The Hinsdale father convicted of murder in the shooting death of a Bloomingdale man he thought was a romantic rival was sentenced to 70 years in prison Friday.
“The reasons for murder are always somewhat difficult to understand,” said DuPage County Judge George Bakalis.
But Jeffrey Keller’s fatal shooting of Nate Fox, a man he had stalked for months, was basically an execution, Bakalis said.
The jury found Keller’s actions were cold and calculated, Bakalis said, with Keller “taking a weapon from a family member and returning it after he prepared for and ambushed Mr. Fox and executed him.”
Keller has been jailed without bond since January 2015. He will be required to serve 100 percent of his sentence without being eligible for parole.
The evidence showed Keller had secretly taken his nephew’s gun, which he used to shoot Fox on Dec. 22, 2014, when the 37-year-old Fox arrived home at the townhouse he shared with his girlfriend. Before being arrested Jan. 14, 2015, Keller bought additional bullets to reload the gun and replaced it under his nephew’s bed, prosecutors said.
Keller, a married father of four, had maintained communication over social media with a woman with whom he had worked for a brief time in 2013. He mistakenly believed the woman was romantically involved with Fox, a former professional basketball player in Europe.
Keller became “maniacally unhinged” and obsessed with Fox, stalking his victim for more than a year, prosecutors said.
The obsession culminated with Keller unscrewing a lightbulb and waiting in the shadows outside the Fox’ garage in Bloomingdale. When Fox returned from work that night, Keller shot Fox whom Keller had never met, twice as he got out of his car.
Fox died in hospital from the gunshot wounds to the wrist and shoulder, prosecutors said.
Authorities traced the attack to Keller and arrested the former Hinsdale resident about three weeks later.
During a six-day trial in May, Keller acknowledged that he had planned to accost Fox, but claimed the shooting was accidental and happened during a struggle.
Jeffrey Keller, who has been in custody since 2015 was sentenced to serve 70 years Friday in the shooting death of Nate Fox
Carlie Fraley, Fox’s live-in girlfriend, shared at the sentencing hearing that she had found the love of her life when she met Fox in March 2013.
Fraley said she had talked to Fox as he was driving home on the day he was killed and was at the stove preparing dinner when she heard gunshots.
“When I heard Nate’s grunts after each bang,” Fraley said, she ran out to see what had happened.
She called 911 and, with the help of the dispatch operator, did chest compressions on Fox until the police and paramedics arrived, while encouraging him, saying, “Come on, Nate, come on,” she said.
All the while, Fraley said, she was thinking, “He is so strong, he has to be OK. He is my future.”
“I thought, who would ever want to hurt my Nate?”
Fraley talked of the sleepless nights and panic and anxiety attacks she has had since the shooting.
The jury did not believe Keller’s testimony that he had gone to Fox’s townhouse to talk to him and thought the gun he had brought was not loaded. Keller said Fox rushed at him and the gun accidentally discharged. Within an hour on May 26, Keller was found guilty of murder.
Giving her victim’s impact statement, Fraley said Fox “was a man who hated confrontation.” He served as a peacemaker in disagreements between friends, she said.
“His bellowing laugh would make light of any situation,” Fraley said.
Fox’s mother, Marilyn Fox, also talked in court about her son’s sense of humor.
“Our holidays will not be the same without Nate telling us jokes and making us laugh,” Marilyn Fox said.
After Fraley and Marilyn Fox spoke, Keller described himself “as a man of great compassion and empathy” who feels for their family’s loss and sorrow..
The 54-year-old Keller has been in custody since his bond hearing Jan. 16, 2015.