Last Updated:November 29 @ 05:55 pm

Woman shoots intruder; protects self and sister

By St. Louis Post-Dispatch

HIGHLAND - Debi Keeney says she last fired her gun 15 years ago, when she took shooting lessons.

The gun was a gift from a friend but it mostly stayed in a side-table drawer, she said, gathering dust. Then, early Sunday morning, Keeney pulled the trigger again -- this time, she said, to save her sister's life.

"I'm very grateful that it fired this morning," she said Sunday afternoon.

Keeney, 55, said a man forced his way into her apartment in Highland, threw her to the floor and then put her sister, Donna Carlyle, 47, in a choke hold. He demanded money as Carlyle gasped for air.

"All I could see was Donna's face going blue, like her life was being choked out of her," said Keeney.

The alleged intruder, 33, was being treated at a hospital Sunday for two gunshot wounds and was listed in critical condition, police said. They have not released his name.

The incident occurred about 3:30 a.m. at an apartment complex in the 2600 block of Eagle Way in Highland. Keeney and Carlyle live next door to each other. Carlyle was visiting her sister's apartment when the assault happened.

Highland Police Chief Terry Bell said Sunday that the man was shot twice and that police were still "piecing it together." He added that he had no information to believe the man knew the women. Police for now are keeping the gun as evidence.

Keeney said she thought she only shot the man once with her gun, which she described as a five-shot, .22-caliber derringer. The first bullet she fired, she said, was supposed to be a warning shot.

Keeney also said neither she nor her sister knew the intruder.

"I have no idea where he came from or where he was going," she said.

She had a clue something was wrong on Friday night, she said, when someone was heard going through the complex jiggling door knobs. She took the gun out from the drawer that night and laid it on top of the side table.

On Sunday afternoon, Keeney expressed some remorse but also pointed out that she felt she had no choice but to use the gun.

"I wish I hadn't shot him," she said. "I gave him an opportunity to leave. I wish he had left without me having to shoot him. ... I hate the idea that I had to pull that trigger."

Still, she added, "Put in the same situation, I would do it again."

Some of her neighbors did not second-guess her actions.

"I'm proud of her for shooting that dude," said Rodney Rusick, 68, who lives a few doors down.

Illinois' self-defense law allows a homeowner to use deadly force if an intruder breaks in violently, or if the homeowner believes deadly force is the only way to prevent the intruder from committing a felony.

Keeney says she was attacked after stepping outside her apartment to smoke a cigarette.

"As I was closing the door behind me, this really big man pushed his way through the door," she recalled. "I started pushing back. ... He put one arm behind my arm and picked me up and threw me over my couch."

The man then went behind a recliner, where her sister was sitting, and put Carlyle in a choke hold.

"He had her trapped like a rat," Keeney said.

Carlyle said she was trying to dial 911 with a cellphone in her left hand while fighting for air with her right hand.

"When he was yanking me up, my feet were in the air," Carlyle said. "It hurt so bad. I couldn't lean forward. I could feel the air closing off. I couldn't breathe at all."

Keeney said she grabbed the gun -- the side table is near the apartment door -- and warned the man to let her sister go. He was demanding money, but Keeney said she and her sister both have multiple health problems and support themselves with disability benefits.

"We both were saying we don't have any money," she said. "If we would have had any money, we would have given it to him."

Keeney says she then fired what she thought was a warning shot.

"I told him, 'I'm going to shoot you if you don't let her go,' " she recalled. "With that, I shot him in the back because he moved from behind the chair. He let her go. He took some steps toward me."

The man fell to the floor, and Keeney stood over him, waiting for police to arrive.

"I was scared to death that he was going to kill my sister," she said. "It was dark. He was a huge man, and it was 3-something in the morning."

One neighbor, Lynn Palenchar, 69, heard the commotion but did not learn what happened until later.

"I was absolutely stunned," she said. "You don't expect something like that to happen. I'm just glad both are OK. If he had picked my place over theirs, it would have been a lot worse."


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  1. bna42Comment by bna42
    February 11, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

    I wonder why we can only read these articles online and none of them are ever aired on national TV.

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    • powertothepeopleComment by powertothepeople
      February 11, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

      Do tell…sure it has nothing to do with MSM missing the news!

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      February 11, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

      I suppose when the media gave up the old AP and UPI teletypes, they don’t get the news like they once did.

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    • CharlieComment by vietnamvet
      February 11, 2013 @ 2:52 pm

      At least it’s available in that local area … where it might get picked up by national media.

      I am having trouble understanding the description of the firearm.
      A ‘derringer’ is typically a one, or two-shot affair.
      A five-shot derringer is outside of my experience, which is pretty wide.

      If it WAS a typical two-shot derringer, I would certainly think twice before wasting ‘half of my ammo’ on a warning shot …

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    • bf39Comment by bf39
      February 11, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

      That would go against obama’s reasoning for banning guns!

