Son of man killed by drunk driver says 120 day punishment isn’t enough

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Tears of both joy and heartbreak filled a Kansas City courtroom as the fate of a driver who took a man's life, was read aloud.

As Ronald O'Kelly walked into the courtroom, he and his family were unsure of his future, but nearby, another man sat, still heartbroken that his father won't have one.

Tyler Bronson's father, Buddy, was riding his motorcycle when police say O'Kelly ran a red light and collided with him. As Bronson lay on the ground, police say O'Kelly had been drinking, accelerated and left the scene.

"This is horrible. It's disgusting. It's unthinkable. How you can do that," Bronson said.

It's been a long road for Bronson. Just two years ago his mom and sister were killed by a drunk driver.

And yet again, he walked through the court room doors, hoping for a long sentence. As the image of his family was in the forefront of his mind, he heard the judge sentence O'Kelly to 120 days in prison.

"One hundred and twenty days for manslaughter -- for killing someone and leaving them on the side of the road to die; 120 days," Bronson said.

O'Kelly's attorney said in court that O'Kelly was scared and didn't know what he hit that night so he fled. But the Bronson family says that should've been enough evidence for a maximum sentence.

"What is our judicial system saying? Drunk drive, kill somebody? Run! You're fine!" Bronson said. "That's what they're saying that's the message they're putting out there."

"I can understand sort of where they're coming on that," O'Kelly's lawyer, John Picerno, said. "Murder is an intentional taking of someone's life. The actions Mr. O’Kelly took were not intentional."

O'Kelly and his family did not want to speak to the media, but in court O'Kelly looked Tyler in the eyes, admitted to making a huge mistake and apologized.

A sentiment Bronson says will never be enough.

"No apology can make this right," he said.

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  • Deb

    Drinking excessively before you know you will be driving IS intentional! You know when you take that first drink in public that you will later be on the road. My heart goes out to the victim’s son and family and friends. As for the killer, he and his family need to get his drinking under control if they really care and are sorry for what he did! Perhaps as a tribute and sacrifice to the victim and his family, the killer could give up drinking forever when he gets out! That might be a way to demonstrate he is truly sorry, if not, he is just saying empty platitudes for his own sake. The sentence is a travesty, when will drinking and driving be considered a real crime, especially when you end up taking a life!

  • CT

    That’s not justice. A 120 day sentence is for someone that didn’t drink, didn’t text, and had one of those pure accidental bizarre moments when you realize too late that there’s a red light, chance horrible timing occurs, then stayed at the scene calling 911, gave whatever assistance possible, and acted in a purely honest and honorable way about the mistake. Judge you are misguided and you sicken me. Quit and get out of law as you are unfit for the robe. Judge what is on your sentencing scale for doing everything right when something wrong accidentally happens? What lower sentence do you give than you gave for the case of a person choosing to drug themselves with alcohol, choosing to drive, acting cowardly, leaving the scene, leaving a man to die in the street…a justice dodging punk? Was the sentence morbidly light because of which drug it was? Because you Judge also drug yourself with alcohol? What matters which drug it was? Think through the sentence if it was heroine. Would you give the same sentence? What matters which drug it was that inebriated the killers brain? It’s DUI not DU beer. You should be disbarred for this injustice or step down yourself but if you continue I urge you to not think of the intentional and premeditated drugging of the accused’s brain as lightly as you do. The bad outcome of purposely drugging yourself and driving should be expected…it’s an accident when no one gets hurt.

  • John Smith

    120 day sentences are handed out all the time for Involuntary Manslaughter charges involving traffic accidents. The only sentences that carry any time are drug charges from rural counties. The court system in Missouri is broken and is designed to punish the poor.

  • nick

    This is a tough one, it really is. RJ is a dear friend of mine, and I know how tough this has been for both sides. We have all made mistakes in life whether big or small that we wish we could change. The Bible is the moral basis of the laws we have created to judge right or wrong. That same book asks us to forgive in our hearts no matter the travesty. RJ has a lot of long restless days a head of him. Just remember that your son, brother, best friend or any one you love is one decision away from making the same mistake.

    • CT

      Nick it’s not really tough. If you are actually that close to RJ. Please tell us. Has RJ ever used alcohol again to drug his brain in the time since he killed via the influence of that drug? Did he let or encourage the “witness” to become uncooperative or did he encourage her to tell the full truth? No, he stayed a coward. Sir, no one that I associate with or love is one decision away from making the same mistake. No one. Really. Because the system/judge failed to have common sense, even more, RJ deserves to bear the full amount of justice of which the bible tells that God has doled out commonly for people of his character. That’s the moral basis RJ should face, not the great flood, but a flood.

      • nick

        RJ hasn’t drank around me or any of our friends since the accident. If you and your friends are perfect then I guess jesus is back in droves with copies of himself and I should get your autographs. There is such a thing as redemption in this life. 120 days or 11 years doesn’t bring buddy back. We all hit rough patches in our lives when life throws punches at us. RJ still has to live the rest of his life making better decisions for himself, if not he will be right where you want him and I won’t argue that.