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Scott County man gets prison time for false murder accusation

Wes Bunch • May 1, 2013 at 7:13 AM

GATE CITY — A Nickelsville man was ordered to serve over three years in prison Monday following his earlier conviction in Scott County Circuit Court for falsely accusing another man of murder.

Carl Edward Keith, 42, of Nickelsville, was given a seven-year sentence by 30th Circuit Court Judge John Kilgore with all but three years and six months suspended.

Keith pleaded guilty in November 2012 to perjury — a Class 6 felony — after he admitted to lying under oath about an innocent man’s role in the Dec. 24, 2011, shooting death of Nickelsville resident Gregory Jerome Hale.

During Monday’s hearing, Kilgore also ordered Keith to pay his victim — Brian Large of Nickelsville — $6,000 in restitution for wages Large lost while serving three months in jail following his arrest in early 2012.

Scott County Commonwealth’s Attorney Marcus McClung said Keith’s sentence exceeded state incarceration guidelines, which his office felt were inadequate given the nature of the crime.

McClung said his office asked for Keith to receive the maximum 10-year sentence.

“The guidelines called for one day to 10 months, and we argued the guidelines had no business here,” McClung said. “The guidelines didn’t contemplate the multitude of victims in this case. Of course, Brian Large is a victim in this matter, as is his family.

“We asked for every minute, every day, every week, every month of that 10 years. The judge didn’t see it our way, but we did get a considerable amount over the guidelines.”

McClung said the list of victims impacted by Keith’s actions didn’t stop with the man he falsely testified against.

“Law enforcement was also a victim,” McClung said. “There’s testimony from investigators that Keith’s statement took us in an entirely different direction. We spent hundreds of man-hours trying to find evidence to back up his statement, which affected the case. His statement took officers down a path they never would have gone down.

“The Hale family were also victims of this perjury because they believed they had found the killer of their loved one, and they go into court and get ready for that and it goes all the way to a preliminary hearing.”

McClung said Large’s mother provided testimony during Monday’s sentencing describing the impact her son’s incarceration had on her, and her family.

Prosecutors also called Keith to the stand to testify during the hours-long hearing.

Keith told the court that he felt Virginia State Police investigators scared him into providing false evidence against Large and that he didn’t recant his statements sooner because he wasn’t “in the right frame of mind.”

McClung countered Keith’s assertion by pointing out to the court that he was already out of jail on bond for a drug-related crime when he made the accusation against Large.

McClung said Keith wrongly believed Large played a role in setting up his drug arrest.

McClung also told the court that sheriff’s deputies were already at Keith’s home for another drug-related crime the day he provided the false evidence against Large, and noted that Scott County’s Department of Social Services removed his children from the household the same day.

“He had reason and motive before he ever talked to those law enforcement officers to do what he did,” McClung said. “So to say that the law enforcement officers scared him, I thought that lacked any credibility at all.”

Authorities originally arrested Large Feb. 3, 2012, on first-degree murder charges in Hale’s death based largely on the false testimony given by Keith.

Keith told investigators that Large shot Hale in the head from close range following a botched drug deal.

Large was held for almost three months at the Duffield jail before authorities received an anonymous tip that led them to charge Charlie Joe Ramey, 61, and Daniel Eugene Norris, 37, both of Bristol, Tenn., with Hale’s m u r d e r.

Ramey was sentenced to life in prison March 22, 2013, after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder for his role in Hale’s shooting.

Norris is currently awaiting trial in Scott County on capital murder charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Large was released shortly after Keith recanted, and the same day search warrants were executed on Ramey’s residence.

McClung said Keith had no connection to the new suspects in the case.

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