RE­SEN­TENC­ING

Tampa Bay Times - - Re­mem­ber­ing | From The Front Page - Reach Jack Evans at je­vans@ tam­pabay.com, and fol­low him @Jack­HE­vans. News re­searcher John Martin con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.

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