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Bobby Joe Keesee (died 2010) was a former United States Army sergeant, convicted fraudster and murderer of United States Vice Consul John Patterson and boat racer Harry Christensen.

Early life and military career

Keesee was from a small town in the Texas Panhandle. He dropped out of eighth grade. At age 17 he enlisted in the army and fought in the Korean War. Keesee claimed to have been awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star during the Korean War, however he never did sustain any war time injuries.[1][2] He returned to the United States in 1953 and decided to make the Army his career, becoming a sergeant and serving on bases in Japan, Germany and Iceland.

Army desertion

In January 1962 he went AWOL from his base at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. On March 23, 1962 he rented an airplane under the guise of visiting a sick relative but instead flew to Havana, Cuba and requested political asylum.[3][4] He was jailed for 49 days and then sent back to the United States where he was indicted by the Federal Government. He claimed to be working for the CIA in an attempt to destabilize the communist regime in Cuba. He was convicted of a single count of theft and was sentenced to five years in prison, of which he served three.[1]

North Vietnam prisoner

On September 18, 1970 Keesee hijacked a plane and flew to Hanoi where he was captured and tortured.[5][6] In 1973 Keesee was released as a prisoner from North Vietnam along other POWs including John McCain.[7]

Murder of US Vice Consul

On Friday, March 22, 1974 at around 10:30 AM Keesee was seen leaving the US consulate in Hermosillo, Mexico with the vice consul John Patterson. Patterson never appeared at his scheduled destination and a note was left at the consulate general hours after his disappearance demanding a ransom of $500,000 as well as a news blackout on the case.[8] The note began with the words "I have evidently been taken hostage by the People’s Liberation Army of Mexico".[1] There was speculation from the outset that the kidnappers were Americans as the ransom note was written on United States made stationary and the ransom was asked for in United States dollars.[9] The United States, as per its stated policy of not giving in to blackmail demains but allowed his wife to attempt to do so.[1][10]

Andra attempted to deliver $250,000 as ransom but Keesee did not appear.[11] The case caused confusion with Mexican officials refusing to even call it a kidnapping, simply saying that he disappeared.[12] On March 30, 1974, a Mexican government spokesman said they expected Patterson to be released that weekend.[13] Two hundred Mexican police officials combed the dessert in search of Patterson.[1]

Patterson's badly decomposed body was found in the dessert 345 miles north of Hermosillo by a peasant looking for fruit. The skull was broken by blows to the face and back. There was a ring on his finger with his and his wife's initials on it.[14]

FBI agents in Southern California identified Keesee as a person of interest after finding that he checked into the Hotel Gandara in Mexico near the consulate. An administrative assistant who had spotted Patterson leaving was able to identify Keesee as the person he left with. The voice on the phone call to the consul general on April 10 was also found to be Keesee’s. Keesee was arrested on May 28, 1974 in Huntington Beach, California. A pair of handcuffs and two shotgun shells were found in his car.

Keesee confessed that he wrote the letter instructing Patterson’s wife to go to the Rosarito Beach hotel to bring the ransom but claimed he did so only to provide her with a sense of hope. He otherwise denied involvement in Patterson’s abduction.

During pretrial preparations prosecutors offered Keesee a plea deal allowing him to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to kidnap.

On April 28, 1975, Keesee was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was paroled in 1986.[1]


On January 4, 1996, Keesee pleaded guilty to impersonating a FEMA official in Long Beach, CA as he distributed fraudulent purchase orders that were purportedly to buy equipment to fight disasters.[2]

Murder of Harry Christensen

On January 6, 1999, Keesee shot Harry Christensen, a championship power boat racer and owner of a custom boat business.[15]

Keesee was responding to an advertisement for Christensen’s plane.

Keesee was arrested on January 7, 1999 with Christensen’s ring, watch and credit cards in his possession. The body was found on May 2 in a remote desert in Sandoval County, NM.

To avoid a death sentence, Keessee pleaded guilty to multiple charges. On March 31, 2000, Keesee was sentenced to two life terms without parole.[1][16]


Keesee died of lung cancer in prison in December 2010.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Koerner, Brendan I. (15 April 2021). "A Kidnapping Gone Very Wrong". The Atlantic. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kennedy, J. Michael (4 January 1996). "'Soldier of Misfortune' Faces Yet Another Court Date". Los Angeles Times. 
  3. Treaster, Joseph B. (13 March 1973). "Hanoi Gives U.S. List of 108 P.O.W.'s to Be Released Tomorrow". The New York Times. 
  4. "ARMY DESERTER FLIES TO HAVANA; Cubans Say U.S. Sergeant Asks Political Asylum". The New York Times. 25 March 1962. 
  5. "60 MORE P.O.W.'S ARRIVE IN THE U.S.". The New York Times. 18 March 1973. 
  6. "A CIVILIAN P.O.W. REPORTED TORTURED". The New York Times. 21 March 1973. 
  7. "Mysterious Prisoner Is Said to Be a Texan Ex‐G.I.". The New York Times. 14 March 1973. 
  8. "Ataques de la guerrilla vs diplomáticos de EU en 1973. Casos Leonhardy y Patterson" (in Spanish). Aristegui Noticias. 11 April 2013. 
  9. "U. S. Officials Issue Appeal in Mexico On Missing Cansul". The New York Times. 1 April 1974. 
  10. ""Apparently I have been kidnapped" — The Death of a Vice Consul". 
  11. "Wife of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico Begs for Word From Abductors". The New York Times. 30 March 1974. 
  12. "U.S. and Mexicans Admit Confusion in Case of Consul". The New York Times. 2 April 1974. 
  13. "Mexicans Expect Abducted U.S. Aide To Be Freed Soon". The New York Times. 31 March 1974. 
  14. "SKELETON IN MEXICO BELIEVED U.S. AIDE'S". The New York Times. 9 July 1974. 
  15. "FBI DETAILS BOAT RACER'S SHOOTING DEATH". The Washington Post. 15 January 1999. 
  16. Rushlo, Michelle (31 March 2000). "Ex-con Sentenced in Racer's Murder". Associated Press. 

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