Paz Quezada has tried to prepare for this day for more than a decade.
On Friday, the man convicted in March of killing her two sons and wounding four others in a 2010 shooting will finally be sentenced. Friday is also her birthday, and her only wish is one she has held onto since the night of the attack: that the man who tore her tight-knit family apart be put away for the rest of his life.
“It’s the best gift God could give me,” Quezada, told NBC News through tears. She said she prayed for the strength to live to see the day her sons would have justice. “I keep fighting for my sons. I will never forget them.”
Juan Guitron, 28, and Sergio Guitron, 22, were fatally shot, and four others were severely wounded in November 2010 on the front porch of a home in Ruskin, Florida, where family and friends had gathered to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.
Michael Keetley, a former ice cream truck driver, was convicted in March of two counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder in the attacks. He faces life in prison without parole.
During the trial, prosecutors said Keetley had become obsessed with revenge after he was robbed and shot while on his ice cream route about a year before the murders. Keetley had been frustrated with law enforcement’s investigation of the robbery, prosecutors said, which left him wounded and in need of physical therapy.
Prosecutors said Keetley began his own investigation, coming to the false conclusion that a man nicknamed “Creeper” was behind the robbery.
His revenge plot culminated in a deadly case of mistaken identity. The people killed and injured had nothing to do with Keetley’s robbery, prosecutors said. Nor did the man nicknamed Creeper, who was not among the six men shot at the house in Ruskin, police said.
“God knows that my sons were innocent. They didn’t hurt anyone,” said Quezada, who tightly clutched a cross necklace that once belonged to Sergio as a guilty verdict was read more than 12 years after her sons were killed.
Quezada said she and her sons were inseparable, especially after the death of the boy’s father a few years earlier. She recalled that after the funeral when the three were alone, they cried, held hands “and made a pact to be united, always,” she said.
“The three of us were like one person,” she said.
They still lived at home together and Quezada said her sons liked to have friends and cousins over for cookouts. Sergio loved to cook, she said, making fajitas, hamburgers and carne asada. On Mother’s Day, her sons would send flowers to her at her job, she said.
They were also responsible and hardworking. Sergio worked for a medical parts company and Juan worked for a sofa company, Quezada said.
“They were loved by everyone,” she said.
Quezada said the attack devastated her family and the lives of the others who were severely wounded.
Richard Cantu, a cousin of the Guitrons who was shot in the head during the attack, believes, along with his family, that justice has finally been served as they await Keetley's sentencing.
Cantu suffered brain damage as a result of his injury and has had to relearn to walk and talk, while his family waited more than a decade and endured a 2020 trial that ended with a hopelessly deadlocked jury.
“It was a very excruciating 12 years and two trials later,” Cantu's brother, Frankie Cantu, said, while alongside his brother.
During emotional testimony, survivors of the shooting described how a man ambushed them as they were playing poker and drinking beer on the porch in Ruskin.
Gonzalo Guevara, who was shot four times, testified that an armed white man wearing a T-shirt with the word “sheriff” on it came up to the group, demanding to know where Creeper was and telling them to get down and show him their IDs.
Guevara said the group told the man Creeper was not there and as they got down on their knees, the man began shooting them. He said he was shot once in his left hand, twice in his torso and once in his backside.
Guevara said he heard his friends “crying and screaming” as more shots rang out.
Daniel Beltron, who was also shot multiple times, broke down on the stand as he described the gunman shooting Juan Guitron and then putting a gun to Richard Cantu’s head before shooting him.
“It went from the bottom of his head, and then I see a big hole come out of his head and it landed all in my face,” he said, crying.
Guevara said he identified a photo of Keetley to police as the man he saw shoot him and his friends. He said he began “crying and shaking” when he saw Keetley’s photo because he recognized the man from the attack.
Guevara said he told police he was “2,000% sure that he was the guy that shot me” and pointed out Keetley as his assailant in the courtroom.
The defense argued the survivors of the shooting identified the wrong man and that Keetley was not capable of committing the attack because of injuries he sustained when he was shot and robbed months earlier.
“This is our defense, Michael Keetley is not guilty because he did not do it. Michael Keetley did not do it, he could not do it. He is not medically capable,” defense attorney John Grant said during trial.
Richard Escobar, another member of the defense, argued that law enforcement made multiple mistakes after the 2010 attack, saying “the investigation that followed was nothing short of a nightmare itself.”
The jury found Keetley guilty after deliberating over three days.
Susan Lopez, the Hillsborough County state attorney, said at the time, “Today is about the victims, all six of the victims and it is our office’s hope and prayer that today’s verdict will begin to bring closure from the nightmare that they have all had to live.”
Richard Cantu said the conviction in the second trial meant the world to his family and said he felt “relieved” and at “peace” after the trial. Now he and his cousins have finally been granted “justice,” he said.
Frankie Cantu said the fact that his brother and cousins were targeted in a case of vigilantism and mistaken identity has made the whole ordeal even more difficult.
“You don’t expect something like that to happen. My family and friends were targeted for no reason,” Frankie Cantu said.
“It’s never going to go away, but to finally put that part to rest,” has given his family some hope that they can begin to move on, he said.