By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
After a two day trial, the Jury reached a verdict in the Capital Kidnapping and Malicious Assault case of 2year old Keith Gene Dishler. Dishler, a resident of Ohio, was convicted in Tucker County Court on both counts. In a separate deliberation, the seven man, five woman Jury returned a verdict of no mercy on the kidnapping charge. Mercy in the case would have allowed Dishler to be eligible for parole in 15 years on the mandatory life sentence on the kidnapping charge. Without mercy by the Jury, Dishler faces a mandatory sentence of Life without the Possibility of Parole.
Dishler was initially charged in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pennsylvania with five counts including: Aggregated Assault, Simple Assault, Prohibited Acts (Marijuana), Harassment and Disorderly Conduct before the case was transferred to Tucker County for prosecution. Dishler was indicted in Tucker County on two counts. Count One was a Malicious Assault charge that comes with a prison term of two to 10 years and Count Two was a Kidnapping charge. The Kidnapping charge is a capital crime with a mandatory life in prison sentence.
The trial was heard before newly appointed Judge Robert E. Ryan. Dishler appeared along with his attorney, Brent Easton. Tucker County Prosecuting Attorney Savannah Wilkins represented the State in the matter and was accompanied by Sgt. Schmicle of the West Virginia State Police.
The two counts in the indictment stemmed from a weekend getaway, Dishler had engaged in with his then girlfriend. The couple had spent a weekend in Tucker County at an Airbnb in Davis, according to the victim, 43 year old Tiffany DeHaven of Ohio. Testimony in the case outlined the events of the afternoon and evening of August 8, 2021.
According to testimony by DeHaven and Dishler, the couple had initially met when DeHaven worked as a counselor who made in home visits to Dishler’s home when he was 15. Both said that DeHaven worked with Dishler’s mother in a program targeted to help keep at risk youth in the home. According to testimony from both Dishler and DeHaven, the pair reunited 10 years later when Dishler found DeHaven on Facebook and messaged her using the name “Keith Gene.” It was during these messages, that DeHaven said she realized who he was.
Further testimony by DeHaven and Dishler stated that the relationship quickly developed and soon became romantic. According to the pair, the relationship lasted from the end of May 2021 to the incident in August of the same year.
DeHaven testified that the trip went well until the couple went to what initially was described in court as Douglas Falls, but later identified by DeHaven as Albert Falls, to watch the sunset. DeHaven said she and Dishler took his guitar and guitar case along with other items to the falls. As part of the State’s evidence, a video taken by DeHaven was played for the court showing Dishler performing with his guitar at the falls just before DeHaven’s assault. “It seemed like we were having a good time,” DeHaven said. “He was playing guitar.”
Testimony also revealed that a week prior to the trip to Tucker County, DeHaven had been struck by Dishler, resulting in a black eye. Again, photographic evidence was published to the court showing the injury received in the incident. When asked by Wilkins why she didn’t break up with Dishler following the black eye, DeHaven said she was fearful of Dishler and pitied him because of his rough childhood and abuse he told her that he endured while an inmate in an Ohio prison. According to DeHaven there were a lot of signs that alluded to Dishler’s character. “There’s a lot of red flags here,” DeHaven said. “I should have listened.”
While in the area, DeHaven said that a large purple folding knife was purchased at Mountain Top. The knife, according to DeHaven’s testimony, was used by Dishler to threaten his own life before threatening DeHaven. That was the moment, DeHaven testified, that the situation changed. DeHaven testified that she was “treated like prey,” terrorized, had multiple threats to her life and was in constant fear that she would be killed. According to DeHaven she was told that he would kill her with his bare hands or a rock before burying her in the woods at the falls before changing his mind and deciding to take her to a hotel in order to torture, kill and have sex with her dead body. “He said I deserved to die and that he was going to kill me with his bare hands.”
