ashland.news
May 26, 2024

Defendant Keegan testified in his murder trial Friday

Robert Keegan testified in his own defense Friday in the Jackson County Court, where he is being tried for the November 2020 murder of Aidan Ellison. Rogue Valley Times photo by Andy Atkinson
May 5, 2023

Talked about moments when he fatally shot Aidan Ellison in hotel parking lot

By Kevin Opsahl, Rogue Valley Times

Capping the first week of his murder trial in Jackson County Circuit Court, Robert Keegan tearfully testified Friday that he raised his gun and shot Aidan Ellison, killing the 19-year-old in the parking lot of Ashland’s Stratford Inn after arguing with him over loud music in the early morning hours of Nov. 23, 2020. 

“I was in fear for my life. I couldn’t get away,” Keegan, 50, said when his defense attorney, Alyssa Bartholomew, asked why he felt he had “no other choice but to pull the trigger.”

Keegan was overcome with emotion and wiped away tears near the end of questioning by his lawyer, leading Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull to ask him, “Do you need a minute?”

Aidan Ellison

Keegan is charged with second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm in connection with Ellison’s killing.

Keegan’s testimony began Friday morning after his attorney had called on a California-based expert witness in firearm evidence analysis, as well as a Jackson County dispatch center official who shared records of criminal activity at the inn.

But Keegan’s testimony took center stage Friday. Because he was in a wheelchair, armed guards helped him get up on the witness chair, where he testified in a suit and tie. Keegan noted he usually walks with a cane, but the Jackson County Jail forbids it.

Robert Paul Keegan

Keegan told jurors he has severe back and neck issues for which he has sought medical attention over a 25-year period. Keegan said he opted not to have another surgery after he became a single parent to a now-11-year-old.

Keegan moved from California to Oregon in 2004 and started drawing Social Security benefits. He lived in Coos Bay, but later moved to the Rogue Valley and bought a home in Talent. That’s where Keegan lived with his son when the Almeda Fire hit on Sept. 8, 2020. 

“We lost everything,” Keegan said, save for a Nintendo console and his son’s tablet for online learning.

Seeking refuge, Keegan and his son lived in an Airbnb in Ashland and got put on a waitlist with the Stratford Inn. In October 2020, the two moved into the Stratford Inn. 

Keegan said he did not feel safe at the inn, such as when, he claimed, a man pulled a knife on him when Keegan failed to share a cigarette.

Under direct examination from his lawyer, Keegan admitted he was terse with the inn’s staff, who he said played loud music in the early morning hours.

“I spoke with the manager … and moved to Room 226,” Keegan said.

On Nov. 23, 2020, Keegan testified that he woke up around 4 a.m. to “bass music.” He went to the window, opened it and saw a parked car with lights on and someone inside. 

“He threw up his hands, flipping me off, both hands,” Keegan said, referring to Ellison. “He said, ‘Come down here, tell me that and I’ll kick your a–!'”

Keegan testified he threw on his clothes, including a jacket with his gun, to go down and talk to the inn’s management about the music. 

“I was irritated,” Keegan told his defense lawyer, adding that he did not think about using his gun at the time he was getting dressed in his room.

Keegan went to the lobby and spoke to motel clerk Angel Carlin about the music. 

“I was telling the desk clerk what the guy in the parking lot was doing when I asked him to turn down the music,” Keegan testified Friday. 

Keegan went out the lobby door to tell Carlin that Ellison was the one playing loud music. But Keegan did not confront the young teen just yet — he decided to go have a cigarette first. At that time, Keegan testified to his lawyer, he was more calm and alert than when he spoke to Ellison from the window. 

Keegan said he thought Carlin and Ellison would come to the second floor, but when they didn’t, he went outside to see them.

When Keegan approached, he recognized Ellison as someone he’d seen at the inn twice before. Ellison, Keegan said, had “a bulge” in one of his pockets.

“I said, ‘I’m the one that called (the complaint) in,'” Keegan told Ellison, according to Friday’s testimony.

Keegan said he was going to tell Ellison the music woke his son up, but before he could, Ellison allegedly told Keegan, “F–k you, you f–ing N-er!”

To which Keegan responded, “I am not a N–er!,” he claimed in court Friday. 

According to Keegan, Ellison threw a punch at him, and Carlin exclaimed, “Woah!”

Keegan said he was surprised at Ellison.

“At first, it was kind of a shock,” Keegan said.

Keegan said he backed away from Ellison, and he testified he did not immediately pull out a gun.

“The first time, I yelled, ‘Please stop,'” Keegan said. “I was very scared and very afraid.”

Citing his back and neck issues, Keegan testified he was worried what might happen if he fell to the ground. 

“I kept stepping back. He kept advancing toward me. I said ‘stop’ again. He still kept coming,” Keegan said. “I pulled out my firearm.”

When Bartholomew asked her client what was going through his mind when he pulled the trigger, Keegan responded, “I was in shock. I was scared.”

Keegan testified Ellison said, “Oh sh-t!” upon being shot and ran away, but Keegan did not see where.

After that, Keegan said, he “stood (in the parking lot) in shock for I don’t know how long” before asking Carlin to “please call 911.” Carlin testified Wednesday that during the altercation, Keegan never told Ellison to stop charging at him and did not call 911 after the shooting. 

In cross-examination, Keegan was not as emotional in his answers and gave shorter ones in a lower voice — so low Judge Timothy Barnack asked if the jury could hear him.

Prosecutor Benjamin Lull noted some of the discrepancies Keegan had in his testimony. For one, Keegan told police after the shooting that he used the F-word when he asked from his window if Ellison would turn the music down.

“In front of your kid?” Lull asked. “Your kid you don’t like to swear in front of?”

“Yes, sir,” Keegan replied.

Lull asked Keegan why he thought it was easier to keep his gun in his jacket than somewhere else in the room. Keegan responded it would make it easier to grab all his belongings.

Lull noted that Keegan left his cane in his room when he confronted Ellison. 

Lull also noted that Keegan testified he did not hit Ellison, but was nevertheless afraid for his life and used a gun to shoot Ellison. 

And, Lull said, Keegan told the jurors something he never told detectives — Ellison’s last words before he ran from the scene.

“You’re alone and put the gun away like there’s no more problem,” Lull said. “You just shot a bullet at somebody, right? You weren’t afraid he might come out from the corner and do something to you?”

Keegan responded Ellison was nowhere in sight. 

After Keegan’s testimony, the defense rested its case.

Judge Barnack told the jury that closing statements would take place Monday morning and he expected jury deliberations to begin sometime later that day.

Reporter Kevin Opsahl can be reached at 458-488-2034 or kopsahl@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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