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Was Catfish John Keenan Killed in Raleigh?

Was Catfish John Keenan Killed in Raleigh?

“Catfish” John Keenan became famous after his alleged involvement in the death of Kristal Reisinger. Now, he too may have been killed. Are the Raleigh police failing to investigate his death?


Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in the NYtimes, Rolling Stone, People and more.

September 28th, 2022

“I think I finally killed Catfish John.” That’s what Austin Davis allegedly told Tyler Potter the night of Thursday, September 22nd during a phone call. “I immediately turned the car around and drove to John,” Tyler told me. “Austin was talking on my Apple Car Play. Bethany and Buffalo were with me and also heard him say he had killed Catfish.” Tyler got to the Courtyard Marriot, where John had stayed for the previous two days, around 8:30 p.m.

Tyler saw John lying prone on the bed through the hotel window. Concerned, he started throwing bottles of gatorade up at the balcony. When he didn’t wake up he went inside and tried to enter the room with the key but the door was dead bolted. Tyler alerted the front desk clerk who called the police.

The Raleigh Police incident report states that officer Lukachyk was first on the scene. Lt. Morrison, who also was there, told me there was a lot of drug paraphernalia in the hotel room.

“The officer climbed over the balcony and got in through the open sliding doors,” Tyler told me. A few minutes later another officer informed Tyler that John was dead. “They found some crystal-like powder which was meth, and some needles and some baggies,” Tyler said. “They didn’t find heroin or fentanyl but he was doing heroin and fentanyl just a few months ago.”

Tyler said he tried to tell the officers about Austin having said he just killed Catfish but they were not interested. “They’re ignoring what I’d clearly classify as a homicide,” Tyler said. “It’s the easiest away to get away with murder to a junkie that robbed you or did you dirty. Just tell someone, ‘hey man I got this fire ass dope, check it out’ and you know they’re gonna do it. The cops don’t care.”

Austin Caldwell Davis

Austin Davis was the last person to see Catfish John Keenan alive. During an interview Austin told me he “smoked a bowl of ice” (crystal meth) with John two days before on the 20th in his hotel room. He said John then did a line of a powdery substance, which he thinks was Xanax he got off the dark web. “I was only there for like 15 minutes,” Austin told me. He said John was rambling when he left.

His account differs from what he allegedly first told Tyler. “Austin said he saw John snort a line of some yellow powder and he fell out and started twitching and then came back to,” Tyler told me. “He said John made a shot with the powder and then passed out. He said John’s lips were turning blue and that he wasn’t breathing. Austin told me he then went into his pockets, took his cash, credit card and room key and a GoPro and left. He knew he was overdosing. He was dying.”

Alyssa Horvath told me she and Austin set Catfish up to rob him. “He said he would split everything with me that he got from John,” Alyssa told me. But she had no idea Austin was going to kill him. She was in the parking lot outside the hotel and when he left John’s room he told her that he that he robbed John. Alyssa said he later said in a perhaps joking manner that he killed Catfish. Alyssa shared screenshots of messages between herself and Austin where Austin says “we are going to rob him blind.”

Earlier in the day Tyler had tried to reach John through many texts and calls to no avail. He now presumes that Catfish John was dead in the room the entire time.

“Austin changed his story when I called him again and the cops were listening,” Tyler said. “He said Catfish owed him money and gave him the credit card.” Austin told me the same thing. He told Tyler and I he used the credit card to buy a $400 iPhone and book five nights at a hotel. Austin told me he gave the phone and hotel room to a woman. Tyler, Alyssa and Buffalo said the woman was a prostitute. Austin sent Alyssa sexual videos he filmed of himself and the prostitute with the iPhone bought on Catfish’s credit card.

Austin claims that John invited him up to the hotel room once he saw him in the parking lot. “That’s complete horse shit,” Tyler said. “John was afraid of him. The last time John had seen Austin, he beat him up, stole his shit and took his iPhone.”

