LEALMAN, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida man who is accused of shooting a woman in the head as she drove with her baby in the vehicle had tried to kill her two times before, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Friday.
“This is a very, very tragic case of domestic violence,” said Gualtieri. “This ranks up there as one of the very worst.”
Detectives say the 24-year-old woman, who was not identified, was shot by Christopher Keys, 32, around 7:30 a.m. on Nov. 30 as she drove south on 31st Street North and 58th Avenue North in Lealman. The woman’s 11-month-old daughter was in the vehicle, but was not injured.
Gualtieri said the woman was shot in the face with ammunition that was designed to cause the most damage as possible. The ammunition sprayed small projectiles similar to bird shot in her face. Gualtieri said the woman is totally blind in the left eye and could lose sight in her right eye. She remains hospitalized.
The suspect, Christopher Keys, was the father of the baby. Gualtieri said the couple had been involved in a dangerous cycle of domestic abuse.
In August, a neighbor saw Keys under the victim’s car, which was parked in her driveway. Keys was later found with pliers that had brake fluid on them. Gualtieri said he denied trying to cut the victim’s brake lines.
Gualtieri said Keys tried to cut her brakes a second time. The victim actually saw him under her car and took a photo if it with her cell phone. She yelled out the window to him to “knock it off” or he would not be able to see his child.
Gualtieri said Keys replied to her, “It doesn’t matter. You’ll be dead within a year, bitch.”
Guatlieri said the victim never reported this incident to authorities and Keys left the area. He was later found and on Nov. 2, a domestic violence injunction was served against him in connection with a different, previous incident.
Gualtieri said on Nov. 24, Keys texted the victim that he bought a gun and tried to kill himself, but it misfired. He texted her that he would get rid of the gun. The texts stopped on Nov. 27.
Gualtieri said that witnesses saw Keys in the area on the morning he allegedly shot the victim. Keys was 35 yards away from her as she drove the SUV. “She heard a gunshot, immediately felt pain in her face, became blind and her whole head and upper body area is covered in blood. She got out of the car and started screaming,” said Gualtieri.
On that morning, Gualtieri said the victim’s daughter happened to be strapped in her car seat, and placed in the back seat, on the passenger side of the SUV. The victim usually placed the baby seat directly behind her when she drove.
Gualtieri said the baby was lucky because her mother put her on the other side. If she was placed in her normal position behind her mother, the bullet would have gone through the baby.
The bullet hit the victim’s head, went through the head rest, then through the back seat. It was found in the car’s hatch.
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested 32-year-old Christopher Keys on three counts of attempted murder in the first degree. He was also charged with shooting a deadly missile into an occupied vehicle, aggravated stalking, and violation of injunction for protection against domestic violence.
Gualtieri called their cycle of domestic violence a “very sad situation.” He said that if the victim would have reported the incident where Keys tried to cut her brake line, authorities could have protected her.
He urged anyone involved in a domestic violence situation to come forward. “We don’t want to see anyone else go through this,” said Gualtieri.
A check of online jail records shows that Keys was arrested in May 2014 on charges of aggravated battery against a pregnant female and tampering with a state witness. He was released from jail after posting bond in the amount of $12,500, according to online records. Keys was also arrested on Aug. 1 on charges of attempted burglary and burglary. Online records show he was released from jail after posting bond in the amount of $10,000.