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Understanding Fred Keller

By Ellen Sherman, Dateline Producer

Understanding the people in our stories is always a challenge, especially when they are deceased, which is unfortunately the case more often than not when you deal with crime stories.

In the case of Fla. v. Keller, we had our two principal characters, a husband and wife, who were both deceased. It was not as difficult to get a handle on the wife, Rose Keil, since she had several surviving sisters and parents, one of whom agreed to share memories of her sister with us.

Rose was an interesting study in contrasts, an innocent girl who left school at 15 and married an older man. Yet as naïve as she might have been, she learned from him and eventually was so saavy that she was able to best him in a multi-million dollar divorce settlement. Some felt she was in the relationship for the money, but she stayed with her husband for almost a decade and, by the accounts of her family, she really tried to make the relationship work.  What could have drawn a beautiful young girl to a man more than three decades her senior? That was the part that didn't compute to many, but her sister told us that difficulties with Rose's own father, were, she felt, the "X factor" that pulled Rose to look for a "father figure" in her love life.
As for Fred Keller, it seems few had a kind word to say about him. Sure, he was a successful businessman, but he was reportedly so litigious that he had sued his own children. That, coupled with the fact that he had, among other things, strong feelings about not dating women who were, in his eyes, racially pure, made him a difficult character to portray.
Yet, at least, for a while, I came away feeling that Rose Keil had really loved the eccentric Fred Keller, at some point. There's the old folk saying, at least I think it's an old folk saying, that "for every pot there's a lid" which could be the only way to understand why Rose Keil was attracted to, married, had a child with and devoted herself to a man like Fred Keller.