- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 21, 2002

MANASSAS A man whose toddler died because he left her in a van on a hot day was convicted yesterday of involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. However, the 12-member jury could not agree on a sentence for the defendant, Kevin Kelly, after deliberating into the night. The jury is scheduled to resume deliberations this morning.
The 46-year-old father of 13 children showed no emotion when the verdict was read, but his wife, Mary, several of their children and other family members quietly smothered sobs.
Kevin Kelly could receive a maximum 10 years in prison on the involuntary manslaughter conviction and five years on the reckless endangerment count.
The jury is to return at 9 a.m. today to decide on sentences. Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. could reduce the time when he formally sentences Kevin Kelly in January.
During the sentencing phase of the trial yesterday, Kevin Kelly took the witness stand and told jurors, "I messed up."
Three of Kevin Kelly's other daughters, his father and two of his sisters described him as a loving, dedicated father.
The 21-month-old girl, Frances, died May 29 after she was left in her car seat in the family's van outside their home for seven hours. She was discovered by neighbors going for a walk.
Kevin Kelly's attorneys called no witnesses but said their client had entrusted two of his older children to take the toddler from the van while he did errands. The lawyers also said each teenager thought the other had taken her from the van.
Prosecution faulted Kevin Kelly for blaming the death on his older children and said he never noticed his youngest child was missing. Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert said neighbors and police had previously warned Kevin Kelly that he should more closely supervise his children.
Yesterday, next-door neighbors Deborah and Frank Brown described warnings. The first time, two little Kelly girls came into the Brown home in a rainstorm. Mr. Brown said he took them home, but Kevin Kelly showed little concern.
"He just basically said, 'Uh, oh,' and shut the door," Mr. Brown testified.
On Feb. 3, Super Bowl Sunday, Kevin Kelly admitted leaving his 4-year-old son, Martin, in a video store. He said Martin was among four children he had taken, and "I just messed up and left."
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Sandra Sylvester has said that Kevin Kelly sometimes blamed his older children for not taking care of Frances. Mrs. Sylvester referred to 17-year-old Anthony as getting most of the blame.
Yesterday, another next-door neighbor, Erin Beecher, said she saw Anthony run angrily out of the house in June, within weeks of Frances' death.
"I heard him say, 'It's not my fault,'" Miss Beecher said. "It's not my fault. Don't you blame me."
Defense Attorney Carroll A. Weimer Jr. stressed that Miss Beecher never heard Frances' name mentioned in that episode.


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