Son watches man admit to dad’s killing, is disappointed with maximum possible sentence

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Ronald O'Kelly stood before a judge Thursday and accepted a plea deal. He admitted to killing Leroy "Buddy" Bronson in April of 2013 and then walked out of the courtroom with his family.

The courtroom on the fourth floor of the Jackson County Courthouse was packed on one side. Dozens of people were there to support Tyler Bronson, Buddy's son, a son who also lost his mom and sister to a separate drunk driver. All of them sat in silence throughout the hearing.

O’Kelly now faces a maximum of 120 days in prison or probation after pleading guilty to involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident. His sentencing hearing is set for next month on June 27.

“You stand in front of a court and you admit to killing a man, and you walk out of there knowing the most you will serve is 120 days. It just doesn't seem right to me,” said Tyler Bronson.

Tyler summed up the emotions of his family and friends right after the plea hearing. They all knew what was coming and what the sentence recommendation would be.

“I had time, but it still hurt just as much,” Tyler said.

O’Kelly stood before Judge Sandra Midkiff and accepted a plea bargain. His back was to the gallery, his hands behind his back. You couldn't see if he showed any emotion, but his attorney, John Picerno, says O’Kelly is sorry.

“He's extremely remorseful, he realizes what he did and someone lost their life, he's had a tough year already,” said Picerno.

Picerno said O’Kelly thought long and hard about whether or not to go to trial and then decided the plea was in his best interest.

“Had he gone to trial and been convicted on both counts he would have been facing 19 years. What he's looking at now is a maximum of 120 days in prison or probation,” said Picerno.

The prosecutor’s office can't comment on the case until the case is over, but did lay out what evidence it plans to show the judge during the sentencing hearing. The police officers who worked the accident itself will testify and the crash report pictures will be shown.

But there are two interesting items on the list as well. A report by one of the officers mentions a witness by the name of Danielle Mowell, who later became uncooperative with the investigation.

It doesn't list her reasons why, but the final piece of evidence is a marriage certificate. Mowell married Ronald O’Kelly on July 9, 2013, two months after the crash that killed Buddy Bronson.

According to the police report, cell phone records showed O’Kelly was talking to his girlfriend at the time of the crash. In the state of Missouri, spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another.

35 comments

  • Willie

    This is completely ridiculous & the attorney should think how he would feel if it was his family member or members that had been killed by this drunk driver. The court system is so horrible with these plea bargains. This is as bad as claiming someone has AFLUENZA so they can’t be held accountable for their actions. Complete mockery of the whole justice system. This has to stop!!

    • Terry Roberts

      I think attorney’s are scumbags, but by rights when he is given a case all the oaths and such that he took and by law, he must represent an offender to the best of his ability and do whatever it takes to get him or her off or with the least amount of time possible. It’s sickening but even if they tell the attorney they did it, he is bound not to give that info to the judge or anyone else.

  • Wayne

    HE KILLED SOMEONE!!! KILLED THEM while intoxicated with a deadly weapon. So he broke the law of drinking and driving, broke the law of murder with a deadly weapon (killed someone with a car), then fled the crime scene which is another broken law. Along with being intoxicated he was also on his cell phone. This is a total joke.

    • Wayne

      One other thing I find interesting… This man killed someone and is looking at a maximum of 120 days in jail and probation. Scroll a few pages and find the one about the men who stole the statue from in front of the museum to sell, which has one man already sentenced 7 years in prison. Go figure…

      • jane

        Like I said, our “justice system” is flawed. I’m still not convinced this man committed this crime. And even if he did, it wasn’t premeditated or intentional. Bad things happen to good people, and I say that truly thinking of both parties. Sad, sad, sad.

  • jane

    The state obviously did not have sufficient evidence to prosecute this man. If they would have, he would be serving a much more severe term. You are correct sir, the “justice system” does indeed have flaws but isn’t that why we put our trust in dna analysis, fiber optics, and all of the incredibably advanced technology that our lovely investigative team has to work with? The unfortunate truth is that there was absolutely no evidence proving that Mr Okelly committed this crime. In fact, it suggests something quite different. There was dna found, none of which matched his, there were fibers found; none of which matched what he was wearing, there was even personal belongings of a particular individual in the drivers seat of mr okelly’ s truck that did not belong to him. Justice will be served one day to whomever may require punishment, but today was not that day. A very sad day for both of these individuals family.

    • joe

      I have to agree. The airbag would have deployed and this would have DNA (I.e. blood, saliva, skin particles, etc..) that would have matched this young man. They cannot have a case or he would not have this kind of plea bargain. I find most people dont know the true facts in cases like this. I wish we could have had all of he facts of the case come out.

