News Banner

For Immediate Release

December 17, 2009 Thomas Henman, Supervisory Deputy District of Arizona (602) 206-3882
U.S. Marshals Arrest Tennessee Escapee and his Wife

Phoenix, AZ - Last night, an escapee from Tennessee and his wife were arrested by U.S. Marshals in east Phoenix.

Keith Lee Whitling, age 41, and his wife, Melissa Jewel, age 37, were the targets of a drug investigation conducted in Erwin, Tenn. The couple was allegedly involved in trading OxyContin for marijuana. OxyContin is one of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States and is used as a substitute for heroin. It was also determined Whitling was a student at a Christian university in Tennessee working on an advanced degree and volunteered as a preacher at a church in Kentucky. In November 2009, Whitling and Jewel were arrested for possession of a firearm and conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Jewel was booked into the Unicoi County Jail where she was subsequently released on bond. Shortly after the arrest, Whitling complained of chest pains and was transported to the local hospital where he escaped from the custody of officers.

U.S. Marshals in Greeneville, Tennessee were asked to assist with locating and arresting Whitling and Jewel. They soon determined both individuals traveled to Phoenix. After investigating many leads, U.S. Marshals in Phoenix located and arrested Whitling and Jewel at a condominium in East Phoenix. Whitling attempted to evade arrest by jumping off the second story balcony. Whitling and Jewel were transported to the Maricopa County Jail where they are pending extradition to Tenn. Whitling’s criminal history includes convictions for assault and 2nd degree murder. In the murder conviction, Whitling was originally sentenced to 384 months in the Washington Department of Corrections for shaking his 6-month old daughter to death.

However, due to a state Supreme Court decision, Whitling was released after serving only 13 years. Below are links with information regarding this conviction.

United States Marshal David Gonzales praised the work adding, “The United States Marshals Service will ensure dangerous fugitives, such as these two, will be found and brought to justice for their actions.” The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Annually, U.S. Marshals arrest more than 50 percent of all federal fugitives and serve more federal warrants than all other federal agencies combined. For more information on other USMS Top 15 fugitives and USMS Major Cases, go to

America’s Oldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency