UPDATED: ‘Struggle to wrap your head around it:’ Police chief describes Helena child abuse case

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

HELENA–A Helena couple has been arrested and charged with aggravated family child abuse after allegedly torturing, willfully abusing and maltreating their 14-year-old adopted son.

Richard Kelly

Richard Kelly

The Helena Police Department received a call from the Shelby County Department of Human Resources in regard to a child abuse/neglect investigation and after several hours of interviews and evidence collection the child’s parents were taken into custody, according to the department.

Cynthia Kelly

Cynthia Kelly

The Helena Police Department and Shelby County Sheriff’s Office arrested 56-year-old Richard Hobson Kelly and 47-year-old Cynthia Rogers Kelly of Helena on Nov. 14 and charged them with one count each of aggravated family child abuse.

The couple lists an address in the 3000 block of Spruce Drive in Helena.

According to arrest warrants, Richard and Cynthia allegedly “tortured, willfully abused, cruelly beat or otherwise willfully maltreated a child under the age of 18 by depriving the child of food, nourishment and medical care by keeping the child in forced isolation for an extended period of time.”

Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar thanked the officers and investigators involved with the case during a press conference held at Helena City Hall on Nov. 15 and said, “For many of them, this is the most disturbing case that they have seen in their careers.”

The warrants also stated that this was allegedly done “on more than one occasion causing serious physical injury to the child including severe chronic malnourishment, shock, acute respiratory distress, hypothermia and hypothyroid disease.”

Folmar said doctors noted that the teenager was “close to death.”

“The child remains gravely ill at this time and faces a long and difficult recovery and an uncertain prognosis,” Folmar said. “All of us at the Helena Police Department keep him in our thoughts and prayers and we ask that you do the same.”

Shelby County Schools public relations supervisor Cindy Warner confirmed on Nov. 15 that the boy was never enrolled as a student in the Shelby County School District and Folmar said the teenager was homeschooled.

As of Nov. 15, Richard and Cynthia are currently being held in the Shelby County Jail on bonds totaling $1 million each.

Folmar said the investigation is not complete and the couple being charged also has an adopted daughter that is employed, safe and was never in danger.

“You just struggle to wrap your head around it and I suppose that’s the best thing I can say,” Folmar said. “Like most of the people here at the Helena Police Department, I’m a parent and I just struggle to wrap my head around it.”

Aggravated family child abuse is a Class B felony, and is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, according to Alabama law.