- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

Caring for 13 children while simultaneously juggling the commitments of work and life in modern times is difficult. It certainly seems to have been too much for Kevin C. Kelly of Manassas, Va., who was convicted Wednesday of one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of child neglect in the death of his 21-month-old daughter, Frances.
Kelly lost track of his youngest daughter last summer, mistakenly assuming one of the older children was caring for her while he went to soccer practice with another child, then went out to get supper for the family. All the while, Frances remained strapped in her child seat in the Kellys' nine-passenger Ford van, where she eventually died of heat stroke. It was about seven hours before family members realized Frances was missing. Kelly now faces up to 15 years in prison and rightly so.
Kelly was wantonly neglectful. The question is: Will justice be served by putting Kelly in prison, removing him from his family and leaving his wife to care for the other 12 children by herself?
Family and neighbors say Kelly is a devoted father who loves his children, and that things just got out of control as they almost inevitably could have been expected to given such a large family. Kelly can certainly be faulted for not having made appropriate provisions for the supervision of his children when he (or his wife) could not be there. A full-time nanny, a vigilant grandparent another responsible adult. Instead, Kelly left his older children in charge at times, which was, perhaps, well-intended, but not sufficient. Most teen-agers are simply not responsible enough to be entrusted with such adult responsibilities.
Kelly clearly demonstrated poor judgment. And, it was not the first time. He's hardly a mere overtaxed, over-extended parent. Surely, it will exacerbate the family tragedy if Kelly is removed from his family and they are deprived of their principal means of support. "It's devastated me," he told jurors on Wednesday, telling them he loved little Frances and took "total responsibility." He also asked for leniency.
However, Kelly, 46, already enjoys the benefits of leniency. He has been allowed to walk around a free man ever since Frances died. In the wake of his conviction, Kelly no longer should be permitted such freedom. When jurors announce their sentencing recommendation on Dec. 4, it should include prison time.


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