Helena couple sentenced in child abuse case

By NATHAN HOWELL | Special to the Reporter

HELENA — After pleading guilty to child abuse last December, Cynthia and Richard Kelly were handed down a 10-year prison sentence on Thursday, Nov. 12, but will only be required to serve two in prison.

Judge Bill Bostick handed down the 10-year sentence, which is the maximum allowed for the charges the couple faced, and came as part of a plea deal that was previously arranged.

This sentence stemmed from arrests of the couple back on Nov. 14, 2016 when they were arrested and charged with aggravated family child abuse, which was downgraded to child abuse, of a child who was under their care as foster parents.

At a press conference held at Helena City Hall on Nov. 15, 2016, then Helena Police Chief Pete Folmar thanked the officers and investigators involved with the case and said, “For many of them, this is the most disturbing case that they have seen in their careers.”

According to Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee the sentence came from “balancing the needs and desires of the victims with facts and the law.”

This sentencing comes four years after the child was brought to a local hospital suffering from severe malnutrition and other types of abuse.

According to their indictments filed in April 2017, the Kellys, “Did on or between Nov. 1, 2014, to Nov. 12, 2016, torture, willfully abuse, cruelly beat, or otherwise willfully maltreat said child over the period of two years in a closed off room in the basement with a locked door for 23 hours a day with limited to no access to social interaction; further, that was only allowed a box spring to sleep on; further, that was only fed one meal a day and that food and nourishment was withheld to the point that the victim was admitted on the date of Nov. 12, 2016, to the hospital suffering from extreme malnourishment, shock, hypothermia and dehydration to the point of near death and presented with abrasions on his knees, lips, ears and ankles, did such act which caused serious physical injury.”

Following their plea of guilty back in December, the couple asked the court for their sentence to be probation, however Bostick felt it was most appropriate in this case to hand down the maximum 10-year split sentence for the charge.

This means that the couple will be required to serve two years in prison, and at least three years of probation once they have been released.

Following the trial, the Kellys immediately began serving their two-year sentence, marking the end of the saga that revealed horrible neglect and abuse by the foster parents, including malnutrition, physical and mental abuse, isolation and general neglect.