Alvin Andrew Kelly, 57, was executed by lethal injection on 14 October 2008 in Huntsville, Texas for the murder and robbery of a couple and their baby in their home.
On the morning of 1 May 1984, the bodies of Jerry Morgan, 30, his wife, Brenda, 25, and their 22-month-old son, Devin, were found in their Gregg County home by family members. Each victim had died from gunshot wounds. Jerry Morgan was shot in the chest several times. Brenda Morgan was shot once in the back. Devin was shot once in the face. In addition, their car had been stolen, along with several items from inside the home, including a television, videocassette recorder, and several guns.
The murders remained unsolved for six years. In 1990, Chris Vickery called the Gregg County Sheriff's Office and told them that his former wife, Cynthia Kelly, had information for them. After authorities contacted Cynthia in Michigan, they obtained an indictment charging her ex-husband, Alvin, in the 1984 triple homicide.
At Kelly's trial, his younger brother, Steven, testified that he and Alvin were in the business of selling drugs. Their source of drugs was a man named Walter Shannon. Several days before the murders, Alvin, then 33, and Steven Kelly drove together with Ron Wilson, 27, another drug dealer, to the victims' home. Steven testified that when they arrived, Alvin ordered him to stay in the vehicle. Disregarding that instruction, Steven walked around to the back of the house because he heard an argument. He observed Alvin pointing a gun at a man and threatening to kill him. Alvin then noticed Steven watching and angrily ordered him back to the vehicle. As Steven returned to the vehicle, he heard Wilson arguing with a woman inside the home. Alvin and Wilson then returned to the vehicle. As the three men drove away, Wilson said to Alvin, "I told you not to bring him [Steven] because ... we're supposed to take care of some business and ... we didn't take care of it." Alvin responded, "We can always come back later and take care of it ... there's no problem there."
Steven Kelly further testified that on the night of 30 April, Alvin, Cynthia, and Wilson arrived at his house. Appearing nervous and hurried, Alvin said he was in serious trouble and needed some money. Alvin said he had killed the family Steven had seen him threaten, and the child was "involved". Alvin then handed Steven a pistol and asked him for "five hundred dollars to get out of town." Steven gave Alvin the $500, and Alvin left with Cynthia and Wilson.
Cynthia Kelly testified that on the evening of 30 April, Alvin, Wilson, and she drove to the victims' home. She testified that she frequently accompanied Alvin on his drug deals, knew that he carried a gun, and that she also carried a gun to "watch his back", but she was unaware of both the destination and the purpose of this trip. Upon their arrival, Alvin ordered her to remain in the vehicle. While waiting for the men, Cynthia heard gunfire and a baby crying. She then entered the home and saw that Alvin had a woman pinned up against the wall and that a baby was crying. Cynthia picked up the child and shielded him from the sign of his mother struggling with Alvin. Alvin then shot the woman in the back of the neck and dragged her to a bedroom. Cynthia put the baby in a chair and followed Alvin into the bedroom. Alvin placed the woman next to her husband, who had already been shot. The woman begged her for help. She responded by placing a towel under her head. She then returned to the living room and picked up the baby to comfort him. Alvin took the crying infant from her and shot him in the head. He then aimed his gun at Cynthia and ordered her to return to the vehicle. As she exited the home, she heard another gunshot. Cynthia testified that Alvin shot the mother and the infant with the same .22-caliber pistol.
Continuing her testimony, Cynthia said that Alvin and Wilson exited the home with several items including guns, a coffee maker, and some decorative brass butterflies. The two men drove away in the victims' car, while she followed in their vehicle. After wiping the victims' car for fingerprints, they abandoned it in a parking lot in Tyler. Later, while driving, Alvin and Wilson discussed needing money, and the three ended up at Steven Kelly's home.
The state introduced physical evidence corroborating Cynthia's testimony, including the location and position of the bodies in the home, the location of Brenda and Devin Morgan's gunshot wounds, the caliber of the murder weapon, the towel under Brenda's head, and the location of the victims' abandoned car. The state also introduced evidence that Jerry and Brenda Morgan were city marshal reserve officers. The prosecution argued that Alvin's motive for killing the Morgans was that they were providing information to law enforcement.
Cynthia's sister, Violet Brownfield, testified that Alvin Kelly had bragged about killing a family, including a child.
Danny Moore, an acquaintance of Kelly's, testified that Kelly told him he collected debts for a Walter Shannon. He described a job he had done by telling him, "that man, his old lady, and the kid ... they're not coming back." Moore testified that Kelly also said, "There's going to be a lot more people end up like this if they don't pay up."
In his defense, Kelly's lawyers claimed that the victims were killed by an unidentified black assailant. This theory was based on the evidence that two black males were apprehended for stealing a pick-up truck from a parking lot near the victims' abandoned car, and that a necklace recovered from that truck was initially identified as belonging to Brenda Morgan. Additionally, hairs with Negroid characteristics were found in vacuum sweepings from the Morgans' home. The defense claimed that Cynthia Kelly had a relationship with the actual assailant and fabricated her testimony to protect him and/or to spite Alvin.
The state responded to Kelly's defense by introducing an expert in trace evidence, who testified that the hairs with Negroid characteristics found in the Morgan house did not match either of the two black men who were apprehended for stealing the truck, and furthermore that those hairs could have come from a Caucasian person.
At the time of the triple homicide, Kelly had an arrest record for unlawfully carrying a weapon. In the six years between the triple homicide and his trial, he had several felony convictions which resulted in prison time. In September 1985, he was sentenced to 5 years for burglary. He was paroled in March 1986. In February 1988, he was again sentenced to 5 years, this time for delivery of a controlled substance. He was paroled 4 months later, in June. (At the time, early release was common in Texas due to strict prison population caps imposed by U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice.) In August 1990, Kelly pleaded guilty to the murder of his roommate, John Ford, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was serving that sentence when he was charged with capital murder for the Morgan killings.
