Christy and James McKeogh, pictured in Palm Beach, Florida, for the wedding of Christy’s sister, Carol, were murdered in their Clinton Township home in January 2016. There have been few leads in the case, as the killer remains unknown.

Christy and James McKeogh, pictured in Palm Beach, Florida, for the wedding of Christy’s sister, Carol, were murdered in their Clinton Township home in January 2016. There have been few leads in the case, as the killer remains unknown.

Photo provided by Louis Rahhal


Two murders, four years, a case gone cold in Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 21, 2019

 The couple takes a photo in a photo booth while at a wedding.

The couple takes a photo in a photo booth while at a wedding.

Photo provided by Louis Rahhal

 Christy McKeogh stands with her brothers, Louis Rahhal, left, and Michael Rahhal.

Christy McKeogh stands with her brothers, Louis Rahhal, left, and Michael Rahhal.

Photo provided by Louis Rahhal

Advertisement

“There are times I sit up at night and wonder if there’s anything we missed."

Joe Burns , Clinton Township Police Detective

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Everything changed one Friday winter afternoon.

On Jan. 15, 2016, the brutally murdered bodies of James and Christy McKeogh were found by Christy’s brothers, Louis and Michael Rahhal, in their now former home in the 15000 block of Uthers Street in Clinton Township. James was 57 years old and Christy was 55.

Nearly four years after autopsies confirmed the causes of death as results of blunt force trauma, nobody has been arrested. Less than a handful of people have been interviewed as suspects, and the case has become cold.

Due to the crime scene and injuries sustained at the hands of the mystery killer, the Clinton Township Police Department immediately declared the deaths as homicides.

Today, the search for answers continues.

 

Family and business
The Rahhal family was your typical American family.

Michael, 63, and Louis, 57, grew up in St. Clair Shores in the mid-1960s with their sisters Christy, Kathy and Carol.

Their father, Abraham, provided a “modest upbringing” as a salesman. When the children were relatively young, Abraham divorced their mother, Josephine, but the two remained friends.

Christy was the only member of the family to earn a college degree. She graduated in the mid-1980s from Macomb Community College in Clinton Township with the intention of becoming a journalist.

At the time, Michael and Louis were salesmen themselves. Christy waited tables during the day, and Louis tended bar in the evenings.

Rather than follow a career in journalism, Christy joined her brothers in a business-oriented role. In 2000, the brothers purchased a building in Shelby Township that became what is now known as Accu-Tech, a manufacturing and precision machine shop.

It didn’t take long for Christy to be recognized as “the glue of the company.”

“(Christy) eventually became a partner in the company, and not just a partner; she’s the one who actually kept it together, especially during ’08-’09, the (economic) downturn,” Louis said. “I didn’t know how we were gonna make it during that.”

 

Best friends on life’s rocky road
James and Christy were married for about 25 years. She was his second wife, and he was her first husband. They never had their own children, though he had a son and a daughter from a previous marriage.

Louis called James a “beautiful soul” who enjoyed to fish and hunt and was an all-American “good old boy.” He regularly entertained friends in his garage, sharing laughs over beers and cigarettes. He worked at a tool and die shop.

Their home was coined the “Hotel California,” due to aiding anybody in need, whether it was offering a sofa to sleep on or to just engage in conversation. Louis said the couple were best friends who made everyone feel “like we were a part of them.”

There was a moment when the brothers sensed that James — or “Jim” as everybody knew him — lost a piece of himself he would never get back. His son, Jamie, died in a car crash in 2004 on what was his 22nd birthday.

“(Jim) was never the same. … It couldn’t have been any worse for (Christy) if it was her own blood son,” Louis said. “She raised that kid and loved him just like her own son.”

 

‘It was just so surreal’
The family’s close-knit nature extended itself in the workplace. The siblings ate lunch together every day, along with their other business partner, Ed Misch.

So when Christy didn’t show up the morning of Jan. 15, 2016, the brothers found it unusual, but not completely alarming. After all, Jim was having body circulation issues at the time. Perhaps Christy had taken him to the doctor.

