Keith Johansen, 36, was arrested shortly after 4 p.m. today at his Palm Coast home and charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife, Brandi Celenza, 20 days ago. Celenza was 25 and had a 6-year-old son.
Celenza was shot once in the center of her chest and once in her right breast with a 9 mm gun.
The alleged shooting, Staly said, was the culmination of a domestic violence dispute that had been going on for a while between Johansen and Celenza, who had married just a year ago.
“We all knew from the initial time we were at the scene that the story the husband was giving us did not add up,” Sheriff Rick Staly said in an interview this afternoon. “I don’t know if we’re going to be able to release the video we’ve received yet, but the video was very telling on what was going on, least after the shooting and while he was on the phone with our 911 operator.”
Johansen had extensive video-surveillance equipment at the house at 23 Felter Lane. The video footage was stored in the cloud, on servers operated by a California company that “frankly jerked us around” for about two weeks, the sheriff said, refusing to comply with a search warrant–until it finally did late this week: detectives received the video footage only today, which sealed the case well after they had received a verbal report from the medical examiner that Celenza’s death was a homicide.
Celenza was actually shot twice: once with a non-lethal type of round, and once with a lethal round, Staly said. Johansen, he said, was in the habit of loading his weapon with two non-lethal rounds, followed by lethal rounds. Johansen called 911 at some point, a call that Staly said suggests Johansen may have been making up a story as he went along.
Johansen placed the call to 911 on April 7 at 10:37 a.m.
“My I have an officer?” he asks the dispatcher at the beginning of the 6 minute 44 second call. The released version of the recording then includes a silent stretch (identifying information normally blanked out), before Johansen, somewhat breathless, says: “I was in the shower. I heard gunshots.” He says something unintelligible. The dispatcher asks him to explain. “I was in the shower and I heard some gunshots. I think that my wife accidentally shot herself.”
He says she’s “lying down right next to the bed,” but he doesn’t see blood. Only a 9mm gun. He doesn’t see a wound.
“Have you tried waking her up? Do you see any part of her body where she got shot that you can possibly apply pressure?”
“I can’t see anything,” Johansen says. Then says “in the ribs, it looks like,” clarifying: “in the upper chest.” He says he thinks it’s accidental. He claims she’s breathing but “incoherent.”
Keith Johansen’s 911 Call
“I can hear her breathe though. Please hurry,” Johansen says.
“Baby please stay with us. There’s an ambulance on the way.” He then is heard ordering the 6-year-old boy to “stay here,” more than once. He describes two guns on the floor, and again, when the dispatcher asks him if he can apply pressure to the wound, Johansen says he can’t, saying he’s “wet” and “sliding” on the floor.
“You can’t apply pressure?” the dispatcher asks.
“I can’t see it,” Johansen says. He says he has wooden floor and doesn’t want to risk “sliding” or risk one of the guns going off. “There’s too much stuff right here.” He says he sees no blood on the floor, only on her shirt.
The dispatcher is incredulous. “Ok, but there’s probably, there might be a gunshot wound there, sir, so I just wanted to see if you can apply pressure there but you can’t do that. Ok.”
“What is around your wife that you can’t get close access to her?”
“OK, I’m moving the bed, fuck it,” he says.
He’s heard exerting some effort on the line until he says he sees the police at the door. The call end.
The arrest affidavit reflects the same undercurrent of suspicion or oddity in the way it summarizes the 911 call: “Again, the communication Specialist asked if he was applying pressure and Johansen stated that he was wet, sliding on his floor and that he could not see it (referring to the wound). Johansen stated that he did not want to risk sliding and hurting Celenza or have the guns go off. Again, Johansen stated that he could not apply pressure to the wound because there was too much stuff around her.”
The affidavit continues: “Keith Johansen provided a recorded statement to law enforcement with numerous inconsistencies that led investigators to believe this incident was not accidental. Also in his interview, Keith Johansen told investigators he was alone with Brandi and her six-year-old child at the time of her death, the residence was secure with no signs of forced entry, and he was sure that Brandi was not suicidal and did not kill herself.”
“I was at the scene, nothing looked right to us, nothing sounded correct,” Staly said, “that’s why we were so tight-lipped on it. We wanted the suspect to think we were believing his story until we could determine the facts of the case, so we very painstakingly went very slow, methodical, working the case with the medical examiner. When they gave us a verbal report, they determined it was a homicide and could not have been a suicide or an accidental because of the injuries to the victim. We had search warrants for phones of both the victim and the suspect,” though Johansen’s phone was heavily encrypted. It took a while to make it past the hurdles.
The case involved numerous such complications and what to detectives had seemed like a made-up story by Johansen. The Sheriff’s Office could not rush the process before leveling charges, Staly said, so as not to start the clock on the court case and short-circuit its effectiveness.
The surveillance cameras’ positions and functionality proved key in helping detectives seal their case.
“On April 5th, 2018 there is a camera within the bedroom where the incident occurred pointing directly to where the deceased was located on April 7th, 2018. On April 7th, 2018 that camera is no longer there and there is no video evidence showing that location,” the affidavit reads. “The deceased and Keith Johansen are seen in multiple video segments within the master bedroom in clear, heated arguments on April 5th, 2018.”
Finally, there is this video evidence, on April 7, four minutes before the 911 call: “Keith Johansen is seen on video surveillance with a shirt and boxers on in the living room area and grabs the pair of jeans he is wearing at the time of the 911 call at 1037 hours. At 1033 hours you can hear on audio of the video surveillance approximately 2 seconds of Keith’s voice in an argumentative manner and then the motion activation is no longer active on the cameras. At 1037 hours Keith is seen and heard on video surveillance with 911 telling the 911 operator he is checking for injuries on the victim while he is clearly depicted removing narcotics evidence in the living room and hiding it prior to law enforcement arrival.”
That may explain why Johansen sounded out of breath in the recording.
“He is not checking the body for injuries or looking for the location of injuries,” the affidavit reads.
It is not clear to what extent the 6-year-old boy witnessed what alleged confrontations took place between his mother and Johansen. But he was at the house at the time of the shooting. He is now with his biological father.
“Great job by our detectives,” Staly said, “and the community should rest assured that we have a capable team with the ability to investigate very intricate and difficult cases.”
The investigation involved all of the sheriff’s major-cases detectives, under-cover detectives, the Crime Scene Investigation unit, and many others.
“Our detectives take every case serious, especially homicides,” Staly said, explaining why he said it was important to work the case deliberately, without rushing it. “We have a great track record for clearing homicide cases quickly, generally major cases, and everybody worked together as a team and worked very closely. They were trying their best to give closure to the victim’s family before the funeral because there was disagreement between the husband’s and the victim’s family, and unfortunately, while we did as much as we could, these cases take time to do them correctly. We helped the victim’s family as much as we could legally for the funeral.”