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.