Thursday, May 1 2014 8:30 PM EDT2014-05-02 00:30:14 GMT
Authorities are looking for the driver in a deadly hit-and-run accident that killed a 57-year-old Belton man.Police responded to the wreck shortly after midnight Sunday near Bannister and Wornall roads.More >
A family is devastated by a horrible loss, and it is not the first time they have had to deal with the unthinkable. Police need help finding the driver who killed a Belton father in a hit-and-run crash Sunday.More >
A man pleaded guilty to killing a man in a hit-and-run crash, and Leroy "Buddy" Bronson's family and friends are outraged that prosecutors have agreed to a 120-day sentence in jail.
Bronson was 57 when he was killed on April 7, 2013. Two years earlier, his wife and daughter were killed when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driving the wrong way on an area highway as they were en route to a Fourth of July Day parade.
During a 15-minute hearing Thursday afternoon, Ronald J. O'Kelly, 27, admitted to killing Bronson. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
When prosecutors filed charges last year, they said that O'Kelly was drunk and talking on his cell phone when he ran a red light and plowed into Bronson, who was riding a motorcycle.
Letters have been written to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office asking them to change their minds, but prosecutors say they did not have enough evidence to support seeking a tougher sentence.
But when charges were first filed last summer, prosecutors said they had significant evidence against O'Kelly.
Near Bronson's body and his crashed Harley Davidson motorcycle was an abandoned Ford F-150, which has suffered damage consistent with the crash, according to court records. The pickup was registered to O'Kelly.
Accident reconstruction specialists determined that the Ford was driving 57 mph in a 40 mph zone when it went through the red light and plowed into Bronson, who had no time to react, according to court records.
Witnesses told police that O'Kelly had been at a tavern where he was drinking mixed drinks and beer, according to court records. Cell phone records showed that O'Kelly was talking to his girlfriend at the time of the crash, according to prosecutors. Cell phone records placed O'Kelly in the area of the crash when it occurred, according to court documents.
When O'Kelly responded to the police station with his attorney, he had multiple scratches on his face, arms, back and hands, according to court documents. Because more than 24 hours had passed since the crash, police did not seek his blood for analysis.
Detectives initially arrested O'Kelly when he and his attorney came to the police station on April 8. Prosecutors didn't file charges then because the attorney refused to allow his client to speak to detectives and his girlfriend also declined to provide a statement, according to a spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
Letters have been written to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office asking them to change their minds about the 120 day sentence, but prosecutors say they did not have enough evidence to support seeking a tougher sentence.
A judge will impose sentence, but generally accept plea deals reached between defendants and prosecutors. Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 27.
Tyler Russell said he was disappointed and "a little disgusted" by the plea deal.
Defense attorney John Picerno said it wasn't an easy decision to accept the plea deal, and it took a lot of consideration by his client.
"He's had a tough year already," Picerno said.
Family friend Kathi Welch said if you drink and drive and kill someone that you should face more than 120 days in jail.
"The person who is responsible for Buddy's tragic death and left him there alone to die needs to be accountable for his bad decisions in life. Because he has now changed the lives of many forever," she wrote in an email to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office.
The drunk driver who killed Bronson's wife and daughter was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He remained at the scene. He was seriously injured in the crash and had to be hospitalized.
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