• Austin Steybe
  • Jerry Keene

PCSO: Jail fight puts 1 in hospital

2 men charged with first-degree murder involved in early morning altercation

Authorities said two men charged with first-degree murder sharing a cell in the Putnam County Jail had an early morning altercation, which resulted in one inmate in critical condition at Putnam Community Medical Center.

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Joe Wells said 20-year-old Austin Steybe was found unconscious by corrections officers, and his cellmate, 44-year-old Jerry Keene, is under investigation for aggravated battery.

Wells said corrections deputies were alerted to unusual behavior inside one of the cells.

Wells said there is video recording in the common areas of the jail, but there are no cameras in individual cells.

“It was during lights out, so the cells were darkened,” Wells said. “As soon as corrections officers noticed an issue, lights to that cell were turned on and officers responded.”

Wells said the two men were considered high risk.

“Nationwide, corrections standards require inmates by house by classification,” Wells said. “Classification is determined by considerations such as severity of the crime, escape risk and criminal history. It is both accepted and common practice nationwide to house them together.”

Keene was arrested and charged March 3 with possession of a controlled substance without a prescription. 

A day after his arrest, the body of Thomas Lombardo, a man reported missing from Marion County, was found in the Ocala National Forest.

In May, a grand jury indicted Keene for Lombardo’s murder.

“The ongoing investigation revealed that Keene and Lombardo were in the area of Rodman Dam, when they became involved in an argument,” Wells said after the indictment. “At some point in the argument, Keene murdered Lombardo.”

On Aug. 2, Austin Steybe was arrested and charged with first-degree murder of his grandmother after relatives became concerned when they couldn’t contact her.

According to an Aug. 2 sheriff’s office report, deputies arrived at the home Steybe shared with his grandmother to check on 79-year-old Annie Ruth Flowers at about 10:30 p.m.

Deputies found dried blood and evidence of a struggle, which prompted a search of the area. Flowers’ body was found about 1 a.m. the next morning.

 On Aug. 16, a grand jury indicted Steybe on first-degree murder.

The indictment said Flowers’ murder was by “smothering, strangling and/or beating the victim to death” and occurred between July 18 and Aug. 1.

Wells said an altercation severe enough to require medical attention at the hospital is extremely rare.

“In the last 12 years, I do not recall an incident severe enough to send an unconscious person to the hospital,” Wells said.

Palatka Daily News

1825 St. Johns Ave.
Palatka, FL 32177
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