- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

A Prince William County Circuit judge said he struggled daily between the needs of the family and the need to punish a father of 13 whose youngest child died when she was left in a sweltering van for seven hours.
Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. yesterday sentenced Kevin C. Kelly to seven years' probation, one night a year in jail for seven years and made several other requirements rather than follow a jury's recommendation that Kelly spend a year in jail.
"A child is the greatest blessing and with that blessing comes responsibility," Judge Alston told Kelly. "You messed up. I can't bring Frances back."
Judge Alston also will require Kelly to conduct an annual blood drive in his daughter's name for seven years, saying he hoped that "someone will have an opportunity for life."
Kelly, 46, also is required to volunteer with a life-services program for inmates.
The Department of Social Services will monitor the family every 60 days to make sure the surviving 12 children are not neglected.
In December, the jury recommended Kelly serve nine months for the involuntary manslaughter conviction and three months for reckless endangerment for leaving 21-month-old Frances strapped in her car seat inside the family van May 29, 2002.
Temperatures inside reached 120 degrees, and Frances was discovered inside the van by a passer-by.
Judge Alston could have upheld the jury's wishes or given less, but not more.
Kelly left the courthouse holding hands with his wife, Mary, and carrying one of his youngest daughters. Mrs. Kelly was visiting her ill father in Ireland at the time of Frances' death.
Kelly, 46, thanked the judge for allowing him to remain with his family and for the "creative sentence."
"What a wonderful idea. A Frances Kelly blood drive is something I can throw my whole heart into for the next seven years and the next 20 after that," Kelly said.
Kelly said his family feels a sense of relief because "after the nightmare of losing Frances, they were worried they would lose me also."
Kelly's family attended the sentencing.
Defense attorney Carroll A. Weimer Jr. said the judge has a reputation for being innovative. He called the sentence "creative, unusual" and "fair."
Prosecutors had asked for a prison sentence. In arguments before the jury, they pointed out that on the day Frances died, another Kelly child was left at a soccer field, and that in February 2002 the family left a 4-year-old at a video store for four hours.
Kelly will spend the night in jail every Feb. 21 beginning next year. The blood drives start this year.


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