Keller sentenced to 45 years for punching, purse snatching



Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on June 13, 2012 at 5:42 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 13 at 6:49 PM

AUSTIN -- Steven Keller was sentenced to 45 years in prison for aggravated robbery.

Tuesday a jury found the 30-year-old man guilty of attacking an Austin woman and stealing her purse.

Merri Gale Hieger was walking on East 6th Street last May when Keller punched her in the face, knocking her to the ground. Then he pulled her purse off of her shoulder and took off. A surveillance camera positioned outside of the Liberty Bar on East 6th Street captured everything.

Keller took the stand during sentencing to accept responsibility for his actions. He said he decided to testify because he believed Hieger deserved to hear from him.

He admitted that he was high on drugs the night of attack telling jurors, "I had taken the drugs, but taking the drugs was no justification to what I did...It was just carelessness and no consideration for others."

Apparently Keller was high on bath salts. He told jurors that he began using drugs at the age of 13 and had dropped out of high school. He has previously served 11 years in prison for aggravated robbery and burglary of a building. Keller said watching the video of himself attacking Hieger was a wake up call.

"It's humiliating. It's horrible to watch yourself do something. You don't even see stuff like that in movies...I have more emotions for the person it happened to because nobody deserved that."

Hieger said she was moved by Keller's comments and that she believes he is sincere.

"He wasn't trying to make excuses. He wasn't asking for any kind of mercy from the jury. As I understand it, he had instructed the defense attorney, his own attorney, to not object and didn't grill any of the witnesses," Hieger said.

After the sentencing, Hieger was able to address Keller in the courtroom. She said she would always wonder why he attacked her and what drove him to become a violent person. She told him that she has high hopes for him -- that he will remain committed to turning his life around. She also made two promises to Keller, that if he writes her while in prison, she will always write him back. She also told him that if he is released early for good behavior, she will take him to the restaurant that she was walking to the night he attacked her.

“Who knows if beet fries will still be around by then, but yeah, I mean it. I mean it. I'd love to help folks like him to see that there's another way to live life," Hieger said.

Keller will be eligible for parole after serving half of his sentence -- 22 ½ years.