Murder in the Intensive Care Unit
The man on whom Dreher's hope rests is Kevin McKeon, and he left the Bronx DA's office in 1978. Recently, when he was finally located and asked if he recalled the case in question, McKeon paused for a moment, pondered his response and then answered dolefully, "I certainly do." He knew what would come next.
Kevin McKeon knows a little bit about nightmares himself. Professionally, in 1994 he was at the top of his game, only to drink himself, figuratively and literally, up the river. Because of his alcoholism McKeon sank a lucrative criminal law practice and wound up doing five years at a federal prison. The downward spiral started with a trickle of complaints from clients to the New York State Bar Association that grew to an avalanche of them — 19 of them to be exact — that culminated in his disbarment.
Faced with a dependent wife, a handicapped daughter, rent to pay and a bar bill to keep current, McKeon tipped off a burglary ring to the locations of drug and cash stash-houses of some of his Colombian drug-dealing clients in Queens, and took a cut of the take to the tune of $30,000. McKeon confessed that he never thought he'd get caught because his "dirty" clients weren't ones to file crime reports. McKeon had concluded from experience that the Colombians he served wrote off such double-crosses as a price of doing business in New York. But members of the burglary crew had no such hesitation. Caught by DEA agents in 1994, the crew under interrogation implicated McKeon.
McKeon, emerged from prison in 1998 a reformed man, became active in Alcoholics Anonymous and is a frequent speaker on the trials and tribulations of alcoholism at schools, detox centers and prisons. Despite his professional fall from grace he still loves the law. Perhaps that is why the Bronx case of 30 years ago bothers him too. Someone had done far worse than he, and had gotten away with it.
To McKeon the year 1977 seems like another life ago, and in a sense it was. His memories of the investigation of the homicides at Albert Einstein Medical Center are hazy but quite significant. Back then he was a young buck leading a politically-sensitive case entrusted to him by the larger-than-life Bronx District Attorney, Mario Merola. McKeon had a squad of five NYPD detectives under him, all fellow Irish Catholic city kids as hard-living as he was. The work was challenging, fascinating and important. Back then, McKeon congratulated himself for not having done badly for an impudent kid off the streets of Washington Heights. The only reason he went to law school, he relates, was for lack of knowing what else to do when a history of stomach ulcers got him a 4-F draft deferment.