Businessman murdered was himself witness in a murder case
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
Fort Myers, Fla. - A bizarre development in a Lee County murder re-trial set begin soon. The defendant, who was on the run for 30 years, is accused of a murder that happened in 1981. It's been revealed that Keith Stengel was a local businessman and realtor who was murdered week before last. What's not been revealed, until now, is that he was shot and killed less than a month before he was scheduled to be a key witness in a high profile murder case.
"I was stunned, shocked," said Karen Elizabeth Miller, a local criminal defense attorney. "He certainly wasn't anybody that I would have expected to be murdered." She's talking about Keith Stengel who was a businessman who used to own Ricochet, a popular nightclub which used to be on Cleveland Avenue in Fort Myers. Others described him as a realtor, family man, and husband.
Stengel was murdered a week and a half ago, on September 19th at the Sienna Vista Apartments on Winkler Road. Investigators say Stengel was visiting an 18 year old prostitute. She was charged along with two of Southwest Florida's most wanted with robbery and murder.
But Stengel was also a key witness in a high profile trial of a cold case murder that happened over 30 years ago. In January of 1981 investigators say James Sims murdered Roy Radabaugh outside a strip club in Fort Myers. Sims' attorney, Karen Miller, says Stengel witnessed it. "He was on the scene pretty contemporaneously with the shooting so he was an important witness" added Miller.
According to Sims himself, he went to Los Angeles, assumed a dead mans identity, and lived there undetected for almost 30 years. He was on America's Most Wanted, later caught, brought back to Lee County, and tried for murder. Keith Stengel testified against him. But that conviction was overturned and later this month Sims will be tried again without Stengel to testify.
"It was only two days before we had the first case management since Mr. Sims got back from prison on the remand for a new trial so it was pretty shocking," Miller explained. When asked if she thought it is a coincidence she said, "I think it's a coincidence, just an astounding one to me."
Two other men who supposedly witnessed what happened that night in 1981 are also dead, having died years ago. And at the time James Sims was awaiting trial for smuggling what today would be worth 25 million dollars worth of marijuana from Jamaica to Fort Myers.