      • T

        You do not know the facts. I do. I know RJ. Not a bad guy, but he should be locked up for a long time.

    • T

      You’re disgusting and deranged. I worked with Ronald (RJ) at Landmark Dodge. Myself and others seen him at the bar, hammered, about an hour before the incident. I heard about the hit and run a couple of days later when he finally sent our sales manager a text telling him everything. At that point he was still laying low and hadn’t turned himself in. After he hit and killed Mr. Bronson with his F-150 that he just bought about a month before the incident, he went to his girlfriend’s apartment to lay low. She went and told her father, who promptly called the police and reported what had transpired. At that point RJ fled the apartment complex and went missing for a few days. He then hired a lawyer and turned himself in. He also had bruises and scratches consistent with being in a automotive collision. RJ isn’t a bad guy and I’m sure he’s hurting about what he did, but he should be in prison for a long time. He killed a man. Accident or not, killing a man should warrant more than a 120 days in the clink. Keep in mind Tyler Bronson and his family lost their mother to a drunken driver who hit and killed her. He was also given a slap on the wrist. I feel sick to my stomach for the Bronson family. This is the epidemy of injustice and you are the epidemy of an ignorant fool who goes on a comment board and spews nonsense. I’ve seen your comments saying you didn’t think RJ did it. You’re disgusting.

      • joe

        Oh and hey dummy. You think you know everything. You know nothing at all about it. He didnt “lay low” at his girlfriends appartment. His cell phone pings told the detectives that. What a dummy. You do not know at all. So your saying the evidence is from one person who told another who then told someone else. Its a good thing you dont work for the justice system. No telling how many innocent people would go to jail. Someone elses cell phone was was found in the front drivers seat of the car. R j. Personal belongings were in the back seat. Back window was down. Hmm. How do you know there werent 2 people in that truck? One passed out in the back seat and the other driving. You know nothing.

  • Melinda

    How exactly does a plea bargain work? Even if you are innocent don’t you have to admit guilt to enter into the plea bargain. I feel so bad for both of these families. People should know the facts before passing judgement!!! This is such a sad story. Not sure why the fox4 facebook page is allowing all of those horrible comments about this young man on their page!! That is horrible!!

  • Lacie

    It sounds awfully strange, to me, that if they can prove he was drunk then why isn’t the sentence heavier? If one is convicted of a single DUI the probation period is significantly longer than this man is predicted to receive. In this case he’s admitting to killing someone while intoxicated…!?! I agree with some of the comments above; the prosecution must not have much more than his admission, in terms of evidence. I wonder if he’s taking the fall for his new wife…???

    • Wayne

      How is it someone in my family had 5 DUIs before his license was taken away and someone else I know has 3 DUIs and still has his license. Nothing makes sense.

      • jane

        Is this the same wayne saying all previous hateful comments about okelly? Someone in your family has 5 dui’s and could have just as easily killed an innocent person FIVE TIMES, yet you can sit here and judge and condemmn a man you don’t even know to your core! I feel sorry for the souls of the judgemental. And I will pray for those of you with so much hate in your black hearts.

  • B

    He KILLED someone and is getting 120 days or probation? Really? DUMB. just showing drinking and driving and killing someone you get a slap on the hand. He will be out drinking and driving again soon I bet. So if he kills another person will he get time then?
    I feel so bad for the family who lost someone due to that fact of this ignorant human.

  • Sheila Baker

    B, I agree. This plea bargain stuff boils down (partially) to who has money. The punishment for this incident is laughable. I have lost all faith in our justice system. It is crooked beyond means. In no way is it fair for anyone. Next week we could have the same type of incident and the guy will get 20 years. My prayers go for Tyler. Oh and his attorney apologizing for him….that is the ultimate slap in the face. Mr. O’Kelly needs to stand up and be a man.

  • DC

    Scumbags together – Mr & Mrs O’Kelly.

    Tyler Bronson has been screwed twice by our judicial system and he didn’t do anything wrong.

  • Ben

    The sentence is totally unjust. The prosecutor needs to be fired. This appears, on the surface, to be a case where someone paid somebody a lot of money to get this sentence reduced. I hope this case gets investigated by an unbiased investigator.

  • Fix Jackson County

    To everyone on here who is tired of Jackson County Plea Deals-

    Next election Vote “No” on the question of should Judge ___ be retained. Get new Judges who DO NOT accept plea deals/give maximum punishments. Vote for the Prosecutor who will be TOUGHER against criminals. Get new a prosecutor who WILL NOTMAKE plea deals/take criminals to trial.

