Trial to begin for teacher accused of shooting at Oakdale neighbor

09/25/2012 3:11 PM

09/25/2012 4:44 PM

Jury selection is expected to begin Wednesday in the trial of a longtime Beyer High School teacher accused of firing a gun at a neighbor after the two exchanged heated words nearly three years ago.

Oakdale resident Ralph Bradley Keith, 55, is charged with the felonies of assault with a firearm, negligent discharge of a firearm, threatening to commit a crime and vandalism, as well as misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Keith and his family had been at odds with Oakdale chiropractor Theodore Jasper Cummins, 44, after Cummins bought nearly 4 acres of vacant land in 2008 next to the Keiths’ home on Orange Blossom Road along the Stanislaus River.

The Keiths have said Cummins harassed and intimidated them after they reported him to authorities for filling in a wetland on his property without a permit. Prosecutors say the dispute centers over a fence bordering the two properties.

Stanislaus County prosecutors say Cummins had his property surveyed and learned the fence he shared with the Keiths encroached a few feet into his property. Cummins hired a fence builder to put in a new fence.

Prosecutors allege Keith — who is free on bail — fired two shots at Cummins on Oct. 23, 2009, after the two exchanged words over the fence. Keith says he fired two shots at least 300 feet away and in the opposite direction of Cummins.

Deputy District Attorney Anthony Colacito, defense attorney Kirk McAllister and Superior Court Judge Marie Silveira have spent several days in court since last week going over pretrial motions regarding how much jurors will hear about the Keiths and Cummins’ dispute. Silveira said this morning that she expected jury selection to begin Wednesday.

Keith is an adaptive physical education instructor for special education students at Beyer High; he’s been a teacher for more than 25 years. His job has been in limbo for nearly three years.

Modesto City Schools placed him on paid administrative leave Nov. 17, 2009. He will remain on leave until his case is resolved. Keith is paid $88,969 annually, and the district has paid him about $250,000 since putting him on leave.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at or (209) 578-2316.

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