In the resulting assault, DeHaven said she received multiple contusions, cuts to her eye that required stitches and resulted in a permanent scar and most seriously, a broken jaw that required reconstructive surgery and resulted in permanent nerve damage to her face. Photos documenting the extent of the beating were presented before the court that showed DeHaven’s face swollen beyond recognition with extensive black bruising throughout her face, right arm and upper chest, as well as two black eyes that were swollen shut. As a result of the assault, DeHaven said she was out of work for two months and on a liquid diet that resulted in a 30 pound weight loss. DeHaven testified that the injury to her jaw required three and a half hours of surgery to repair. A surgery that included the placing of a plate, pins and screws. According to DeHaven, she has continued physical and emotional effects from the incident, as well as enduring two extensive rounds of physical therapy. “I really thought I was going to die there,” DeHaven said.
Following the violent assault at Albert Falls, Dishler forced DeHaven into her car, DeHaven said. By this time, DeHaven said, Dishler had beat her from the falls and up the trail. It was while heading to the car that DeHaven said he hit her so hard that she blacked out and came to on the ground with him yelling at her to get up. This was the point, according to DeHaven, that her jaw was broken by Dishler.
Dishler had her keys and her phone did not work after falling in the water earlier that evening, according to DeHaven. In her testimony, DeHaven said Dishler was the one to start the ignition from the passenger seat. DeHaven and Dishler both testified that it was well after dark by the time the couple left in DeHaven’s car. It was also revealed during testimony by both the defendant and victim that the couple took alcohol and marijuana to the falls with them. DeHaven said it was also on a bridge along the trail to the car that she last saw the purple knife.
DeHaven said they briefly stopped at the parking lot of a motel in Morgantown before she was able to convince Dishler to let her continue home. She described Dishler as “a clean freak” and the motel as “a little scuzzy” which aided in her attempts to avoid going to a motel with him. While in the car between the falls and Morgantown, Dishler beat her about the arm and chest so that she could still continue driving, DeHaven said. DeHaven also said Dishler taped gauze to the cut above her eye so the blood would not continue to run into her eyes.
It was after DeHaven drove into Pennsylvania that she found help, according to DeHaven. DeHaven said she was driving on a detour down a country highway in Pennsylvania when she was forced to stop in the middle of the road by what she described as a bright light. To her left, she said she saw a police cruiser. In a deliberate effort to look suspicious, she had her left turn signal on and avoided two other turns before turning into a Dollar General parking lot at about one in the morning, according to testimony from DeHaven and Mt. Pleasant Township Police Officer Maria Cuccaro who conducted a traffic stop that evening. Cuccaro said she was a 10-year veteran of the force that had conducted over 100 arrests.
Cuccaro was called to the stand on day two and testified that she observed blood on the steering wheel and quickly suspected from the state of DeHaven that she may have encountered a domestic violence situation. Cuccaro said she radioed for EMS and back up to assist in separating DeHaven and Dishler. Officer Cuccaro also stated that when initially questioned, DeHaven was slow to answer and Dishler spoke for her and did not allow DeHaven to speak. It was not until the couple were separated that DeHaven confided in Cuccaro what had transpired, according to Cuccaro.
It was while DeHaven was in the ambulance and Dishler was speaking with male officers by the closed store, that DeHaven would tell Cuccaro what had happened, Cuccaro said. Once informed of the situation, Cuccaro said she placed Dishler under arrest. When the car was searched by police, open alcohol, two burnt marijuana roaches and a small pocket knife were found in the vehicle. Cuccaro said the marijuana was located on the passenger floorboard inside a small empty mason-style alcohol jar. Cuccaro testified she did not believe DeHaven to have been inpared during the stop. “She did not appear to be intoxicated,” Cuccaro said.
Attorney Easton asserted that the true location of the assault could not be really determined due to the ongoing nature of the incident that occurred over at least two states and countless counties. Dishler’s account insisted that DeHaven instigated the incident by throwing rocks at Dishler and yelling. Dishler said it was after being hit in the head with a rock, that he struck DeHaven. “She hit me more than once,” Dishler said. “I hit her more than once. It was an ongoing thing.”
Cuccaro testified that Dishler was shirtless and in shorts when he was apprehended. The officer also testified that no injuries were observed on Dishler. “99% of my injuries occurred in Tucker County,” DeHaven said.
Easton also brought up that at one point during the incident at the falls, Dishler had lost his glasses. During the incident, Dishler had demanded DeHaven retrieve them, according to DeHaven. It was also during this portion of the incident that DeHaven said Dishler urinated down her front while continuing to make threats. Easton questioned DeHaven on whether Dishler could see well enough without his glasses to carry out the attack. “ I’m pretty sure he could see well enough to see a body in front of him,” DeHaven said.
