Apple TV+’s crime series ‘Black Bird’ follows James “Jimmy” Keene, who gets arrested by the DEA and FBI for drug trafficking. For a reduced prison sentence, Jimmy pleads guilty to the charges but still gets sentenced to ten years in prison. His father James “Big Jim” Keene (Ray Liotta) regularly visits his son at the prison. Jimmy accepts to do a suicide mission, eliciting suspected serial killer Larry Hall’s confession to killing Tricia Reitler, in return for his freedom so that he can be with his father who suffers from ill-health. In reality, Big Jim eventually died and if you want to know more about the same, we have got you covered!
When and How Did James “Big Jim” Keene Die?
James “Big Jim” Keene died on the night of November 28, 2004, due to a sudden heart attack at the age of sixty-seven. When Jimmy Keene was in Ford County jail, considering the undercover mission proposed by federal prosecutor Lawrence Beaumont, he came to know that Big Jim had suffered a stroke. After getting discharged from the hospital, he came to see his son in prison. “The whole left side of his face drooped, especially the corner of his mouth. His eye was almost closed and the left side of his body was slumped over,” Jimmy said about the meeting, as per ‘In with the Devil: A Fallen Hero, a Serial Killer, and a Dangerous Bargain for Redemption,’ written by Jimmy Keene with Hillel Levin.
Jimmy also believed that his arrest and imprisonment caused Big Jim’s stroke. “Here was Superman [Big Jim] hurt worse than I ever could imagine, and I knew it was a direct result of what I had done to him—all the worry and all the aggravation,” he added. After seeing his father’s condition, Jimmy realized that he had to get out of prison even if it meant going undercover in one of the most dangerous penitentiaries in the country to deal with a suspected serial killer. “Dad, I am so sorry. I’m going to get out of here,” Jimmy told Big Jim, as per the book, after witnessing his condition.
After the meeting with Big Jim, Jimmy contacted his attorney Jeff Steinback to let him know that he is ready to get transferred to Springfield federal penitentiary to elicit the confession Beaumont wanted from Larry Hall. “I couldn’t concentrate on the serial killer stuff or anything else, but finally I realized that this wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about him [Big Jim], too. I had to do everything in my power to get out of prison as soon as I could,” Jimmy said to Hillel Levin, as per their book. Even though Jimmy couldn’t find the location of Tricia Reitler’s suspected dead body from Larry, Beaumont helped him get out of the prison.
In January 1999, Jimmy was released from Springfield. Soon, he became a free man. By the time Jimmy got released, Big Jim “had recovered nearly all of his robust vitality,” as per the source text, even though his mouth drooped slightly. Jimmy was able to be with his father for five years after becoming a free man, until 2004. If he hadn’t accepted Beaumont’s proposal, he would have been in prison when Big Jim died. Even though getting transferred to Springfield and spending time with Larry were tough for Jimmy, the mission was rewarding for him since he got to spend five years with his father before the latter’s death.
“I still can’t believe my dad died. I think about him every day. There are times after something happens when I pick up the phone, ready to give him a call and tell him about it,” Jimmy wrote about Big Jim’s death in ‘In with the Devil.’ “I can never forget his voice—that deep, booming voice. I hear it like we just talked yesterday,” he added.
Read More: Where is Larry Hall’s Brother Gary Hall Now?