband had been planning to go on a vacation to Italy, to get away from it all.

She said she had called in sick for him at City Hall that morning, though he had seemed in decent spirits when she left for work herself.

Mrs. Keogh also said her husband had been scheduled that night to see a therapist for the first time about his work troubles.

The couple last had spoken about 1:20 p.m., and Karlene said she had told her husband she would be home by 3. He had said he might go out and grab something to eat.

As the detectives looked on, she searched her home for clues that her husband may have been thinking suicide, a note or something. Nothing turned up.

What she didn't say at the time was that Kevin Keogh had become truly paranoid — mostly about work — and had been slipping downhill mentally for weeks.

The morning after Kevin Keogh died, Frank Fairbanks sent an e-mail to all City of Phoenix employees:

"I write this with a very heavy heart. Last night, we learned that Kevin Keogh, the city's finance director, was killed in a car accident."

After lauding Keogh, the veteran city manager said, "Kevin contracted a tropical disease a few years ago. His wife shared with me that the disease had come back in the last two months and was affecting many parts of his life."

That stopped almost everyone short, as very few people at City Hall knew about Keogh's health problems.

The front-page headline in the Arizona Republic on December 10 also suggested that the mysterious disease had led to Kevin Keogh's strange death:

"Phoenix Official Killed in Leap Off Speeding Car; Family Fears Infection From a Parasite Led to Finance Officer's Death."

Though details then were scant, the Keoghs had taken a weeklong vacation in August 2001 to southern Mexico, into a rural area rarely frequented by tourists.

Both had become ill on the trip, not unusual under the circumstances.

Karlene Keogh soon had recovered, but her husband had not, and continued to complain of muscle weakness, stomach problems, headaches and an inability to concentrate.

In the spring of 2002, several months after Keogh first got sick, a test for antibodies had produced a borderline reading for a frightening disease called cysticercosis.

Though little-known in the United States, the infection is common in Latin America, where it's known as having "worms in the brain."

It's caused by pork tapeworms or larvae that find their way into a person's body. People who eat bad pork are at risk, as are those who eat vegetables and fruit contaminated by pig feces.

Once the parasites enter the brain, they often wreak havoc with the frontal lobe, which regulates emotions and inhibitions, among other functions.

The tiny worms cause seizures and other physical problems, and may incite manic or even psychotic behavior. They can be killed with medication, but then calcify inside tiny, shell-like cysts and still may cause more damage.

But preliminary postmortem testing didn't turn up any worms, or the cysts, the latter of which apparently do not dissipate with time. Indeed, the county Medical Examiner's Office never did uncover proof that parasites ever had lived inside of Kevin Keogh.

But even then, Dr. Rebecca Hsu, the assistant medical examiner who had performed Keogh's autopsy, listed cysticercosis as a possible "significant condition contributing to death, but not the underlying cause."

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