    Until then, Voice your opinion to the prosecutor (the following is public knowledge off of their website):

    jeanpetersbaker @ jacksongov . org
    For general questions, please contact our office at 816-881-3555

    To contact Jackson County Executive Offices,
    email executive @ jacksongov . org or call 816-881-3333.

    (^^take out the spaces^^)

  • Tarzan

    Sounds like the OKelly supporters are out in full force today.. don’t worry.. As soon as his slap on the wrist is handed down, you all can go get S— faced and drive around town to salute him. Personally, I hope his grief is unbearable.

  • squeaky wheeler

    some guy in florida poured hot sauce on a puppy – a puppy that is still ALIVE – and that guy got 365 days.

  • Debbie Stephens

    I have a problem with the courts not forcing the woman to testify….they WERE NOT MARRIED at the time of the accident…Buddy’s death will be much harder on his friends and family, knowing how easily the system can be cheated and manipulated. There really is no justice..

  • Roni Levine

    What a shame for Buddy & his entire entourage! Victims, each of us, for having to endure this shameful sentence. This story makes me wonder what the girlfriend of the killer must be all about? How shallow of her to want to marry this young man who killed Buddy? What is up with that? They both have a long haul to ho, I am sure! But my instincts tell me that money & power have so much to do with both of these two young adults’ decisions. And the conviction status. It will be interesting to see what happens in the future to these two youngsters & how things really turn out for them. Come-up-ance is an amazing thing!

    God bless Buddy Bronson & all of his family & friends!

  • Kathi

    To Jane. Not sure where in the world you’re coming up with this info but it is not correct. Read the police report. Bad things do happen to good people. O’Kelly has been in trouble before and keeps getting off with no punishment whatsoever. When will he be held accountable for his bad decisions? He was on the phone with his girlfriend at the time of the accident but now they’re married so she doesn’t have to testify by some insane Mo. law. Sadly, that is something she now has to live with. I would have felt more sympathy for him if I didn’t know about his prior records and if he wouldn’t have left our friend there to die alone. I would hope most people would immediately call for help and do anything to help save his life. Believe me he did it and there is no doubt in the Prosecuting Attorney or Detectives minds and even O’Kelly’s own “Super” Attorney, didn’t you hear him say “he’s extremely remorseful, he realizes what he did and knows that someone lost his life, he’s had a tough year already”? For you to write this false info to make him appear innocent, doesn’t add up. We were told that the judge can actually do better than 120 days and have hope she will. This 120 day plea bargaining for driving drunk and killing someone is a PATTERN that needs to stop!

  • nick

    I have known RJ since I was in kindergarten. That being said I know the kid pretty well. Whatever sentence they give RJ, even if that meant 40 years in jail, I would have been okay with that sentence. I love RJ he is an amazing person and a better friend. None of you know the character of this man and how heavy this has weighed on him. Judge the courts and the process of the punishment, because RJ was expecting a hell of a lot longer sentence. If I made a mistake and it killed some one and I truly changed my life from it, I’d pray for this same situation still expecting the worst. This same system of justice is based off the commandments of right and wrong from the bible. That same bible preaches forgiveness of all sins and sinners a like. Some day I hope you look past the case and the tragedies, to find that forgiveness in your hearts.

    • DC

      @ nick, So he and his girlfriend didn’t know what they were doing when they got married so she couldn’t testify against him?

      • nick

        At this point what difference does it make. He admitted to it either way. Her testifying against him wouldn’t have changed any of the out come. The sad thing is they have no DNA on scene, no witnesses, no nothing. For all they know his GF could’ve done this.

  • joe

    His girlfriend could not have done this Nick. She was at work when it happened. She was on the clock. Take it from spmeone that knows. Also, she was not on the phone with him. He did call her but she couldnt answer. It was a silent voicemail. Again, she was at work. She could have given no testimony. The detectives know thay. There case was so shoddy the want to put something out there for the media. She was also wiling to talk with the detectives through her attorney as her attorney told them several times. They didnt want to go through her attorney. Intimidation tactics they would not be able to use if she were by herself. She also has her phone records that show she did not have an incoming answered call from r.j. if the detectives bothered to ask her for them they could see that. Shoddy police work. And im saying this with close family members on the police force.

    • nick

      I’m just speaking hypothetically. I know the whole story already, like I said RJ is one of my best friends.

  • Joe

    I’ve commented a couple of times on here. my heart breaks for the Bronx and family. but I believe with all of my heart this boy was not driving the truck. . I sincerely wish it would have went to trial so evident could have come out. the prosecution knows this. that is why he was offered such a plea deal. God knows. I pray somehow the family find peace and comfort in God knowing he is the God of all peace and judgment. this world only offers man’s perverted judgement. I’m sorry for both families

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