Jury selection for Kelly begins today

Denver Collins

Defense: prosecution withholding evidence

Jury selection will begin today at the Portage County Courthouse for the trial of Ronald Kelly, a defendant charged with the murder of Kent State student Christopher Kernich.

Kelly was one of two suspects charged with assault and later murder following the attack on Kernich, along with fellow University of Akron student Adrian Barker. A Portage County jury convicted Barker on charges of murder and felonious murder, among other charges, on April 23.

Emotions were already running high yesterday during pre-trial motions as tempers flared between prosecuting attorneys and Kelly’s lawyer, Gregory Robey. Robey accused the prosecution, whom he repeatedly referred to as “the government,” of not submitting photo evidence to the defense during the discovery period.

Prosecutors Connie Lewandowski and Tom Buchanan responded by objecting to the defense’s request to submit into evidence audio recordings of police interviews with witnesses. With audible sighs, Common Pleas Judge John Enlow overruled the objections.

“Let’s just get this over with,” he said.

The prosecution first called Kent Police Capt. Greg Urchek to the stand, whose duties involve keeping recordings of calls made to 911 dispatch, as well as video and audio of police questioning.

The prosecution then called Anthony Gallas, one of the witnesses who saw the assault on Kernich. He described what he saw that night and demonstrated the kind of kick he alleges he saw Kelly give to Kernich’s head and side.

“I didn’t really want to talk about it afterwards because what I saw was pretty gross,” the Kent State student said.

Detective Mark DiJerome was called to the stand as well, where he outlined the defendant’s statement on the night of the incident. He also read the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation’s reports about blood samples on Kelly’s clothes and shoes. The reports found blood from Kernich on the right cuff of Kelly’s jeans, blood from senior Brad Chelko on his shoe and blood from sophomore Stephen Manyo on his right pocket.

Manyo said he had gotten into an altercation with Barker and Kelly at the Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity on the night of Nov. 15, prior to the assault on Kernich. He was called to the stand following DiJerome, where he described the “aggressive” and “threatening” nature of Kelly that night.

Manyo said he shoved Barker for pouring a beer on his head, and was “punched to the ground” by Barker and Kelly and then repeatedly punched and kicked in the head and on his side as he curled into the fetal position, trying to protect himself from the ensuing blows.

“I knew I had to just get out of there,” he said. “I was afraid for my life.”

The last person called to the stand was Tom Pavlish, a private investigator who was hired by Robey to gather information from the witnesses before the trial. Pavlish said he was met with resistance by most of the witnesses. He said they either would not talk because the prosecutors office told them not to, or they were told not to talk without prosecutor Connie Lewandowski present.

Kelly’s trial is scheduled to begin today at 9 a.m. in Enlow’s courtroom in the Portage County Courthouse.

Contact public affairs reporter Denver Collins

at [email protected].