A jury convicted Kelly of the capital murder of Devin Morgan in October 1991 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in June 1996.
Ronnie Lee Wilson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 66 years in prison. He remains in custody as of this writing.
Kelly maintained his innocence throughout his appeals. At an evidentiary hearing in U.S. district court in February 2007, Kelly testified that he did not kill the Morgans, and had never met them. He admitted that he had been a drug dealer, but claimed that on the night the Morgans were killed, he was changing the engine in a truck with a man named Johnny Waller. He claimed that Cynthia and Steven Kelly and others gave false testimony at his trial.
In that same hearing, Kelly's sister, Nancy Brown, testified that she and her husband, Conley, visited Cynthia in Georgia for several hours, and that in that meeting, Cynthia recanted her trial testimony, telling her that "between you, me, and God," Alvin Kelly did not kill Devin Morgan. Conley Brown testified that Cynthia told him and his wife together that Kelly did not murder Devin. Cynthia testified that she did meet with the Browns in Georgia, but made no such statement.
Cynthia's sister, Beverly Frank, testified by deposition that Cynthia had once stated that she killed Jerry Morgan. Frank testified that she initially believed Cynthia's claim, but later decided Cynthia was only trying to scare her because she was trying to stop Cynthia's drug use. Frank testified that Cynthia was incapable of killing anyone.
The district court found that Cynthia's testimony was more credible and better supported by the entire record than the Browns, and noted that even the Browns disagreed as to who was present when Cynthia allegedly recanted her trial testimony. The court ruled that Cynthia did not recant her testimony, and denied Alvin Kelly's appeal. The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling in April 2008. All of Kelly's subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
"I'm tired of being here," Kelly told a reporter in an interview from death row in Livingston the week before his execution. "This is not life." Even though he still denied murdering the Morgans, Kelly said that he was looking forward to his execution date. "I don't want a stay ... It's time for me to go home. I'm ready. I embrace it." Kelly said that he would not cause any problems with prison officials taking him to the death chamber in Huntsville "unless they're going to bring me back".
"This is not an execution. This is a graduation day," Kelly said in another interview, which was videotaped and posted on the internet. "To live is for Christ; to die is gain," he continued, quoting from the New Testament book of Philippians. "I'm going home with peace, and joy, and a song on my lips, you know what I'm saying? I'm so ready to go."
Kelly described the murder of John Ford in a 2002 interview. "Actually, it wasn't supposed to be a murder," he explained. Kelly said Ford owed him some drugs and money. He intended to drive Ford out to the country and rob him of his money, drugs, and car, and leave him on the side of the road. "That way, he would have plenty of time to think about what he owed me and everything. I'm not proud of that - it's stupid, but that was the plan." He said that the plan went wrong when a gun Cynthia was holding on Ford went off - whether accidentally or deliberately, he did not know. Kelly said, "I took the gun away from her, and I'm gonna be honest with you, I was scared at the time. I was trying to act cool, but I took the gun because I thought she was going to shoot me too. We are all strung out on drugs, and so, I took the gun, and I emptied the gun in John T. Ford. I shot him about five times, emptying the gun so it wouldn't have anymore bullets in it."
Kelly said that he collected and destroyed the evidence at the scene, including setting Ford's vehicle on fire. Because of this, Gregg County investigators did not have the evidence to convict him. However, in 1987 while in jail on an unrelated charge, he became a Christian after a visit from a minister. "I wanted to clear my conscience and everything in my life," Kelly said, "so in 1990, I pled guilty to murdering John T. Ford."
Kelly explained that this guilty plea resulted in him being charged for killing the Morgans also. He said he had originally been cleared of suspicion in that case by the lead investigator, Henry Mize, and the case was eventually put away unsolved. When Mize died of a stroke, however, the cold case was reopened. Kelly said that when he pleaded guilty to Ford's murder, prosecutors were going to bring murder charges against his wife as well, but she struck a deal with them: testify that Kelly was at the scene of the Morgan killings in exchange for immunity from prosecution for Ford's murder.
Kelly said he turned down several plea offers for a life sentence in the Morgan case because accepting the offers would have forced him to lie. "If I was guilty, I would plead guilty," he said. "But I can't stand before God on a lie."
"I offer my sorrow, and my heart goes out to y'all," Kelly said in his last statement to the members of the Morgan family who attended his execution. "I know you believe that you're going to have closure tonight. As I stand before God today, the true Judge, I had nothing to do with the death of your family." Kelly then asked for forgiveness for Ford's murder "because I do stand guilty for my involvement for that." Kelly also thanked his family, his friends, and God. As the lethal injection was administered, he sang, "Thank You, Lord Jesus, for coming into my life. You walked with me through prison. Thank You, Lord Jesus, because You died for me. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for remembering me." He then lost consciousness. He was pronounced dead at 6:30 p.m.
Jerry Morgan's niece, Lori Kubecka, witnessed the execution. Afterward, she told a reporter that she and the other family members knew "without a shadow of a doubt" that Kelly was guilty of the murders. She said Kelly's last words "made me ill."
"None of us came for closure," Kubecka said. "We were there to speak and give voices to our family who did not have voices anymore."
By David Carson. Posted on 15 October 2008.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Associated Press, Kilgore News Herald, Longview News-Journal, court documents, public records. Source.
God is in the forgiveness business, not me. If you kill another your life should be forfeit as a matter of Justice.
A post about his execution Here.