Dishler claimed on the stand that he blacked out and had no idea he had hit her as hard as he did. “When I saw the injuries she had, I didn’t realize I did that,” Dishler said.
Easton made motions twice, once after the prosecution rested and after Dishler testified for the defense as their only witness, to have the case dismissed. Both motions were denied by Judge Ryan who stated that the evidence more than warranted the continuation of proceedings.
At several points in the trial, Dishler displayed outbursts. One of Dishler’s outbursts were directed at the victim while she was on the stand. This outburst resulted in a warning from Judge Ryan. Judge Ryan informed Dishler that if he could not act appropriately, he would be removed from court. Following the verdict return of guilty on the counts, Dishler yelled at the Jury with the comment, “Thanks for the life sentence.” Dishler was immediately detained by several Tucker County Sheriff Deputies and handcuffed for the remainder of the day’s proceedings. This was followed by Dishler turning around in his seat before he began yelling at the victim who visibly shook in her seat in the audience.
The Jury deliberated for 20 minutes at the end of the second day of trial before returning a unanimous verdict of guilty to all charges. While lesser included charges were included in Jury instruction, a verdict on the original charges stood. The defense requested the Jury be polled to verify the verdict. One by one, the jurors were called with each affirming the decision as correct. The Jury was then instructed to return the following morning to determine the Mercy Phase of the trail.
The Defense called Dishler to the stand in the Mercy Phase. During his testimony, Dishler claimed to be the victim of a broken home and abuse as a child by both his parents and an aunt and uncle. He also claimed to have been the victim of abuse inside the Ohio penal system as an inmate within the state and stated that he was forced to drink from a toilet by correctional officers while he was in isolation within the Ohio prison. Dishler denied making many of the threats that DeHaven had testified to as well as denying that he urinated on her or ever said he would engage in sex with her dead body. “I’m not a bad person,” Dishler said. “I get put into bad situations. I wish Miss DeHaven was here so that I could say I’m sorry again.”
Dishler broke down several times while speaking in the stand. While testifying, he claimed to be a musician, tattoo artist and poet. When instructed by Easton if there was anything else he wanted the Jury to know about him, he recited a poem, “How Does it Feel to be Misconceived?” he said he composed the evening previous after the verdict was returned.
Dishler said he hoped that his time in prison would give him time to address his anger issues. He cited this as a reason for the Jury to consider leniency and declare Mercy in his case. “Maybe in that time, I can learn to control my anger,” Dishler said.
Easton said he hoped Dishler would take advantage of the various programs and rehabilitation opportunities afforded during Dishler’s time in prison as part of his address to the Jury. “There is a lot of things he can take advantage of and hopefully he does,” Easton said.
Easton also said that if Dishler was granted Mercy, it would only mean he would be afforded the opportunity to appear before a parole board, not guaranteed parole. It was also said by Easton that in the event Dishler would become paroled, he would never be in society without supervision because he would always have the life sentence hanging over his head. Easton also equated the granting of Mercy to an opportunity to change for Dishler.
The Mercy Phase also included testimony by Sgt. Schmidle on behalf of the prosecution regarding Dishler’s extensive felony criminal history that included: Domestic Violence and Abduction, Complicity to Robbery and Felonious Assault, and Intimidation of an Attorney, Victim or Witness in a Criminal Case. All of the offenses were recorded from Columbiana County, Ohio between 2015 and 2020.
By West Virginia law, in a capital case such as with the Kidnapping charge, the only way in which an inmate has an opportunity for parole, is if the Jury declares mercy in the case. In the case of Dishler, had mercy been granted, he would have been eligible for parole after 15 years of incarceration. However, the jury took only 20 to 25 minutes to return with a NO MERCY verdict in the case which will result in a mandatory sentence of Life in Prison without the possibility of parole.
Judge Ryan thanked the Jury for their service and advised that they do not worry about what anyone else thinks of the verdict. He also thanked the jurors for acting according to their conscience. “You sacrificed your time,” Judge Ryan said. “You performed your duties well. Your service means a lot to the people of Tucker County and to myself.”