But the day became drearier. They called Christy, but her phone went straight to voicemail. Jim’s phone rang and went to voicemail.

Each brother, unbeknownst to the other, decided to hop in his respective vehicle and make sure everything was alright. They simultaneously arrived at the couple’s home close to noon.

“Ironically enough, the very same second I pulled up, Michael pulled up in his car,” Louis said. “Literally within a second of each other.”

Michael called the serendipity of the moment “a bit of a blessing from God.”

The garage was closed. The neighborhood was quiet. They made their way toward the home.

“We used the garage code, we opened the door and it was horrifying,” Louis said. “Jim was in the garage, laying in a pool of blood. It was just so surreal. My knees buckled. Air came out of my body. I couldn’t breathe.

“I’m leaning up against Christy’s car, and then I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, I hope Christy’s not in the house.’ But I’m leaning up against her car, I don’t even realize it.”

Michael thought it wasn’t real. Perhaps it was a joke, he thought.

Once they gained their bearings, coming to the realization that Christy’s vehicle never left the garage, they charged inside. They found her lying motionless in the front living room.

“It almost appeared as if she was trying to get to the door the way her body was positioned,” Louis said. “She still had her scissors and tape in her hands. She was putting her Christmas ornaments away. We just both collapsed right there and started crying.”

They called 911 and waited for the police to arrive. Each brother was placed in a different cop car, likely due to being the first on scene and possibly being viewed as suspects. Louis said they must have sat in the cars in front of the house, with clear view of the garage and murder scene, for about two hours.

“The feeling’s never gone away,” Louis said. “It’s been four years and it’s just like it felt in the back of that cop car, looking at him, looking at the house, like, ‘What just happened here?’”

About 1,150 people signed the book laid out at Resurrection Funeral Home on Hayes Road. The lines never stopped on what Louis described as a morning-to-night meet-and-greet with family and friends on what was “the hardest day.”

 

Dead ends abound
Clinton Township Police Detective Joe Burns has worked in the field for 19 years, including the last six in Clinton Township. He was the first detective on the scene that January afternoon.

“The house was immaculate,” Burns said. “(Christy) was the type of person who was kind of a neat freak. The house was beautiful.”

When he first saw the bodies, the “injuries were so severe” he immediately thought the pair were shot to death. Due to Jim’s expansive tool collection, Burns wondered whether one of his tools were used in the beatings — whether it was a “weapon of opportunity” on behalf of the killer.

Family members and friends were brought in during the investigation and were questioned as to if any of Jim’s tools were missing, but due to the sheer number, it was nearly impossible to tell.

“They were definitely beaten to death, there’s no question about that,” the detective said. “That’s not a secret. What they were beaten with, we don’t know.”

A complete “victimology” ensued. When checking into whether either Jim or Christy were into “seedy stuff,” the report came back spotless. Evidence was “resounding” that the pair were clean-cut folks who would do anything for anybody, and they possessed no criminal background.

“We’re talking as puritan as they can get,” Burns said. “They were the typical white-picket-fence, good family that lives in a nice neighborhood.”

In terms of possible suspects, all family members were “easily cleared” as part of the investigation. Communications showed no major red flags, either, as neither Christy nor Jim appeared to owe anybody money. Notions related to murder-for-hire plots, a murder-suicide or even felonious murder committed due to a life insurance policy were ruled out.

“They were comfortable,” Burns said. “They weren’t wealthy, there were no reports of financial difficulties, but there was no financial gain for anybody.”

He said 80-some pages of evidence were submitted. There were no leads from DNA, fingerprints, forced entry or otherwise. Nothing was missing in the home. Not a thing was out of place. Money or credit cards weren’t touched.

Theories have abounded over the years. After seeing the bodies, conjecture instantly occurs. Perhaps someone came to the door, “something went sideways” and violence ensued.

In a span of almost four years, police have received a grand total of three tips from the public.

“It sounds like the veritable ‘who done it,’ and it really is. … We have really been stymied on this one, and it’s not for lack of work,” he said.

