Father charged in infant’s death

Kevin Christopher Kelly, the Manassas father whose 21-month-old daughter died after being locked in a hot van for about seven hours last week, was charged Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter and child neglect.

The charges call for a maximum sentence of 10 years for involuntary manslaughter and five years for reckless endangerment.

After being notified by concerned neighbors, police arrived at the Kelly residence at 9727 Zimbro Ave. on May 30 to find Frances Kelly still sitting in her child safety seat, with the van windows rolled up.

Officials from the Manassas Police Department said Frances likely died from heat stroke after being trapped in the car during the hottest part of the day.

Prosecutors decided to take the case to the grand jury on a direct indictment Monday on involuntary manslaughter, not murder charges, as had been suggested by Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert last week.

“We did not present felony murder to the grand jury even though it technically could have fit,” Ebert said. “Involuntary manslaughter is the killing of one accidentally.”

Fellow congregants of the 46-year-old Kelly said the rosary and read from prayer books in the courtroom while waiting for his name to be called.

Kelly, who holds a job as a civil engineer for a construction company, sat in the courtroom with his wife, Mary, and priest prior to Prince William Circuit Court Chief Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. setting a Nov. 16-18 trial date.

“The family is disappointed and distraught that he was indicted. They are trying to deal with the loss of Frances and now they have to deal with this,” said Kelly’s attorney Carroll A. Weimer Jr. after Kelly appeared in court. “They are grateful to have the tremendous outpouring of support that is coming from their friends and those who attend church with the family. It is helping them cope emotionally.”

Funeral services for Frances, who was one of 13 children, were held Monday, Weimer said.

Ebert said he had been receiving several calls and e-mails from residents on both sides of the case.

“There are those who didn’t think we should prosecute and there were those who thought we should,” Ebert said.

Prince William Delegate Robert G. Marshall, R-13th District, who is close to the family, has been a staunch defender of the Kellys. Tuesday afternoon, his anger over the charges went unmasked.

“This has to be dealt with,” said Marshall. “We’ll just see if that’s the case. But if you want to get serious, Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days and they weren’t put in jail. These things can happen to anyone.”

Kelly was taken into custody by a bailiff from the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office. After being processed, he was released on a personal recognizance bond because he is not considered a flight risk, Ebert said.

Shortly after noon on May 30, Kelly returned home with Frances seated in a car seat directly behind him, parked the car and left her strapped in during the hottest part of the day. Authorities estimate that the van interior reached 140 degrees.

When a neighbor discovered Frances’ body later that day, Kelly was not at home, having left in another family car, police said. No other member of the family drove the Dodge van after Kelly parked it, according to past police reports.

Mary Kelly was out of the country when Frances died.

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