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'This is out of character for her,' says co-worker of slain Nash County woman

After a Nash County woman was found dead in the woods and her husband charged with her murder, authorities in North Carolina and Arizona and members of the Nash County community where the couple lived are raising new questions about their relationship.

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Sloane Heffernan
, WRAL reporter
MOMEYER, N.C. — Authorities on Tuesday released phone calls made to 911 in the hours after a Nash County woman disappeared and family and co-workers began to get worried about her whereabouts.

The body of Diana Keel, 38, was found last week about 30 miles from where she lived in Nashville by a state transportation worker.

Her husband, Rexford Lynn Keel Jr., who goes by Lynn, was arrested on Sunday in Pima County, Arizona near the Mexican border. Authorities said he was found with a large amount of cash and a pocket knife. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of his wife, who worked as an emergency room nurse.

One of the calls made to 911 is from a nurse and co-worker of Diana Keel.

"I have a co-worker, apparently she has not been heard from for two days (and) her daughter has called tonight and she hasn’t heard from her in two days as well," the caller told 911 dispatcher. "I was wondering if you could do a welfare check on her, I have her address."

The caller made it clear that it was out of character for Diana Keel to miss work without notifying hospital administrators.

"Well, she was supposed to work tonight, she is on the schedule, and she’s the type of co-worker (and) she’s always like 30 minute early," the caller said. "And if you text her she always texts back . . . and she has not done any of them. I just know this is out of character for her."

The 911 dispatcher told the caller to inquire about Diana Keel's location with friends and neighbors.

The second call was made by a state transportation worker on the day the woman's body was found in a wooded area.

"It looks like something is laying in the woods (and) I don't know what it is," the caller said. "It's a body or something. I don't know."

The unidentified worker told the dispatcher they would remain on the scene until law enforcement officers arrived.

Lynn Keel is awaiting extradition back to North Carolina after he was taken into custody in Arizona.

Family, friends and other officials are raising new questions about the relationship between the Keels in light of the woman's killing.

"We don't have that sort of thing happen in our community," Momeyer Mayor Kenneth Parker said.

A friend told WRAL News last week that she never felt right when Lynn Keel was around.

"It was just the atmosphere and the aura that, you know that vibe that you get from somebody? It was always very tense," Taryn Edwards said.

She said she was best friends with Diana Keel for 10 years but backed away after Lynn Keel asked his wife to cut ties. Edwards said she was helping Diana Keel plan to leave her husband.

Although Diana Keel shared concerns about increasing unhappiness in her marriage, , Edwards said she never indicated that she was afraid of being physically harmed by her husband.

The Nash County Sheriff's Office has no record that Diana Keel ever asked for a legal protective order from her husband. WRAL News has asked the sheriff's office whether either of the Keels ever called 911 or if there is any record of law enforcement calls to the couple's home at 208 Old County Home Road in Momeyer.

As deputies searched for Lynn Keel to arrest him, he was making his way across the country. He was arrested Sunday in Arizona and is expected to be extradited to North Carolina.

In announcing the arrest, Sheriff Keith Stone did not say how Lynn Keel managed to get away.

"I am just glad we got a killer off the road and brought some closure to this case," Stone said. "My heart goes out to Diana Keel's family," he added, referencing her 10-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter. "What a sad and traumatic experience this is."

"Everyone felt relief once he had been captured and it was over," Parker said.

In the press conference, Stone said preliminary reports show Diana Keel may have been stabbed to death, but no other details on the murder or the motive were released.

"I wish I had found some way to stay in communication with her, and I'll never forgive myself for that," Edwards said.

Mayor recalls death of first wife

Lynn Keel told investigators that she fell on some ice going up the steps outside their home and hit her head. Her death was ruled accidental. She was 42.

"We're going to work all the leads on that, and we're going to go back and look at the information we had on the first incident reports," Stone said. "We're going to talk with the District Attorney's Office. It's something that we need to be looking at."

WRAL News has requested the autopsy of Keel's first wife.

In a statement, Bess Keel's family said they have "always questioned Bess' death and feel deeply saddened that another life has now been taken."

Matthew Lambert, who worked with Bess Keel for four years at Microbac Laboratories in Wilson, remembered her as "sweet and nice," and remembers questioning her sudden death.

“Bess was outdoorsy and liked to ride horses," Lambert said. "They (her co-workers) thought it odd that she would fall down the steps.”

For Parker, who has been the mayor of Momeyer for 24 years and knew both of Keel's wives, the decision to reopen Bess Keel's case comes as a relief.

"I am glad that he is looking into it, because we would all like to see justice done," Parker said.


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