PARKERSBURG -More than 30 family and friends, some coming from as a far away as Florida, rallied outside the Wood County Courthouse Tuesday to generate awareness and support for Sean Keefe, a Vienna man serving a six-month sentence for refusing to pay alimony to his ex-wife.
Caroline Keefe, Sean Keefe's wife, said organizers wanted to raise awareness.
"Until it happens to you, you don't realize there is no law to protect you," she said.
Residents rallied outside the Wood County Courthouse Tuesday to support Sean Keefe.
Two years after Sean Keefe divorced his ex-wife a DNA test revealed he was not the father of the couple's youngest son. Regardless, Keefe was bound by state law. He was ordered to pay $1,300 a month in child support and $1,800 in alimony. Keefe agreed to pay the child support but has refused to pay alimony. In May, he was sentenced to six months in jail by Wood County Family Court Judge Brian Dempster.
Keefe and his supporters, including his oldest son Ryan, are trying to promote his plight and affect a change in the state law.
"You just can't look at the situation and not believe it is wrong," West Virginia Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, said. Nohe attended Tuesday's rally to show support for Keefe's cause and meet his supporters.
Photo by Jody Murphy
State Sen. David Nohe, R-Wood, Caroline Keefe and Ryan Keefe are surrounded by more than 30 friends and relatives at Bicentennial Park Tuesday as they rallied support for Sean Keefe, a Vienna man serving a six-month sentence for refusing to pay alimony to his ex-wife.
Nohe and fellow Sen. Donna Boley, R-Pleasants, sponsored a pair of senate bills last session to address Keefe's conundrum. Senate Bills 502 and 503 were introduced this past session of the state legislature. The bills would allow the court to consider vacating child support in situations where DNA evidence can support a claim a person did not biologically father the child and would bar alimony where there is proof of an affair.
Nohe said both bills failed, however, he and Boley will craft a new bill relating to alimony and paternity fraud.
"Many states have adopted this law and it is time for West Virginia to do the same," he said.
Before his incarceration, Sean Keefe created a series of YouTube videos. He and his supporters have also launched a Facebook page to build support for the bills, WV.Paternity.Fraud.
In addition to the rally, organizers are also circulating a petition that will be sent to Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Caroline Keefe said Sean has never missed the $1,300-a-month child support payment.
"It is not about child support," Nohe said.
Keefe's oldest son Ryan, 24, married with a 2-year-old son, was among the supporters Tuesday. He described the situation as "out of this world." Ryan Keefe said he never imagined his family drama would have evolved into its present situation.
Ryan Keefe continues to profess love for his mother, Sean Keefe's ex-wife, but stands by his dad's protest.
"I will always love my mother, but my father shouldn't be held responsible for someone else's misconduct," he said.
Meanwhile Keefe continues to sit in jail. He's 50 days into his six-month sentence and could be sent back to jail when his sentence is up if he again refuses to pay.
Keefe has not paid the $1,800-a-month spousal support since 2005. According to the Facebook page, Keefe passed up jobs at the Bureau of Public Debt and DuPont. He quit a second job at DuPont due to garnishment of wages for spousal support.