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    • Frankly FrankComment by Frankly Frank
      February 11, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

      Why do you wonder bna42? What have you seen on the news lately? Chicago killings, gun violence across the nation in hopes that there will be a massive gun control law that will disable every man, woman and child with a gun. The media is leading the pack in this effort. Even liberal are getting on the band wagon wanting gun control. They take away the guns of those who use them to hunt for winter food in places like Alaska and you take away those peoples survivability. Take away the guns from law abiding citizens and the bad guys will still be able to get the tool that makes them big and bad so they can break into your house, take what they want and if you resist, shoot you all the while you beg for your life. Those of you who are old enough will remember fascist Europe during WWII. All of the guns were taken away which allowed to government to do with the people as they willed and we all know what happened. Don’t be fooled by the government saying we are your friend and we are here to help you.

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      February 11, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

      “I am having trouble understanding the description of the firearm.
      A ‘derringer’ is typically a one, or two-shot affair.
      A five-shot derringer is outside of my experience, which is pretty wide.”

      Vet, it’s actually called a mini-revolver, and the only company I know that makes it is North American Arms. It is shaped like a derringer, has no trigger guard, is single action, and has a 5-shot cylinder. It comes in 22 LR and 22 Magnum. It’s a good little gun that can be hidden anywhere.

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    • bna42Comment by bna42
      February 11, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

      Frankly, I was trying to be cute. I KNOW why the MSM does not report those stories. I am probably as old as you and I remember very well what happened during WWII.

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    • thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
      February 11, 2013 @ 8:56 pm

      It is a five shot mini revolver. What we once referred to as a “belt buckle gun”. Single action. Small as your finger. Very lethal in the right hand.

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  2. rolly0412Comment by rolly0412
    February 11, 2013 @ 2:36 pm

    Media bias – when innocent citizens get shot, it’s all over the news… and gun control freaks will be yelling like hell for gun ban. When a criminal gets shot, not even a whimper from the media.

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  3. pistol packing mamaComment by txgoatlady
    February 11, 2013 @ 2:39 pm

    She’s lucky the thing still worked with no maintenance and old ammo. Sticking a gun in a drawer and forgetting about it for several years is not the best idea. I’m glad it functioned properly.

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    • edodanielComment by edodaniel
      February 11, 2013 @ 8:12 pm

      Actually if the firearm is kept in a relatively clean and dry place and was LIGHTLY OILED when it was put there it will normally function fine many years later and old ammo will also usually work without fail.

      On the other hand any firearm that is put away with HEAVY OIL coating it or ammo that has been “cleaned and oiled” is begging for trouble as the oil will get stiff and gummy and there is no reason to oil ammo unless experimenting to see how long it takes to cause failure to fire.

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    • rwjacksrComment by rwjacksr
      February 11, 2013 @ 8:27 pm

      actually the older the ammo is the longer it will last the newer ammo has had a change in the firing caps and does not last very long.

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  4. wellilltellyaComment by wellilltellya
    February 11, 2013 @ 3:19 pm

    and if Oblunder & his cronies were aware of this story we would not see it, as his intentions are disarm America. just think how easy it would be for a takeover if only ones with weapons were his army of followers

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  5. lizazComment by lizaz
    February 11, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

    Wow! Incredible that she had such presence of mind when he broke in so violently. She did great!

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  6. 7papa7Comment by 7papa7
    February 11, 2013 @ 5:30 pm

    She made two mistakes, the first is firing a warning shot and the second is for not killing him. She will probably stay up to date on her shooting skills now.

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  7. gnafuComment by gnafu
    February 11, 2013 @ 7:29 pm

    The lady was far too kind. But, she had the intestinal fortitude to take matters into her own hands and try to protect her sister and herself. And, no, this kind of news will not be on the news. It doesn’t support Gun Control so Obama would not like it.

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  8. nhpollackComment by nhpollack
    February 12, 2013 @ 12:28 am

    While I don’t have much confidence in the reliability of old rimfire ammo, I’ve always believed that the best firearm for self defense is the one you have with you. That little mouse gun did what it was supposed to do-put holes in the bad guy and made victors out of the would be victims. The only mistake Ms. Keeney made was stopping before it went “click, click” instead of “bang, bang”.

    Here’s a review of one of the breaktop .22 magnum’s:

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  9. mysticComment by mystic
    February 12, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

    What glaringly stuck out in that video/article was how the ‘bad guy’ was incredulous that he had been shot. How the sister (the one in the strangle hold) had recounted how he had a family (sisters I believe) his lawyers name (isn’t that nice, a bad guy with a lawyer on speed dial) and how he was going to ‘sue’ them for shooting him. What a mentality! What a super genius to the ‘inth degree! My god… people really do think they can get a big old insurance payout if they perceive themselves to be the victim of some wrong doing against them. Just Wow! I mean really, WOW.

    3am…out prowling around? What excuse could said thug/bad guy possibly give other than he was out to shake down people for whatever they had. I’m sure his defense lawyer will pull out all the stops…and do it while being paid on the States dime.

    sickening…..just sickening.


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    • KBBComment by KBB
      February 13, 2013 @ 11:55 pm

      Yes, and that’s why she should’ve killed him. As it is, in addition to her having to worry about being hauled into court if he recovers, he may commit further crimes against someone else who may not have a gun.

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