GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A judge has ordered that a man serving three consecutive life sentences plus 50 years for a triple homicide committed when he was 17 be re-sentenced next year.
In a ruling Monday, state District Judge Gregory Pinski in Cascade County said that the judge who sentenced Steven Keefe, now 50, for the 1985 killings without the possibility of parole did not take into account his age, turbulent home life, mental health conditions and substance abuse.
He ordered a resentencing hearing to be held for Keefe on March 22.
“The Court cautions Keefe that he still faces the same penalty; however the Court will reserve judgment on the appropriate sentence for Keefe until the matter is properly before the Court at the resentencing hearing,” Pinski wrote.
Authorities accused Keefe of shooting and killing ophthalmologist David McKay; his wife, Constance; and their 40-year-old daughter, Marian McKay Qamor, a Seattle, Washington pediatrician, during a burglary in October 1985 at the McKay home outside Great Falls. Police found Qamor’s 3-year-old daughter sleeping in the home unharmed.
Keefe initially appeared in Youth Court but was tried as an adult.
He pleaded not guilty and was convicted following a jury trial based largely on circumstantial evidence. The Montana Supreme Court upheld the conviction on appeal after Keefe argued his right to a fair trial was compromised, by prosecutors referencing other burglaries he had committed to paint Keefe as an evil man deserving punishment.
The decision for Keefe’s resentencing was based on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding juvenile sentences and the Montana Supreme Court’s finding in another case last week involving Derrick Steilman, who was sentenced to 110 years for a murder he committed in Butte six weeks before his 18th birthday. The state court found that the high court’s decision barring mandatory life-without-parole cases also applies in cases where judges use their discretion in handing down such sentences, which was the case with Keefe.
The Montana Supreme Court ultimately rejected Steilman’s request to be re-sentenced because the majority said his sentence was not a de facto life sentence because it includes the possibility of earning day-for-day time off for good behavior.