Adoptive parents sentenced to two years for abusing adopted son

Richard, 60, and Cynthia Kelly, 51, of Helena, Alabama. [Image credit: Shelby County Jail]


November 13, 2016 a then 14-year-old boy was taken to Shelby Baptist Medical Center weighing just 55 pounds.  He was severely and chronically malnourished, and suffering from acute respiratory distress, shock, hypothermia and hypothyroidism and likely would not have survived much longer.  Ethan Kelly was airlifted to Children's Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham and spent about a week on a ventilator.


His adoptive parents, Richard and Cynthia Kelly were accused of keeping Ethan locked in a concrete "bedroom" in the basement for an average of 23 hours a day.


The room was reportedly furnished with nothing more than a box spring and fly strip.  The windows of the room would not open and were covered by curtains.  Also inside the room was a non-working surveillance camera intended to "intimidate and have him think they were always watching him." The door to the room contained two locks and an alarm.


"This wasn’t the dream. I cried every night and prayed for Jesus to end it all,'' Ethan was quoted as saying by during the sentencing hearing on Thursday, November 12.  Ethan and his brother, Eddie, were adopted in 2007, but the following year the Kellys relinquished custody of Eddie citing behavior issues.


During the reading of his prepared statement Ethan disclosed that he had been beaten with belts and wooden paddles, made to run laps in the yard and bang his head against the wall, and fed food that was laced with hot sauce.  He said salt and alcohol were poured on open wounds.


In December 2019 the Kellys accepted a blind plea deal which saw them both plead guilty to a charge of child abuse, reduced from aggravated child abuse.  The blind plea deal means only that the maximum and minimum jail terms was not predetermined in the deal.


Shelby County District Attorney Jill Lee disclosed that the plea deal was reached because at the time, Ethan did not wish to testify against his parents nor see them sent to prison.  In order to protect him, they struck a deal.  "We’re going to do what we can do without further traumatizing the victim," Lee told


During the sentencing hearing Shelby County Circuit Court Judge William H. Bostick addressed the Kellys saying, "Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, it was in your best interest to enter a plea to this charge because if I had the authority, I would sentence you to a lot more than a 10-year split-two sentence. It would be somewhere in the realm of 20 years to life if I weren’t constrained by the law. But I am.”


According tot he ruling by Bostick, they will serve ever day of their two year sentence in state prison and be subject to three years probation.  Additionally, they have each been fined $10,000.


"Finally," he added, "you are permanently barred from ever serving as a foster or adopting a child.  That is a condition I think will stem naturally from this sentence, but I am imposing it as a condition of this sentence. You are not fit to care for children."



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