Former gymnastics coach hopes Sylvia Keiter’s legacy will live on

Driver who killed Keiter in alcohol-related 2018 auto-pedestrian incident gets 35 years

Former gymnastics coach hopes Sylvia Keiter’s legacy will live on
Jackie Fain, a gymnastics coach at Centenary College, speaks to Sylvia Keiter. Keiter was killed in an alcohol-related auto-pedestrian incident in 2018. (Source: Centenary College)

HARRISON COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Sylvia Keiter lived the way she died: helping others.

“She was a leader, a motivator and always pushing,” said her former college gymnastics coach, Jackie Fain. “She was everyone’s biggest cheerleader, and she did everything for everybody and that’s what happened the night she died.”

Keiter was driving on Interstate 20 from Shreveport to Dallas the early morning hours of May 19, 2018, to catch a plane to go to a Crossfit competition. She was traveling with Justin Woods when they came upon a car that had crashed into a barrier on a bridge. Fain said the driver had fallen asleep.

Keiter and Justin Woods pulled over, along with two other parties, to assist the person who had crashed. Fain said they had helped the driver and were getting ready to leave.

The Texas Department of Public Safety crash report states that a Chevy pickup driven by Brian Keith Woods, 50, of Sherman, struck the back and left side of Keiter’s vehicle, which was parked on the shoulder of the road with its flashers on. It then struck Keiter and Justin Woods, along with another Good Samaritan, Sheri Beeson. Keiter died at the scene.

Keiter was killed instantly, according to a press release from the Harrison County District Attorney’s Office. Justin Woods wound up with a broken leg and a ruptured spleen, and Beeson suffered “significant trauma” to her right leg that is going to result in her leg being amputated.

According to Harrison County judicial court records, a jury sentenced Brian Woods to a total of 35 years in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison. He received a 20-year sentence for the intoxication manslaughter charge, and he received sentences of 10 and five years respectively for the two intoxication assault charges.

Brian Keith Woods booking photo.
Brian Keith Woods booking photo. (Source: Harrison County Jail)

Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain said that Judge Brad Morin ordered that Brian Woods’ sentences be served consecutively at his request.

Fain said Keiter was on the gymnastics team at Centenary College for four years and graduated in 2015. She stayed with the program a fifth year as a graduate assistant.

Sylvia Keiter is pictured at a gymnastics competition. (Source: Centenary College)
Sylvia Keiter is pictured at a gymnastics competition. (Source: Centenary College) (Source: Centenary College)

“Her nickname was ‘Beast’,” Fain said. “She did everything big and 100 percent.”

Fain said she received a call around 3 a.m. on May 19, 2018, that Keiter had died.

“They couldn’t reach her mom so somehow they got ahold of me,” Fain said. “I just felt shock. Devastation. We didn’t know the circumstances, just that we knew she was in an accident.”

As details were revealed, Fain said she could make sense of them.

“I just thought, ‘this was just so unnecessary,’” Fain said. “But I wasn’t surprised that she would stop and help someone because that’s what she would do.”

Fain said she wants Keiter’s legacy to live on at Centenary. In November that same year, the program raised enough money to install a bench next to the Gold Dome at Centenary. They also put on a memorial competition in her name every year.

A memorial bench has been erected in Sylvia Keiter's honor at Centenary College. (Source: Centenary College)
A memorial bench has been erected in Sylvia Keiter's honor at Centenary College. (Source: Centenary College) (Source: Centenary College)

“It’s an opportunity to talk about her and keep her legacy alive,” Fain said.

The program also awards a “Beast” award after every home meet in honor of Keiter’s nickname.

Source: Centenary College
Source: Centenary College (Source: Centenary College)

McCain said Madison Hood served as his first assistant prosecutor during the jury trial.

“It is hoped that this verdict does send a strong message to citizens of Harrison County and those who pass through it that alcohol-related offenses will be aggressively prosecuted by the Harrison County District Attorney’s Office.,” McCain said in the press release.

McCain said that the crime caused a great deal of pain and misery for numerous families and added that he hopes the sentence will give the victims’ families some closure.

Previous stories: Harrison County jury finds man guilty for intoxicated-driving death

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