Commonwealth v. Ulysses Lee Keeling; Jury Recommends 40 Years in Killing over Bad Cocaine Deal

Friday, June 20, 2014

Colin D. Stolle, Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Virginia Beach, announced today that Ulysses Lee Keeling, age 37, of the 2800 block of Elm Avenue in Portsmouth, Virginia, was found guilty by a jury of First Degree Murder, Robbery, and Use of a Firearm. The jury recommended a sentence of 40 years in the Department of Corrections. Circuit Court Judge H. Thomas Padrick, who presided over the three-day trial, will formally sentence Keeling on October 1, 2014.


The Commonwealth’s evidence proved that on the evening of December 27, 2012, the victim, Rafael Hernandez, sold cocaine to Ulysses Lee Keeling, by way of two other men.  The two men picked up the cocaine from Hernandez in Virginia Beach and brought the cocaine to Keeling in Portsmouth.  Keeling was unhappy with the quality of cocaine and wanted to confront Hernandez.  Keeling rode in the backseat of a Dodge Charger with the two men.  When they met up with Hernandez in Virginia Beach, Hernandez got into the back seat of the Charger with Keeling.  Keeling got angry with Hernandez, pulled out a gun, and demanded his property.  After giving Keeling some of his property, including his jacket, Hernandez, who was unarmed, began to resist.  During the ensuing struggle, Keeling shot Hernandez in the chest.  Hernandez then stumbled out of the car and into the road, where he was later found dead.  Keeling and the other two men fled the area. 


Detectives with the Virginia Beach Police Department were able to trace one of the men involved through cell phone records. That man was interviewed and able to identify Keeling as the shooter.  Investigators also found the Charger a few days later. They found a shell casing and the victim’s blood in the back of the car. 


Keeling has prior convictions for Possession with the Intent to Distribute, Possession of Cocaine, and Habitual Offender.


The case was prosecuted by Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Patrick J. Connolly and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney S. Mario Lorello.  Please contact Macie Pridgen if additional information is desired.