Former ice cream driver to be sentenced this week after fatal 2010 shooting

Paz Quezada has tried to prepare for this day for over a decade.

On Friday, the man convicted in March of killing his two children and wounding four others in a 2010 shooting will finally be sentenced. Friday is also her birthday, and her only wish is the one she’s held since the night of the attack: that the man who broke up her close-knit family be locked up for the rest of his life.

“It’s the best gift God could give me,” Quezada told NBC News through tears. She said she prayed for strength to live and see the day when her children got justice. “I continue to fight for my children. I will never forget them.”

Juan Guitron, 28, and Sergio Guitron, 22, were shot dead and four others were seriously injured in November 2010 on the porch of a home in Ruskin, Florida, where family and friends had gathered to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

Paz Quezada, mother of Juan and Sergio Guitron, after a guilty verdict was read at Michael Keetley’s retrial in Tampa, Florida, on March 28.Ivy Ceballo / Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA / Alamy

Michael Keetley, a former ice cream truck driver, was convicted in March of two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder in the attacks. He faces life in prison without parole.

During the trial, prosecutors said Keetley became obsessed with revenge after he was robbed and shot during his ice cream route about a year before the murders. Keetley was frustrated by the police investigation into the theft, prosecutors said, which left him injured and in need of physical therapy.

Prosecutors said Keetley began his own investigation, coming to the false conclusion that a man nicknamed “Creeper” was behind the theft.

His revenge plot culminated in a deadly case of mistaken identity. The people killed and injured had nothing to do with Keetley’s theft, prosecutors said. Neither did the man nicknamed Creeper, who was not among the six men shot at the Ruskin home, police said.

Paz Quezada holds a photo of herself with her children, Juan and Sergio Guitron.
Paz Quezada holds a photo of herself with her children, Juan and Sergio Guitron.Ivy Ceballo / Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA / Alamy

“God knows my children were innocent. They didn’t hurt anyone,” said Quezada, who was clutching a cross necklace that belonged to Sergio as a guilty verdict was read more than 12 years after his sons were killed.

Quezada said she and the children were inseparable, especially after the boy’s father died a few years earlier. She recalled that after the funeral, when the three were left alone, they cried, held hands “and made a pact to be together, always,” she said.

“The three of us were like one person,” she said.

They still lived together at home and Quezada said his children enjoyed having friends and cousins ​​over for barbecues. Sergio loved to cook, she said, making fajitas, hamburgers and roast beef. On Mother’s Day, her children would send her flowers at work, she said.

They were also responsible and hardworking. Sergio worked for a medical parts company and Juan worked for a sofa company, Quezada said.

“They were loved by everyone,” she said.

Quezada said the attack devastated his family and the lives of others who were seriously injured.

Richard Cantu, a cousin of the Guitrons who was shot in the head during the attack, believes, along with his family, that justice has finally been done as they await Keetley’s sentencing.

Cantu suffered brain damage as a result of his injury and had to relearn how to walk and talk, while his family waited over a decade and endured a 2020 trial that ended with a jury hopelessly deadlocked.

“It’s been a very painful 12 years and two trials later,” said Cantu’s brother Frankie Cantu, standing next to his brother.

Tampa, Florida, USA.  March 6, 2023. Defense attorney John Grant describes the scene of a shooting on Thanksgiving morning, 2010, at Ocean Mist Court in Ruskin, while making opening statements during the Michael Keetley murder trial before Hillsboro
Defense attorney John Grant describes the scene of a shooting on Thanksgiving morning in 2010 while delivering opening remarks during the Michael Keetley murder trial.Douglas R. Clifford / Tampa Bay Times via ZUMA / Alamy

During the emotional testimony, survivors of the shooting described how a man ambushed them while they were playing poker and drinking beer on the porch in Ruskin.

Gonzalo Guevara, who was shot four times, testified that an armed white man wearing a T-shirt with the word “sheriff” on it approached the group, demanding to know where Creeper was and telling them to come down and show him their IDs.

Guevara said the group told the man that Creeper was not there and when they got down on their knees, the man started shooting at them. He said he was shot once in the left hand, twice in the torso and once in the back.

Guevara said he heard his friends “crying and screaming” as more shots rang out.

Daniel Beltron, who was also shot multiple times, broke down on the stand as he described the gunman shooting Juan Guitron and then putting a gun to Richard Cantu’s head before shooting him.

“It was from the back of his head, and then I saw a big hole coming out of his head and it fell all over my face,” he said, crying.

Guevara said he identified a photo of Keetley for police as the man he saw shoot him and his friends. He said he started “crying and shaking” when he saw Keetley’s photo because he recognized the man from the attack.

Guevara said he told police he was “2,000% sure he was the guy who shot me” and named Keetley as his assailant in court.

The defense argued that survivors of the shooting identified the wrong man and that Keetley was unable to commit the attack because of the injuries he sustained when he was shot and robbed months earlier.

“This is our defence, Michael Keetley is not guilty because he didn’t do this. Michael Keetley didn’t do it, he couldn’t do it. He has no medical ability,” defense attorney John Grant said during the trial.

Richard Escobar, another member of the defense, argued that law enforcement made several mistakes after the 2010 attack, saying “the ensuing investigation was nothing short of a nightmare”.

The jury found Keetley guilty after deliberating for three days.

Michael Keetley
Michael Keetley, convicted of two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder in March, will be sentenced on Friday.Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office via AP

Susan Lopez, the Hillsborough County State Prosecutor, said at the time: “Today is about the victims, all six victims and it is our office’s hope and prayer that today’s verdict begins to put an end to the nightmare everyone has had. to live.”

Richard Cantu said the second trial conviction meant the world to his family and said he felt “relieved” and at “peace” after the trial. Now he and his cousins ​​have finally received “justice,” he said.

Frankie Cantu said the fact that her brother and cousins ​​were the target of a case of vigilantism and mistaken identity made the whole ordeal even more difficult.

“You don’t expect something like this to happen. My family and friends were targeted for no reason,” said Frankie Cantu.

“It will never end, but finally putting that part to rest” has given his family some hope that they can start moving forward, he said.

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