FOREST CITY — Against the repeated warnings from his father and ex-wife, Keith Biggerstaff often allowed those with a criminal history earn extra money by performing odd jobs around his home. One of them killed over the New Year’s holiday.
The 52-year-old Biggerstaff seemingly had a soft spot for helping troubled young men. He befriended a few of them, letting them work around his house for spending money. They’d cut and stack wood, work on small engines, about anything to earn pocket money.
“That’s just the way Keith was,” said Karen Davis, his ex-wife and the mother of their 17-year-old son.
“He would give you the shirt off his back,” added Jerry Biggerstaff, Keith’s father.
It was Karen and Jerry who found Keith fatally stabbed with a machete on the evening of Jan. 1.
Steven Brent Mooney, 33, has been charged in Keith’s slaying and the burglary of his home. The machete was found hidden in his mother’s nearby home and firearms stolen from the victim’s home were found hidden in the surrounding area.
Mooney was among those who Keith let work at his home. Mooney and others would also socialize at Keith’s home around a fire pit.
“We told him it wasn’t a good idea because one could turn on him. And that’s exactly what happened,” Karen said.
Jerry was more emphatic, since he was constantly telling his son that he was keeping “bad company.”
“I told him I wouldn’t trust any of them,” Jerry said. “I got on his case about it. I reckon he trusted the wrong one.”
Another with a criminal past and who Keith helped broke into his home. He’s currently serving time for the offense. While he’s incarcerated, Keith had taken in the offender’s dog since there was no one else to take care of the animal. The dog was one of two inside the house when Keith was slain, Jerry said.
It seems the day before Keith was killed, Mooney had kicked one of the victim’s dogs without cause, Jerry said.
“You don’t mess with Keith’s dog,” Jerry added.
An apparent argument followed the New Year’s Eve incident.
Keith and his father talked daily, even multiple times a day. Jerry said on New Year’s Day he couldn’t get up with Keith. He said he kept calling, but no answer and no return call. Jerry even went to Keith’s home and knocked on the door. Again, no answer. He then called Keith’s ex-wife for help.
Karen said she then tried calling and texting Keith, but to no response. Despite their divorce, Karen and Keith remained friends, often helping one another out when the other was in a bind.
Karen and Jerry decided they’d go to Keith’s house around 9:30 p.m. New Year’s night.
“I don’t care how mad I make him I’m going to wake him up,” Karen said.
She said it wasn’t unusual for Keith to ignore knocks at the door if he had already gone to bed. Neither was it unusual for him to ignore the dogs barking. That, too, might have been a fatal mistake.
When Karen and Jerry arrived at the house, they noticed a few things amiss. A street light that shined on the deck was out. A tall ladder was on the deck propped up to an above window.
“I told Jerry something wasn’t right,” Karen said.
There was a closet light on inside the house.
“He never left that closet light on,” she added.
Karen decided that she was going to scale the ladder to go inside, never thinking an intruder could be inside the house.
“She was beating on the glass door trying to get him awake,” Jerry said of Karen. “She could see his feet.”
She reached a level where she could peer through a blind.
“I could see him laying on the bed,” Karen said.
She finally made her way inside, turned on a light and headed down a hall toward Keith’s bedroom.
“When I got to a certain point I could see a spot of blood,” Karen said. “I hesitated for a minute, but I had to keep going. Then I saw more blood on the back of his shirt.”
Jerry said Karen began screaming and “hollering for me.”
Karen said she called 911. Then she went into the bedroom to see if Keith might still be alive. When she turned on the light, she found Keith in a blood-soaked bed.
“That’s the worst scene I’ve ever saw,” she said, adding that she was not sure if he had been shot or stabbed.
She mustered enough courage to check for a pulse at his neck.
“I lifted up his hair and it was matted with blood,” Karen said.
She then checked for a pulse at his wrist, finding Keith’s body already stiff.
Karen said she blocked Jerry at the doorway.
“I told him you don’t want to see him like that,” she said. “That’s something I’ve got to live with, not him.
“I ain’t ever seen anything like that before,” Karen added. “I see it when I close my eyes. It’s not something you get out of your head.”
Authorities were able to secure evidence and charge Mooney with Keith’s slaying not long after the victim’s body was discovered.
“I have to give the SBI (State Bureau of Investigation) and the (Rutherford County) Sheriff’s Office credit. They got him quick,” Jerry said of Mooney’s arrest.
A funeral for Keith is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the Harrelson Funeral Chapel.
In addition to his dad, ex-wife, brother Jason, Keith is survived by his son, Justin, a student at Rutherford Early College High School (REaCH).