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Documents shed more light on investigation into Avery County woman's murder

Elizabeth Carserino is accused of killing 70-year-old Lynn Keene, leaving the elderly woman's body underneath open bags of concrete and lime.
Credit: Avery County Sheriff's Office
Elizabeth Carserino

AVERY COUNTY, N.C. — Less than a week after the Avery County Sheriff's Office arrested a live-in caretaker and charged her with murder, new documents released by the office revealed more details about the investigation and how deputies found the victim.

On Aug. 6, 2021, WCNC Charlotte reported 70-year-old Lynn Gay Keene of Linville Falls was discovered by deputies dead in her home. The sheriff's office named her live-in caretaker, 53-year-old Elizabeth Carserino, as a person of interest and had already sought warrants for her. She was originally charged with identity theft, stealing Keene's car, and financial card theft,  but after she was taken into custody on Aug. 8, she was then charged with Keene's murder.

The sheriff's office released 48 pages of documents tied to the investigation, including search warrants and affadavits. WCNC Charlotte reviewed the documents, which provided a more complete timeline of the investigation thus far.

Credit: Avery County Sheriff's Office
Lynn Gay Keene

Keene's family loses contact

The investigation's earliest stages date to July 30, 2021. That was when deputies said Keene's daughter-in-law reported her missing. Deputies were told the last time the family had heard from Keene was on June 9, 2021. The post office at Linville Falls also reported to deputies the last time Keene had picked up her mail was around July 16.

After deputies spoke with Keene's family, they went to her home along Rock House Lane and tried knocking on her door. Nobody answered, and deputies noted the 2000 Lincoln Town Car sedan that belonged to her was missing. Keene was then entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) with the car's details as part of her report.

Car found in Cherokee

It wouldn't be long until Keene's car was found. On Aug. 2, an officer with the Cherokee Tribal Police Department in the town of Cherokee, just over 104 miles away from Linville Falls and about 52 miles west of Asheville. The sedan was found on Blue Wing Road in Cherokee, and a neighbor who spoke to officers told them he had seen a person with short gray hair sitting in the car earlier that morning.

The car was searched, which turned up the keys underneath the driver's seat. Additionally, Keene's debit card and Social Security card were discovered inside. Keene wasn't found in the area immediately near the car.

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The efforts in Cherokee didn't stop, however. The tribal police were able to get surveillance video from a gift shop in town, which showed Keene's car captured on video, and driven by someone else. Deputies suspected the car was driven by Carserino.

Credit: Avery County Sheriff's Office
Suerveillance image, photo of Elizabeth Carserino

Keene's body found at home

The next day, Aug. 3, detectives were able to get search warrants to enter Keene's home. Almost immediately upon entering, the sheriff's office said deputies could smell decomposition, the scent getting stronger as they moved towards the basement. Once they went down there, the sheriff's office says they found bodily fluids coming from underneath a blue tarp held down by a large box. There, they found bags of lime or concrete covering human remains later determined to belong to Keene after an examination of her dental records.

Days later, an autopsy revealed a little more about what could have happened leading up to her death. Deputies say the report showed Keene was strangled by a belt, and she had been struck on the right side of her head hard enough to fracture her skull.

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Where Carserino fits into the timeline

As WCNC Charlotte has previously reported, Carserino had been hired by Keene's family as a live-in caretaker. But prior to Aug. 12, how Carserino knew them wasn't quite clear.

The new documents, however, shed some more light.

According to part of the search warrant application made by Avery County deputies, Carserino was a friend to Keene's family. She's originally from Goose Creek, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. Carserino was hired to care for Keene after the elderly woman suffered a fall. But sometime in June 2021, Keene chose to fire Carserino.

While Keene's family had not heard from their relative since June, they did hear from Carserino. She claimed a detective with the Avery County Sheriff's Office had called her on July 24, telling her to return a cat and hutch to Keene's home in Linville Falls. She reportedly told the family she left both on the front porch, and an unknown person took both inside the home. She also told the family Keene had at one point traveled to Louisiana, returning with a man and woman to her home.

The most recent interaction the family had with Carserino was Aug. 2. According to the search warrant request, Keene's daughter-in-law took a call from Carserino. She told the daughter-in-law she was on vacation with her own son in Maggie Valley, about 35 miles west of Asheville and 16 miles east of Cherokee. Carserino reportedly told Keene's daughter-in-law she was traveling up to Linville Falls to get Keene's banking information. The daughter-in-law told Carserino she needed to speak with the Avery County Sheriff's Office as soon as possible.

An additional attachment noted an Avery County detective had tried several times to contact Carserino via phone, but to no avail. A request to review phone records from AT&T was made, targeting Carserino's phone number. The records showed while Carserino's cell phone was turned off on Monday, Aug. 2, the phone was in the general area where Keene's car was found in Cherokee that same day.

Deputies didn't make contact with Carserino up until Aug. 6. She was at Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva, about 17 miles southwest from where Keene's car was found and 47 miles southwest of Asheville. The Jackson County Sheriff's Office arrested her, and on Aug. 8 she was in custody in Avery County.

What's next in the case 

In addition to the charges of identity theft, larceny of a motor vehicle, and financial card theft, Carserino was charged with murder. She appeared before a magistrate when she was arrest, and was granted a secured bond exceeding $1.6 million. If she makes bail, she cannot contact Keene's family.

Her first court appearance is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 16.

Note: WCNC instituted a new policy in March 2021 regarding the broadcast or posting of mugshots.  

WCNC will only air or post a mugshot if the person has been formally charged with a crime and in a few other cases. The exceptions include: If it appears the person could be a danger to themselves or others or if they are wanted by authorities; to differentiate between people with a common name; if the photos could encourage more victims to come forward. The news-editorial leadership may also decide to use a mugshot based on the severity of the crime(s) committed and/or the level of public interest in the crime and ensuing criminal proceedings.

Because of the public interest in this case, along with the nature of the alleged crimes, WCNC Charlotte has chosen to show Caserino's mugshot and other photos released by the Avery County Sheriff's Office.

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