Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murders of David and Carol Keeffe: Suspect and Arrest

Grand Jury Recommendation and Arrest

In March 2009, an investigating grand jury was convened to hear testimony and review evidence in the case. Falling short of issuing an immediate indictment, the grand jury indicated that it would continue its inquiry and findings of fact before making any recommendations about how to proceed in the case. Because of the length of time it was taking to hear testimony and review the facts, it was clear that it was not ready to issue an indictment soon.

In Pennsylvania, a criminal case is typically heard before a magisterial district judge in a preliminary hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to show that a defendant likely committed the crime in question. If there is sufficient evidence, the defendant is bound over for trial. If not, he or she is not charged. Using an investigating grand jury's recommendation falls short of an indictment, however, but can be used by authorities as a means to begin the prosecution process. In the DeSisti case, another 20 months would pass before the investigating grand jury would formally issue its recommendation in November 2010, based on its review of the case.

Pennsylvania State Police patch
Pennsylvania State Police patch

"Based upon the evidence we have obtained and considered which establishes a prima facie case," read the recommendation, "we the members of the 29th Statewide Investigating Grand Jury recommend that the Attorney General, or his designee, institute criminal proceedings against John J. DeSisti and charge him with the following offenses: murder, two counts; burglary (one count)."

On Wednesday, December 8, 2010, after the grand jury formally issued its recommendation, PSP investigators, along with New York State Police (NYSP) investigators, converged on John DeSisti's home just across the border in Waverly, N.Y. At the home, NYSP investigators were told by DeSisti's wife that he was out "checking his traps." The lead Pennsylvania investigators knew of one of the trap locations near Sayre, on their side of the border, found him there and arrested him. DeSisti was charged with two counts of murder and one count of burglary in connection with the Keeffe case. He was arraigned that afternoon at the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks in Towanda. Afterward, he was held in the Bradford County Correctional Facility without bail.

"Basically, the focus was primarily always on Mr. DeSisti," said PSP Trooper Martin Connors. "There was a lot of work done as far as physical evidence gathered at the scene, and then that evidence being processed between ballistics and blood and shoe print analysis."

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