Jury returns guilty verdicts in Kelso case

By Peter H. Milliken



Despite a prosecution request that his bond be revoked and that he be jailed pending sentencing, a judge ruled that Christopher Kelso will remain free on his own recognizance after a jury convicted him of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault.

The six-man, six-woman jury returned its guilty verdicts late Monday after three hours of deliberations at the end of a weeklong trial before Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Kelso, 32, of East Midlothian Boulevard, faces up to 13 years in prison after being convicted in the death of his front-seat passenger, Pamela Kennedy, 28, of Boardman, and in the nonfatal injury of his back-seat passenger, Javier Colon, 31, of Youngstown.

After the verdicts were read, Nicholas Brevetta, an assistant county prosecutor, asked the judge to revoke Kelso’s bond, saying Kelso has previously violated his bond by drinking alcohol, according to trial testimony.

“He’s going to have the opportunity to get his affairs in order before the sentence is imposed. I don’t believe that he’s a threat to the community,” the judge said, ordering Kelso to consume no alcoholic beverages and use no illegal drugs while he remains free, pending his 11 a.m. Sept. 18 sentencing.

“It’s been really surreal. It’s been hard,” Kennedy’s mother, Virginia Sharpe of Struthers, said of the 21/2 years since her daughter’s death.

“I’m pleased with the verdict, but I’m not pleased with the judge’s reaction. This is the second time he let him walk,” she said, referring to the judge’s post-conviction order allowing Kelso to remain free pending sentencing.

Sharpe said she hopes Kelso gets at least a 10-year prison sentence.

In the 2:05 a.m. crash on Feb. 3, 2010, on Wilson Avenue, near Prospect Street, the car Kelso was driving went left of center, struck and broke a utility pole, and continued an additional 100 feet before landing upside down and trapping its occupants inside, according to Trooper Christopher Jester, an Ohio State Highway Patrol accident reconstructionist.

In his testimony, Jester estimated the westbound car’s speed at 39 mph to 53 mph in a 35 mph zone when it hit the pole. But Youngstown Police Sgt. Patricia Garcar pegged its speed at 60 mph on her initial crash report.

“We were convinced that he was either a., impaired, or b., his blood alcohol was over 0.08, or both, and that pretty much drove the verdict,” explained Jeffrey Stockdale of Poland, jury foreman.

Blood samples from Kelso registered 0.139 at 3:05 a.m., according to a hospital lab report, and 0.115 at 4:05 a.m., according to a police report. The legal limit is 0.08.

Kelso’s lawyer, Ross T. Smith, declined to comment after the verdicts.

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