ROCKVILLE – Crystal Blakeney held up the urn that contained her daughter’s ashes and pleaded with Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Marielsa A. Bernard to give the maximum sentence to the man that pleaded guilty to killing her daughter.
“I request the maximum penalty for what he was convicted of,” Crystal Blakeney said.
On Aug. 18, 22-year-old Keith Renier, who pleaded guilty to murder in the second-degree of transgender woman Keyonna Blakeney, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Bernard went five years beyond the state’s recommended guidelines for second-degree murder. Renier will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
“If I could give you more than 30 years, I probably would,” Bernard told Renier.
According to Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Mark Anderson, Blakeney was working as a prostitute and she planned to meet Arbra Bethea, someone she had known before. Renier, a friend of Bethea, caught wind of the planned meeting after Bethea used Renier’s Instagram account on his cellphone to set up the arrangement. After reading the back-and-forth message between Bethea and Blakeney, Renier asked to join Bethea in the arrangement, unbeknownst to Blakeney.
According to Anderson, on April 16, 2016, Renier and Bethea went to a room at the Red Roof Inn on 16001 Shady Grove Road in Rockville under the pretense of sexual arrangement with Blakeney. Anderson described the altercation that led to Blakeney’s brutal murder where, in the motel room, Blakeney and Renier fought until Blakeney got the upper hand on Renier, prompting Renier to pull out a knife and stab Blakeney 97 times. After the murder, Renier and Bethea washed up in the room and ordered an Uber back to their homes in D.C., where Renier needed to get surgery on his hand for a cut he sustained during the murder, Anderson said.
Bethea pleaded guilty to accessory to second-degree murder after the fact and will be sentenced Nov. 9.
“The graphic image that I have in my mind, and I don’t think that’s something you can forget,” Bernard said after seeing the crime scene photos.
At the sentencing Renier said he was sorry for what happened, but maintained the prosecution’s account was not entirely accurate, saying he’s not the “monster” the prosecution made him seem to be.
“I truly did try to stop the situation,” Renier said.
Bernard quickly interjected saying, “But you pleaded guilty to second-degree murder,” she said.
“I didn’t do exactly what they say I did,” Renier responded, not saying specifically what was untrue about the prosecution’s statement.
During his statement, Assistant State’s Attorney Anderson said Renier had a history of violence pleading guilty to an incident where he threatened people on the Metro with a knife, including his girlfriend. Anderson scoffed at the suggestion that the excessive way he murdered Blakeney means he should not be shown mercy.
“Mercy ended 97 stab wounds into this,” Anderson said.
After Judge Bernard said she would give Renier the maximum penalty of 30 years, Kenny Litton, Blakeney’s father, sighed in relief. Litton said he spoke with Blakeney every day, and she helped him get through his past troubles with alcoholism. Litton, who declined to speak at the sentencing hearing, talked afterward, wearing the ashes of his daughter in a bracelet on his wrists.
“One down, one to go,” Litton said. “I couldn’t sleep – it has been rough.”