The case has become personal for Burns. It “haunts” him in the sense that there are no leads, no surveillance footage from nearby homes or businesses, and no major evidence.

“There are times I sit up at night and wonder if there’s anything we missed,” Burns said. “I don’t think we have.”

 

Hopeful help from the outside
Podcast host Nina Innsted believes a positive resolution will “absolutely” come from this ordeal.

Innsted, who lived in Michigan for decades prior to recently moving to Georgia, started the “Already Gone” podcast in the spring of 2016 — which has between 40,000 and 60,000 monthly downloads. She explores cold cases, telling the stories “of the missing, the murdered, the mysterious and the lost.”

Her passion for understanding crimes and why they were committed began in her childhood. She grew up in Berkley, just mere blocks away from where 10-year-old Kristine Mihelich was abducted. Her dead body was ultimately found weeks later, attributed to the Oakland County Child Killer.

She believes her role is helpful toward investigations because a whole new audience is reached beyond traditional print and online media, causing a “ripple effect” that reverberates across state lines. Humanizing victims makes others want to fight for their legacies.

In terms of Jim and Christy McKeogh, Innsted said it’s the type of case that can fade away relatively quickly if new leads are not generated. Acknowledging she is not an investigator, she is steadfast in her belief that whoever committed these murders was “very lucky.”

“A case like what happened with the McKeoghs is especially baffling because these are two well-liked, well-respected people,” she said. “They were not involved in any illicit activity, they were not criminals. They were your next-door neighbor. Everybody could relate to this couple.”

This is the prototypical case that detectives will revisit over and over again, she noted, due to the viciousness of the acts combined with something called “ambiguous loss,” attributed to emotions of grief that remain unresolved due to a constant search for answers.

“They cannot be at peace with the loss because there’s still this nagging question: Who did this to them? Why did they do this to them?” Innsted said. “When this person is caught, and I believe this person will be caught, it all gets ripped back open.”

 

‘Life is not the same’
Mere hours following the murders, the family decided that Louis and his sister, Carol, would take a red-eye flight to Florida to visit their father, Abraham, and inform him of the brutal slayings. They made sure to reach him before news traveled any quicker.

After the joy of seeing his children at about 8 a.m., he was told that his little “usfooda” — which translates to “Little Bird” — was killed.

Abraham immediately came home to tend to his family. He sold his Florida home and spent the final years of his life helping to search for whoever killed his daughter and son-in-law, both whom he loved dearly. Abraham died in June 2018.

Life for Louis, Michael and their siblings has changed. The brothers have difficulty sleeping, often succumbing to nightmares. A void exists.

“You’ve just got to remember, this didn’t just happen to just me. It happened to everybody that loved Jim and Christy, and there was a lot of ’em,” Louis said. “I ain’t gonna lie, everything stopped. All the plans — someday you hope to retire, you hope to have a plan — all plans stopped. There’s been zero thought about the future.

“Life is just not the same life anymore. I don’t know how to explain it. You almost just try and be pleasant and helpful to others because you know how fast and short it all goes. You totally rethink why you’re here. I’ve learned how to really love. I’ve learned how to try to do the right thing now. It definitely changes your perception.”

After initially offering a $25,000 reward to find the murderer(s), the family increased that total to $50,000 during a candlelight vigil in late 2016. The brothers think that whoever comes forward, if anyone, will do so not for the financial incentive, but rather because they want to do the right thing.

The family has welcomed Joe Burns in as one of their own, with the detective so enveloped in the case that he paid his respects at Abraham’s funeral.

It’s people like Burns who give hope to Louis and Michael, the latter of whom bluntly stated, “There’s a bastard out there that you have to catch.” He added that the family prepares for the worst, but hopes for the best.

Murder mysteries are nothing new, although Louis previously never understood how individuals and families moved on with their lives in situations such as these. It seemed an impossible task.

“Now, I understand that. Absolutely. I don’t want to die before knowing whoever did this is not able to do this to somebody else,” he said. “It was so horrific. I can’t even describe how tragically horrible it was, to see someone you love beaten to death.”

Advertisement