Salem man whose ex-wife ran from justice hopes to get life, children back
PORTLAND (The Oregonian) - In late May, a man knocked on the door of Gino Bagley's house in Salem and placed a stack of papers in his hands. Then he left without a word.
The papers revealed enough.
Bagley, 48, read that his ex-wife, Jean Terese Keating, from whom he hadn't heard in 15 years, had been living in a small Canadian town. Keating fled the United States in 1998 while awaiting trial in connection with a fatal drunken driving crash.
He read that Keating had been living in a common-law union with a Canadian citizen, Norman Leonard McPherson, of Manitoba.
He read that the Canadian wanted to adopt his 16-year-old boy, whom Bagley hadn't seen since he was eight months old.
And he read that the boy wanted McPherson to be his legal dad because he was the only dad he had ever known.
When Keating allegedly drove drunk and crashed into a Dexter woman's car, killing the driver, she made many more victims, Bagley said.
"It's not just this family," he said. "She's hurt me, she's hurt my parents who never got to see their grandchildren grow. She's hurt a lot of people."
Another piece of information included in the documents was that Bagley's daughter, Morgan Jean, 19, was now living in Springfield.
So sometime soon, Bagley said Monday, he hopes to reunite with the daughter he hasn't seen in 15 years.
"I still want my kids to know I'm their father," Bagley said. "I want my son to come here and live with me, and I want to have a relationship with my daughter.
"But I doubt they know who I am."
In April 1997, Keating was driving with her two children on I-5 near Albany when her station wagon sideswiped a two-door car driven by Jewel Oline Anderson, 65, of Dexter. The impact caused Anderson's vehicle to careen across the center median and hit an oncoming car. The driver and passengers of that car survived, but Anderson died.
Keating faced charges of first-degree manslaughter, DUII, reckless driving and reckless endangerment. She was out on bail when she skipped a March 1998 court appearance and disappeared.
Keating was brought back to Oregon in mid-July after apparently bragging at a bar in Manitoba that she had gotten away with a crime in Oregon. While living in Canada, Keating had assumed the name "Jean McPherson" and was arrested several times, including on impaired-driving charges, according to Oregon State Police.
Canadian authorities received a tip in early 2013, looked up Jean McPherson and found she was not a Canadian citizen, and eventually matched her fingerprints with the ones on record in Oregon.
On July 19, Keating appeared in Linn County Circuit Court, where a judge set bail of $5 million and a pre-trial meeting on Sept. 16.
Bagley said he wants to address the court in Keating's trial, but he cares more about reaching out to his children.
After he received the stack of papers, he scrambled to send his reaction to McPherson's intent to adopt his son. Bagley said he called the court in Manitoba but was sent from one clerk to another and didn't know to whom to address the documents. He said he can't afford a lawyer.
Keating and Bagley met in 1990 or 1991. He was working as a chef at the Tahiti restaurant in downtown Salem. She was hired as a hostess, and two weeks later, they started dating.
The relationship was tumultuous from the start, Bagley said. The couple was drinking -- mostly wine -- but at one point bottles of vodka started appearing randomly in the house, he said. They changed jobs, then moved to Eugene. They got married at the Lane County Courthouse.
During their marriage, they filed several restraining orders against each other, which were eventually dismissed.
Bagley admits he made many mistakes in those days. He has been convicted for second-degree burglary, but his record has been clean for the last 10 years.
The couple had Morgan Jean in 1994. Bagley said he started to back away when he felt Keating's drinking got out of control. He recalls getting home one night and finding his wife passed out on the floor and the toddler close to the baseboard heater, with popcorn spread everywhere.
"I cleaned up the child but left (Keating) to lie there," he said.
They filed for a divorce but continued to see each other. In 1996, they had another baby, Alexander Marcus.
Alexander was only a few months old when the crash happened. By then, Keating had started seeing McPherson. The two of them lived in a trailer park north of Eugene with the children, Bagley said.
Bagley and Keating shared custody of their children, and Bagley usually had them over the weekend. When Keating stopped showing up with the children after the crash, Bagley went to the mobile home park to discover that Keating and McPherson's trailer had disappeared. Bagley said he filed a report with the police, and then he waited.
"Rather than face the charges and risk the incarceration of Jean Terese Keating at a time when she was mother of two children, both under the age of 3 years, Jean Terese Keating and I fled to Manitoba, where we established a new life with our children," says the document filed by Leonard McPherson with the court in Manitoba.
McPherson goes on to describe how he, Keating and the children have been living in or around the community of Clanwilliam, Manitoba, until 2013, when Keating was arrested and booked into the Headingley Correctional Institution in Manitoba.
Keating had already been arrested when she and McPherson started the process that would offer McPherson custody of Marcus Alexander, who is enrolled as a junior at a Minnedosa high school.
"It's our fear that if I do not move quickly to secure an order of guardianship," McPherson wrote in the court documents, "that Alexander will not have legal status to remain in Canada and will be deported to the U.S. where he has no family that he knows, no friends and no support system."
McPherson, 65, told The Province newspaper in British Columbia that even though he realizes he might face criminal charges for helping Keating flee the United States, he doesn't regret it. He said he had been in love, and Keating has been a good wife and a good mother.
Corporal Miles Hiebert with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said he could not confirm whether McPherson is subject to an investigation.
Ryan Lucke, the prosecuting attorney handling Keating's case in Linn County, said the state has not, as far as he knows, filed charges against McPherson, but that OSP is investigating the circumstances in which Keating fled the country.
In 1999, Bagley decided to try to find the children himself. Keating had told Bagley's parents that the man she was seeing was from Quebec. So he boarded on a plane to New York, with the intention to cross the border to Canada.
"Nothing was planned," he said. "I was totally stupid."
One night in New York, he bought a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store. He said the last thing he remembers is opening up the pack before being hit in the head, robbed and left unconscious. He lost his eye, his sense of smell and partially lost his sense of taste. He woke up weeks later in a hospital. Eventually, his parents flew him back to Oregon to continue recovery.
After losing his taste and smell, he couldn't work as a chef anymore, so he started working as a carpenter, which is his profession today.
He continued to think about his children, but lost hope of seeing them again. He said he didn't want to have other children afterward.
Bagley said he'll drive to Springfield after Aug. 1. Meanwhile, he has obtained a phone number that was listed under his daughter's name, but the calls haven't been going through.
"I'm trying to do more work," he said. "I might cash in my IRA. It kind of kills my retirement, but I'll do what I need to do to find my son and reconnect with my daughter."