Instead of going to trial on multiple federal charges, Kirby K. Kehoe, 65, and his 37-year-old son, Cheyne, struck plea deals with federal prosecutors, with each pleading guilty to a single count before Magistrate Judge Michelle H. Burns. The elder Kehoe pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms and ammunition, and his son to being a felon in possession of firearms.
The Kehoes are best known for the exploits of Cheyne Kehoe and his brother, Chevie, who is still serving a life term for his leadership of a terrorist cell called the Aryan Republican Army. Both were involved in shootouts with police, and Chevie led the gang in the torture-murder of a family of three, including an 8-year-old girl who was smothered to death after being shocked with a cattle prod.
As part of the plea bargains, four other federal felony charges will be dismissed against Kirby Kehoe and three will be dismissed against Cheyne Kehoe, court documents show. The judge ordered background reports on both defendants and set sentencing for mid-May. Under the deal, Kirby Kehoe faces a maximum of 10 years in prison, and his son faces the low-end of the sentencing guideline range, probably about five years.
The pair, who have been affiliated with a series of white supremacist groups, were arrested last Oct. 14 when agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives raided an “off-the-grid compound” 140 miles north of Phoenix, near Ash Fork, Ariz. Kehoe and his son were indicted on Nov. 6 by a grand jury in Phoenix.
Investigators described finding a commercial-grade marijuana growing operation and an arsenal of weapons, a set of body armor, three bulletproof vests and explosive powder on the 40-acre rural site. Agents seized 17 firearms, 16,891 rounds of ammunition and about 15 pounds of marijuana.
The marijuana was being grown, processed and stored in various large, metal railroad shipping containers on the property, authorities said. Camouflage netting was used in an attempt to conceal parts of the operation.
The Kehoes agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and not challenge the forfeiture of the weapons and other items seized, according to written plea agreements signed by the defendants.
At the time of his arrest, Kirby Kehoe had been out of prison only seven years after serving 95 months in prison for convictions in the Eastern District of Washington for possession of unregistered firearms, possession of a machine gun, transportation of firearms while under indictment and a racketeering charge linked to a murder.
Kirby Kehoe and his large family have been affiliated with various white supremacist, antigovernment and Christian Identity groups and churches in Idaho, northeastern Washington state, northwestern Montana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and elsewhere. Christian Identity is a racist and anti-Semitic reading of the Bible that describes Jews as biologically satanic and people of color as soulless.
In 1997, Cheyne and his older brother Chevie, now serving a life term for his involvement in the triple murder and other crimes, were involved in two shootouts with police in Wilmington, Ohio. The shootout, captured on a police dash-camera, was widely broadcast during a nationwide manhunt for the armed and dangerous Kehoe brothers. They were captured in a remote Utah town later that year when Cheyne decided to surrender and turn in his brother, who had taken an interest in Cheyne’s wife and also began talking about murdering their parents.