Jump Street

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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."

She seemed to be saying that the worms — if they ever had been in Keogh's brain — might have been driving him crazy, but hadn't necessarily caused him to jump.

On December 21, 2004, Dr. Hsu officially concluded that the manner of Kevin Keogh's death was suicide.

Her other choices had been homicide, accidental, or undetermined.

After that report became public, stories now suggested that the stress-laden environment at Phoenix City Hall, not parasites, had pushed Keogh over the edge.

Still, the creepy worms-in-the-brain theory continued to interest national media.

In early 2005, USA Today published a piece titled "Exotic Travel, Deadly Mementos."

The writer said of Kevin Keogh's death, "A leading suspect is a parasite he caught on a trip to Mexico several years earlier."

But Dr. Hsu didn't change her mind that it had been suicide, even after the belatedly analyzed neuropathological tests showed the degeneration in Keogh's brain late last year.

That's where things stood until last summer, when Dr. Keen turned the case on its head by changing the manner of Kevin Keogh's death to "undetermined."

Three women are meeting with New Times at Durant's, the wonderful steak joint on Central Avenue in downtown Phoenix.

"Kevin was not a warm and fuzzy guy," Karlene Keogh says. "He didn't stand for any BSer doing a song-and-dance with the city, and he was very serious about getting the best deal possible for taxpayers. And until the very end, when he got sick again, he truly loved his job."

Both of Mrs. Keogh's pals at the restaurant are high-ranking City of Phoenix officials who worked with and deeply admired her late husband.

"Kevin was definitely cutthroat at getting the best deal for the city, and he wasn't out for the glory," says Susan Perkins, an assistant city manager. "He was the most moral person I've ever met. Kevin was a man of many, many contrasts, many facets."

That description raises a smile from Mrs. Keogh, a gregarious woman with a quick laugh and sharp wit. The Phoenix native has one child from a previous marriage, a daughter who is a medical doctor in Pennsylvania. Her grandson was born a few months before her husband died.

As a couple, the Keoghs were community-minded, and not just in a lip-service way. In 2003, they started the Keogh Foundation to assist Arizonans, especially low-income women with children, with health insurance.

(The Keogh Foundation continues to thrive, and according to its Web site, helped more than 4,000 people in 2005 alone, financially and otherwise.)

"Kevin was very businesslike, but there was a lot to him that most people never saw," says Barbara Lang, one of Keogh's best friends at work for more than 20 years. "He was a very good guy who honestly thought of other people first."

Kevin Keogh was the oldest of four boys born into a middle-class Irish-Catholic family in Yonkers, New York, near Manhattan, and he always retained a touch of his East Coast accent.

Keogh worked in a bowling alley as a teen, and later took a job in Manhattan parking cars. Early on, he started a love affair with jazz music that endured.

Keogh earned his undergraduate degree in Philosophy and Political Science from Iona College, in nearby New Rochelle, and then a master's degree in Public Administration from Syracuse University.

After graduate school, Keogh found work in 1976 as a management intern with the City of Phoenix. His diligence to detail and brilliance with numbers revealed themselves as he worked his way up the City Hall ladder.

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Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin