Prosecutor seeks to show Kelly’s parenting history

A Manassas man whose daughter died after being left in a locked van for several hours showed a “pattern” of bad parenting, the prosecution argued during evidence hearings Tuesday in Prince William Circuit Court. The defense claimed such an accusations was irrelevant, in a series of motions that was a partial victory for each side.

Kevin Christopher Kelly, a father of 13, is charged with manslaughter in the death of his 21-month-old daughter.

Kellys attorney, Carroll A. Weimer Jr., successfully argued for limiting the Commonwealths introduction of evidence of “unrelated” alleged instances of negligent parenting on Kellys part.

Assistant Commonwealths Attorney Sandra R. Sylvester said neighbors had come forward with “dozens of stories of neglect,” and children roaming the neighborhood unattended.

“This is a pattern of conduct. Six weeks prior [to Frances death] she was wandering in the street at eight in the evening, and was nearly struck by a police car. The officer scolded [the Kellys]. Six weeks later the law of averages caught up with the Kelly family and Frances was left dead,” Sylvester said.

But Judge Rossie D. Alston Jr. ruled that such evidence would only be admissible if Weimer decides to present evidence toward Kellys character. Alston delineated evidence relating to children left in cars and unsupervised children, such as then four-year-old Martin Kelly, forgotten in a video store for three and a half hours last Super Bowl, according to the Commonwealth.

“His parenting ability is not whats on trial,” Weimer argued. “His actions that day are whats on trial. To allow these extraneous incidents — its too prejudicial. Theres no connection.”

Alston said he would “allow evidence with regard to children left in a car by this defendant,” but not “character assassination.”

The prosecution maintains it has witnesses to multiple instances of young Kelly children left in cars outside the Kelly house at 9727 Zimbro Ave., Manassas.

“[There is] ample evidence by neighbors of children left in the van. This family used the car as a babysitter,” Sylvester said.

Alston agreed with the defenses motion to exclude photo evidence of the Kellys house. Sylvester argued that the photos spoke to “the chaos the family lived in.” More damaging, Sylvester argued that “sanitization” of the house by a large group of people May 31, the day after Frances Kellys death, suggested Kellys “consciousness of guilt.”

Weimer said that the cleaners werent hired by Kelly, but were fellow members of the Kellys church, All Saints Catholic Church of Manassas. Parishioners filled court room pews Tuesday, lending their support to the Kellys with rosaries beads, prayer books and a little bottle of holy water.

Weimer also requested the prosecution describe the “acts or omissions” in the indictment against Kelly, 46. Such clarification is necessary for due process and for his client to mount a defense, Weimer argued.

“What act or omission is it that Mr. Kelly did or didnt do that resulted in the death of Frances Kelly?” Weimer asked. “Were asking [the prosecution] to tell us how theyre going to prove the acts in order to be able to adequately defend against these allegations.”

Commonwealths Attorney Paul B. Ebert argued that Weimer had already described the acts or omissions himself, in part of his argument for a previous request.

Alston suggested that the act was “stated best in [Weimers] own motion,” but ruled that the Commonwealth does need to provide the defense with more particulars relating to the charges against Kelly.

Sylvester presented a motion requesting exclusion of evidence from an investigation by the Virginia Department of Social Services from the trial. Alston ruled that evidence from the DSS investigation could be presented before a jury, but the reports conclusions were to be excluded from the jurys consideration.

Kellys trial is set for Nov. 18-20. Alston has directed capital jury selection procedures be followed. This allows the court to empanel a larger number of potential jurors for the day of the trial “so we have some spares to go to,” Alston said.

The ruling goes toward defense concerns that media attention has created a prejudiced jury pool in Prince William County. Weimer entered a motion July 19 to move Kellys trial from Prince William County. Tuesday Weimer said it was premature to decide whether the trial should be moved since the defense cannot poll potential jurors.

Kelly is charged with manslaughter and reckless endangerment relating to the death of his youngest child, 21-month-old Frances Kelly, May. 30. Kelly could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of both charges. The toddler died of heat stroke after being left in a van outside the family home for seven hours. Officials estimate that temperatures inside the van reached as high as 140 degrees during the hottest part of the day.

Similar Posts