on the train tracks, where an 11,000-ton train hit and killed him.
Months later, Kelly was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery, and sentenced to life in prison.
Over the past decade, two U.S. Supreme Court rulings — Graham vs. Florida and Miller vs. Alabama — have changed the standards for sentencing juveniles for serious crimes. Juvenile offenders now have to have a meaningful chance for release.
Those decisions opened the door to resentencing for offenders such as Kelly.
Friday’s sentencing took only minutes. Kelly didn’t speak, except to tell the judge he’d live in Hernando County after his release. He looked content with the decision, smiling as he left the courtroom.
During Kelly’s 1990 trial, according to the Tampa Bay Times archives, witnesses described what happened before and after the killing that sent Kelly to prison.
On July 28, 1989, a Friday night, Kelly, his 14-yearold cousin Kurtis Martin and their 15-year-old friend Kimboy “Bo” Partain sat outside Howard’s Bar, a spot where Kelly regularly drank, despite his age. Billy Downing, 47, was there, too, witnesses said, and after three quarts of Budweiser, he started an argument with the teens.
When Downing left around 2 a.m., closing time, the teens followed him across the street, witnesses said.
Less than a month later, all three were arrested after they confessed to beating Downing and leaving him on the tracks. Later, five witnesses told a jury that Kelly had detailed the crime to them: how he and his friends threw rocks at Downing’s head, knocked him unconscious and rifled through his pockets; how they left him on the same tracks where, a year earlier, Martin’s mother had died by suicide.
Martin and Partain went to trial, too. Juries acquitted them of murder and robbery, instead convicting Martin of assault and Partain of battery. Partain’s attorney argued that physical evidence could implicate only Kelly in Downing’s death.
A handful of Kelly’s family members and friends attended Friday’s sentencing, including his father, John Kelly, and Mary Ann Simonds, Kelly’s girlfriend and the mother of his daughter.
They were elated. They acknowledged that Kelly’s transition out of prison might be difficult after so much time, but said they were ready to help him through it.
“It’s going to be a little on the tough side, but keep your head straight, keep on track and everything will be alright,” Simonds said.
Their daughter was born two days after Kelly was arrested in Downing’s death, Simonds said. She’s almost 29 now, and Simonds looks forward to Kelly getting to spend time with her.
The process of getting Kelly resentenced started a year ago, his dad said. “It’s time for him to get out.”
No members of Downing’s family attended Friday’s sentencing.