Remains identified as Merryville man, arrest made

Derrick Lyndon Rodriguez (Source: Newton County Sheriff's Office)
Derrick Lyndon Rodriguez (Source: Newton County Sheriff's Office)

NEWTON COUNTY, TX (KPLC) - It was the remains of Jerry Keel that were found just across the Texas line. That word came this morning. And there's an arrest in the murder of the Merryville man missing for about a month.

Jerry Keel's own nephew Derrick Lyndon Rodriguez has been arrested and is in jail in Newton County, Texas. Authorities say Rodriguez confessed yet his relatives say they don't believe he did the crime.

It was Wednesday when human remains were found in these woods west of the Sabine River in Newton County-- 27 year old Rodriguez had led authorities to the area after allegedly confessing to his aunt that he had killed his uncle-- Jerry Keel. Keel's wallet was found among the remains allowing authorities to conclude it was keel--the man who had been missing from merryville for a month--they also found the remains of his loyal dog alongside him.

Sheriff Joe Walker confirmed this morning that Rodriguez is in jail in Newton County being held for murder. "I asked him. Where did you kill him? Say Texas or Louisiana. Pick one. And he said, 'it all happened here.' He didn't say Texas or Louisiana. He said it all happened here. There's the body. Or should I say, there's the skeleton. So, it all happened here. It became my baby then."

Keel's grieving sister Evelyn Nelson and niece Sherry Barnard are also Rodriguez' grandmother and mother. They do not believe that Rodriguez killed his uncle. Evelyn Nelson is Keel's sister and Rodriguez' grandmother:  About Rodriguez she says, " I just don't think he'd do that." Reporter: "So what do you think happened to Jerry?"  Says Evelyn, "I really don't know."

Sherry Barnard is Rodriguez' mother and Keel's niece.  "Derrick is my son, Jerry is my uncle. And I don't think Derrick would have done this because Derrick is a loving, kind hearted person. He's give you the shirt off his back. I know Derrick. Derrick would not have done this and people don't need to be condemning him."

Barnard wonders if perhaps Keel picked up a hitchhiker, but for now Rodriguez remains in jail with bond set at a half million dollars.

Keel's remains have not yet been released back to the family so they've not yet scheduled the funeral.

Sheriff Walker in Newton County did applaud efforts of Merryville Police who he says put in 800 man hours in their search for Jerry Keel.

Keel was reported missing on July 16. His dog and truck were also missing from his home. His truck was found in Jasper, Texas on July 28.

We'll have more on this story on later editions of 7News.

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