Tyler had spent the previous day Wednesday with Catfish John. “He’d often wonder how much different his life would be if he had never met Kristal. But John loved life. Everything was beautiful. He was a hippy, happy-go lucky spirit. Lots of good energy.” He said he wouldn’t have overdosed intentionally, nor would he have killed himself.

After the medical examiner took John’s body Thursday night, Tyler left the Marriot and drove to Catfish’s home. “John’s stepdad answered and said, ‘what he’d do this time?'” Tyler told him John had passed away and asked to speak to his mother Alice. “She comes out and he looks at her and says, ‘it’s the worst babe, it’s your worst fears realized.’ She fell to the floor and started crying.”

The Last Days of Catfish John

Tyler told me that John had lived “280 days of the year” in hotel rooms. “He’s a trust fund baby. He likes being picked up after and not having to clean his own room.” John had spent the week prior to arriving at the hotel at his parent’s home. Before that he bounced around various high-level hotels.

John was getting around $12,000 every month from a four million dollar trust fund Tyler said. “Every Tuesday he got his money.” And he’d use several credit cards his mother had given him. I previously reported on John’s extravagant spending habits in Crestone.

“Scott,” who used to be close with Catfish, described to me his former Raleigh apartment at the Regata at Lynn Lakes on Dockside Circle. “It was knee deep garbage across the whole thing,” Scott said. “There’d be some young girl unconscious on a mattress for like 18 hours. The sinks were not functional, there was liquor, drugs, needles everywhere. The toilet stopped working and so there was shit in the tub.” He says Catfish was drugging people. I interviewed several women who claimed Catfish held them hostage at gunpoint. Kristal claimed she had been raped at his house before she disappeared.

“John was strung out on heroin and meth,” Scott said. “He’d buy six ounces or more of meth per week and an eight ball of heroin. Every time I seen him he had a needle in his arm.” Tyler said John was also addicted to Xanax, taking three 2mg pills per day.

On March 29th, 2022 Catfish John was arrested alongside Vincent Paulich. The night before, Vincent had overdosed in John’s hotel room and they were forced to leave. Vincent survived and at 5:30 a.m the next morning the two came back to collect their things. The cops were waiting for them, however. John and Vincent showed up in a stolen vehicle and both had drugs on them.

Scott said the hotel room where John had been living was filthy. “John ordered a case of meth pipes from China. There was glass everywhere, needles on the couch, tables and floor, there was blood on the floor, and garbage all over.”

Three months later John was arrested on June 13th for possession of heroin, meth, pot and another substance. In 2019 he was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and possession of meth. The circles John found himself in while in Raleigh were as dark and seedy as the drug and crime fueled Crestone underworld he came from.

John would speak in tongues, Scott said. “One time he was standing in the corner of his bedroom in a cesspool of garbage, bent over at the waist, nodding in and out on heroin. He was talking to demons, sounding like Golum, nightmare sounds. It was cryptic, like tongues or latin. He was saying he’s sorry and he’s guilty and tired of the noise in his head.” Scott told me it was “freaky” and made him think he was possessed by evil.

Scott would call Catfish but block his number. “I know what you did to that girl,” he told him. “Where’s the body?” He said John would turn from a docile, calm person to saying “I’ll fucking kill you and skull-fuck your mother,” screaming and yelling in a violent rage. “It’d bring the devil out in him.”

“John is very misunderstood,” Tyler said. “This guy couldn’t have killed a fly,” referring to Kristal. “He’s weak, feeble, small.” Several people who knew Catfish in Raleigh told me he was a kind, caring guy who looked out for everyone. One person who lived with Catfish for a while said he’d help people financially and buy food. Tyler said John would help others who were struggling with addiction. Tyler, Scott and others agree that many people stole from John regularly.  His money, drugs, computers, and phones were regularly targeted.

Tyler and Scott said he knew they were stealing from him. “John allowed it because he didn’t have anyone else to hang out with,” Tyler said.

-> See our 5-part Kristal Reisinger Series