Judge won't prosecute Heidelberg civilian over death of boy at parade
HEIDELBERG, Germany — A city judge has decided not to put a U.S. civilian on trial for his role in the death last fall of a 12-year-old boy during the Heidelberg High School homecoming parade.
Under German law, Richard Keesee, 35, still could be prosecuted in state court if that were the desire of the German prosecutor or the complainant, the boy’s father.
Keesee, 35, was charged in February with negligent homicide in the Oct. 19 death of Maurice Long. Keesee was driving a 1978 Ford Bronco loaded with homecoming participants when Maurice, who was aboard a non-motorized scooter, grabbed onto the Bronco.
As Maurice was being towed, he fell from the scooter and banged his forehead on the curb. He was pronounced dead about 35 minutes later by German medical workers who were called to the scene. An autopsy concluded that Maurice died from a blunt trauma head injury.
The negligent homicide charge, filed by the Heidelberg prosecutor’s office and the boy’s father, Chief Warrant Officer James Long, contended that, as the driver of the vehicle, Keesee was responsible for the safety of the people on and around the vehicle.
Keesee, the husband of a staff sergeant with V Corps Headquarters and Headquarters Company, faces up to five years in prison if he is tried and convicted of the charge.
“This is just another step for me,” Keesee said Wednesday. “Until they say this is it, it’s not done. I’ve got a little bit of weight off my shoulders, but the situation hasn’t changed.”
James Long said Tuesday that he was unlikely to call for further criminal prosecution of Keesee. Stars and Stripes was unable to contact the prosecutor, Joachim Steinbacher, for comment.
The judge said she did not think Keesee was punishable by law in the incident.
Keesee’s wife, Staff Sgt. Dawn Keesee, currently is deployed to Baghdad with V Corps, where she is the noncommissioned officer in charge of the nuclear, biological and chemical unit. Richard Keesee works in Heidelberg salvaging and restoring cars and parenting the couple’s two teenage daughters.
The Keesee and Long families live just a few minutes’ walk from each other in Patrick Henry Village, a U.S. Army installation located on the outskirts of the city.
Witnesses said the parade consisted of about 10 vehicles carrying passengers as well as various walking participants. The one-mile parade route began and ended at Patrick Henry Elementary School.
During the parade, witnesses said children darted in and out of the parade route, jumping on and off some of the vehicles and scrambling into the road to collect candy thrown from the vehicles.
Near the end of the parade, Maurice, who was not wearing a safety helmet, grabbed onto the right side of the Bronco’s truck bed, which contained about seven or eight passengers, including some sitting on the folded-down tailgate.
According to the autopsy and witnesses, Maurice was hit in the back by the protruding spare-tire holder and fell face first into the curb. German medical personnel arrived about 18 minutes later, and the boy was soon pronounced dead.