Murder Defendant Has String Of Felony Convictions Dating Back 30 Years

Keith Thomas McCollough [Photo courtesy Maricopa County Sheriff's Office]

When Keith Thomas McCollough was arrested in Phoenix last year on suspicion of first-degree murder, it marked the latest in a series of escalating criminal activity by McCollough dating back to a low level felony drug conviction in 1992.

Now, 30 years later, McCollough is being held in the Maricopa County jail on $1 million bond and faces life in prison if convicted of the December 2021 shooting death of a Phoenix man during a burglary. His next court hearing is set for July 14 with a hearing on Oct. 6 to schedule his trial.

According to court records, McCollough was released from an Arizona prison in Dec. 22, 2020 and was serving probation for a 2014 weapons misconduct conviction when he is accused of being one of three men who forced their way into the apartment of Richard Patrick Coss shortly after midnight on Dec. 18. 2021.

Witnesses reported a brief verbal altercation between Coss and the intruders, two of whom were masked, before Coss was shot once in the chest with a handgun. Coss, 25, died at the scene.

Detectives located a bloody knife in the apartment but determined Coss had not been stabbed. DNA testing of the bloody knife came back with a match to McCollough, whose DNA profile is in the state’s crime lab database due to his prior felony convictions.

It was also discovered that about two hours after Coss was killed, McCollough went to a local hospital for treatment of a stab wound. McCullough, 49, was taken into custody Dec. 21 after which he invoked his right to counsel and did not speak with investigators.

McCollough has a criminal history which includes multiple felony convictions across California between 1992 to 2010. His first conviction in Arizona involved a 2011 case for alleging multiple counts of weapons misconduct by a prohibited possessor.

After pleading guilty in that case to one Class 5 felony, McCollough was sentenced in 2015 to one year in prison. He was sentenced at the same time in two other Maricopa County felony cases involving a 2013 tampering with a witness charge and a 2014 dangerous drug offense.

In total, McCollough was sentenced in 2015 to 10.5 years in prison for the three cases. With time served and early release credits he walked out of prison Dec. 22, 2020 after which he began serving a three-year term of probation for the 2014 weapons conviction.

McCollough’s probation officer used the December 2021 arrest to file a petition to revoke probation to have McCollough resentenced in the 2014 weapons case. A Maricopa County judge will hold a hearing on the petition July 14, the same day set for a case management conference on the murder charge.

While detectives awaited DNA results on the bloody knife, information from another witness helped identify Carl Robert Blazak as one of the three men in Coss’ apartment. Blazak, 46, lived in the same complex and his wife told investigators she had recently had an argument with Coss, which she reported to Blazak.

According to Blazak’s statement to police, he was inside Coss’ apartment during the attack but was not the shooter.

A Maricopa County grand jury later indicted McCullough, Blazak, and Jimmy Eslinger, 28, on one count each of burglary and one count each of first-degree murder during the commission of a felony. Eslinger appears to have also been connected to the crime by evidence found at the scene.

The men’s speedy trial deadlines are in November 2022.