Christopher Kelso learned Tuesday he will spend the next seven years behind bars for aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault.
Though he’s getting prison time, the victims’ families wish he would take responsibility.
Kelso, 32, of East Midlothian Boulevard, appeared before Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court for sentencing.
Kelso faced up to 13 years in prison after being found guilty in August in the death of his front-seat passenger, Pamela Kennedy, 28, of Boardman, and of aggravated vehicular assault with nonfatal injuries suffered by back-seat passenger, Javier Colon, 31, of Youngstown.
Kennedy was reportedly Kelso’s girlfriend, and Colon was a close friend. The February 2010 crash on Wilson Avenue near Prospect Street trapped the three occupants inside the overturned car.
Kelso was offered a plea deal with a 10-year sentence recommendation but opted to go to trial.
Judge D’Apolito handed down the seven-year sentence and suspended Kelso’s license for life. But those speaking on behalf of the victims want Kelso to take responsibility for his role in Kennedy’s death and Colon’s injury — something they say he has not done.
Ralph Genova, Kennedy’s mother’s fiance, said Kelso does not seem to understand the devastation to the Kennedy and Colon families.
“Two beautiful children lost their mother and two parents lost a great daughter,” he said. “Life is about responsibility, and as a man we accept responsibility for our actions. ... When asked do you feel legally responsible for what happened, he flat out said no. He just doesn’t get it.”
Boyd Kennedy, Pam Kennedy’s father, said the family believes he is still drinking and has lived the same social life after the accident.
Pam Kennedy’s sister, Jennifer Sharpe, attempted to read a prepared statement but was overcome by emotion and could not finish reading it.
Minerva Colon, Javier Colon’s mother, said she is upset Kelso has not taken responsibility for causing the accident and did not check on her son at all while he was in the hospital and has not apologized.
Tim Johnson, a friend of Kelso’s, spoke to the court on behalf of the convicted man. He said he takes issue with the notion Kelso has not accepted responsibility for the accident. He said Kelso could have run from justice, but chose to stay. Judge D’Apolito said he is “not impressed” with Kelso’s choice not to run from the law.
“We would have found him,” the judge said.
Kelso read a lengthy statement to the court.
“I give you my word that I do accept responsibility for my actions,” he told Judge D’Apolito. “In my mind I replay the events of that night and every night after that. At no time did I take this lightly or take this process in a cavalier manner.”
Rebecca L. Doherty, an assistant county prosecutor, before sentencing, told the court, “This was not an accident. This was a conscious choice, something that he still has not taken responsibility for ... He could have made some attempt to accept responsibility, and he did not do that.”
Defense attorney Ross T. Smith said his client has shown remorse for his actions throughout the trial and demonstrated a desire to accept responsibility for his role in the accident.