Longform

'Til Death Do Us Part

Page 7 of 9

Brian confirms the basics of Rick Keylash's account, saying he'd "caught" his wife doing cocaine with Sherrie Keylash. "I didn't like her doing coke other than a little bit on those special occasions. Not sneaking around with the next-door neighbor, with kids around and everything, know what I mean?"

Says Rick Keylash -- who is now separated from his wife -- "Yes, they did coke together, and we did coke with Brian and his wife a few times, okay? But I don't think Sherrie and Judi were sneaking around all the time doing coke like Brian suspected. I'll bet he was probably harder into the coke than she was. For Judi, it was, stay thin and deal with Brian."

Brian says he and Judi celebrated their sixth anniversary in Las Vegas, at his old standby, the Hard Rock Hotel. Rikki and Nickolas joined the couple with nanny Natalie Lemmon for the September 4, 1999, festivities.

"Me and Judi had a heart-to-heart on that trip," Brian says. "She swore to me on the lives of our children that she wouldn't do coke like she'd been doing anymore."

Soon after that, Judi and the children flew to North Dakota to visit her parents. Judi returned to Arizona with the children a few days before she died.

Brian and his longtime friend, Nick Courinos, went gambling on the evening of Tuesday, September 21, 1999. He says he got home about 2 or 3 a.m., then slept in late the next day. Wednesday was uneventful, with Brian staying home most, if not all, of the day.

On Thursday morning, Lemmon later recalled, Judi asked her to keep an eye on Nickolas while she ran some errands. It was the nanny's day off, but she stuck around until Sheila Garcia got to the Eftenoffs' around 10 a.m. Brian was in bed, where he stayed all morning and into the afternoon, saying he was feeling ill.

Garcia says she saw Judi occasionally throughout the day, and was struck at the woman's frenetic pace: "She was just all over the place, cleaning every possible thing. I thought it was really strange, kind of in a frenzy."

Though Garcia says she liked Judi very much, she wasn't close to the boss's wife. But she says they had been comparing notes about their relationships with their spouses.

"I think Judi lost her self-esteem, and didn't know who she was anymore," Garcia says. "She was a great mom and really loved her kids, but she was trying to be this perfect person. I think she finally realized it wasn't happening, that Brian wasn't gonna change, and that caused her to do more drugs."

Brian says he played with the kids when they got home from school that day. He says he and Judi were getting along well, and that he didn't see her ingest any cocaine, just a few diet pills.

"There was no fighting beforehand, no fighting during, no fighting before I left," Brian later told Joe Petrosino. "What I don't understand is, she was very quiet. Normally, Judi busts my nuts every day on a daily basis."

Brian says Nick Courinos called him that day to ask if he wanted to go gambling again. Sure, Brian said. The pair also knew about a lingerie show at a nearby pub, which they also planned to catch before heading to the casino.

He tells New Times he watched part of the season's first Friends episode with Judi, then retreated to his office to play a computer game. Brian says Judi went into Rikki's room to watch the Cartoon Network with the kids shortly before their bedtime.

Courinos was scheduled to fly to Pittsburgh the next morning, to join his pregnant wife at a family gathering. Courinos says he got to the Eftenoffs' about 9 p.m., and waited for Brian to finish dressing. He says he never saw Judi that evening.

"Brian told me she was putting the kids down, that's all I remember," Courinos tells New Times. "He wasn't acting weird at all . . . he acted like Brian all night, not stressed out or nervous about anything."

Brian says he peeked into Rikki's room, and asked Judi for her ATM card, which she handed him.

"She kisses me, says to have a good time, and that's the last I see of her."

(That account differs from what Brian told Petrosino hours after Judi died. "When you left the house, where was Judi?" Petrosino asked him.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Paul Rubin
Contact: Paul Rubin