- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 5, 2002

MANASSAS A Prince William County jury sentenced a Manassas father yesterday to one year in jail in the death of his 21-month-old daughter, who was left in a van for seven hours during a sweltering day in May.
Circuit Judge Rossie Alston Jr., however, allowed Kevin Kelly to remain free to spend Christmas and New Year's Day with his wife and 12 other children.
A jury of six women and six men recommended that Kelly serve three months for reckless endangerment and nine months for involuntary manslaughter for leaving his daughter Frances in the vehicle for seven hours on May 29. The little girl died of hyperthermia after temperatures in the van reached 120 degrees.
The jury could have recommended a maximum sentence of 15 years.
"There is no guarantee whatsoever that you will walk out of this court on February 21," Circuit Judge Rossie Alston Jr. told Kelly after allowing his freedom until formal sentencing.
Kelly, 46, and about two dozen family members went into brief seclusion in a hearing room before walking out within ranks of deputy sheriffs to depart in two vans and two cars.
Before climbing into the lead car, Kelly told the crowd of reporters: "Our whole family is very, very grateful to the judge."
Shunning other questions, defense attorney Carroll A. Weimer Jr. said, "The family's grateful for that. He'll be home with them for the holidays."
At the formal sentencing, Judge Alston could order Kelly to serve the sentences concurrently or consecutively and could reduce them. He cannot increase the sentences.
Mr. Weimer did say that Judge Alston would be asked to impose more lenient sentences. That will come after investigators testify about Kelly's background, which does not include convictions, and defense witnesses speak about his good character.
"Under the circumstances, I think it's a fair sentence," said Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert. "Hopefully, some other little Frances may live as a result of what this jury has done."
Admonished against emotional outbursts before the jury returned yesterday, the Kelly family sat quietly. His wife, Mary, was dressed in black and sometimes covered her face with a black lace scarf.
Mrs. Kelly and the couple's oldest daughter, age 19, were in Ireland when Frances died. They had made the trip to be with Mrs. Kelly's father, who was dying.
Yesterday, as deputies escorted the family from the courtroom, Kelly's 80-year-old father, Dr. John Kelly, put his arm around his son's shoulders. Kelly has 11 brothers and sisters.
Kelly, a civil engineer, left with his arm around his wife amid nine of their children.
Trial testimony indicated that Kelly had intended that some of the older children tend to Frances while he ran errands and did some chores, including repairing a backyard fence with one of his sons.
Before sentencing deliberations began, Kelly testified: "I messed up. I messed up. I take full responsibility."
The jury began sentencing deliberations Nov. 20 but was delayed for two weeks because a juror had been hospitalized for treatment of a blood clot on her lung.
As the jury returned yesterday morning, Mr. Weimer asked for a mistrial, saying that it was improbable that the jurors had not discussed the case with outsiders, which is prohibited.
Judge Alston rejected the motion.

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