Ronald Kelly, the 20-year-old Shaker Heights man convicted in the murder of Kent State student Christopher Kernich, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison yesterday.
Kelly, who became emotional while addressing the Kernich family just moments before he was sentenced on charges of murder and felonious assault, denied any involvement in the senior business major’s death.
“I pray to God that one day he helps you understand that I’m being honest,” Kelly said looking toward the Kernich family in the back row of the courtroom. “I did not take your son, your brother, I did not take that person away from you.”
Kelly’s attorney, Gregory Robey, urged Judge John Enlow to not give his client a sentence in excess of 15 years, citing his lack of a prior criminal record.
“He has no juvenile record, no adult record or criminal record. He has no history of alcohol abuse,” Robey said. “The court doesn’t need to send any further messages to Ronald.”
But Kelly, who requested a court-appointed attorney for an appeal, was given the same sentence as Adrian Barker, 22, who was also sentenced last month to 15 years to life in prison for Kernich’s Nov. 21 death.
Kelly and Barker are convicted of attacking Kernich, beating and stomping him in the early morning hours of Nov. 15. while he and several friends were walking home from a downtown bar. He died six days later at Akron City Hospital of severe head injuries.
Both Kernich’s mother and father stood before Judge Enlow to deliver a victim’s impact statement. Kernich’s father, John, lamented on facing his first Father’s Day on Sunday without his son.
“It was the first Father’s Day in 23 years that I never got the chance to hear him say I love you,” John said, adding that he and Kernich’s mother, Sherry, now face a life that is “frightening and extremely lonely.”
Katie Malone, who described Kernich as her “first love and best friend,” also delivered a victim impact’s statement, describing to Enlow a life that has drastically changed since her friend’s November death.
“That was the worst day of my life,” Malone said through tears. “On my way to work (in Fairborn) I drive past the cemetery where my best friend is buried.”
Only two character witnesses spoke before Enlow on behalf of Kelly — both his paternal and maternal grandmothers who remained steadfastly in support of their grandson.
“You said Ronald was filled with rage,” said Caroline Lee, Kelly’s grandmother, whose daughter — Kelly’s mother — was murdered when Kelly was just 4 years old. “You made an assumption. He was never in the back of a police car before Nov. 15.
“You stay strong Ronald,” she said looking at her grandson, appearing in court in an orange and white striped jumpsuit shackled at the waist and ankles. “We love you.”
Contact editor Jenna Staul at [email protected]
Review Ronald Kelly’s trial coverage
Pre trial hearing
Jury selection begins
Jurors hear opening arguments
Prosecution begins its case
Prosecution calls Kernich’s friends to describe night of assault
Kelly blames friend
Kelly found guilty of murder
Review Adrian Barker’s trial coverage
Attorneys make opening arguments
Prosecution begins case
Witnesses begin testimony
Prosecution shows Barker’s interviews
Jefferson subpoenaed to appear in court
Scientist confirms DNA on suspects’ clothing
Prosecution introduces autopsy evidence
Witnesses called for defense cast doubt on identification
Jury begins deliberations
Barker found guilty of murder