The course of a person’s life depends a lot on, if at key moments, they get a good break or a bad one. For one woman, it seemed like everything that could go wrong did again and again.
But for the man that was convicted of assaulting her, it seemed like things were going to break his way. What happened in the end was something altogether unexpected…
When Jennifer was 17 years old, a single tragic moment sent her life off in an unexpected direction. She was struck by a drunk driver moving at a dangerous speed. While she survived the accident, she didn’t escape unharmed.
Shortly after the accident, Jennifer began to experience seizures. Coupled with other medical problems, her health began to deteriorate until she was ultimately confined to a wheelchair. But even as she was going through these difficult times, one aspect of Jennifer’s life always brought her joy…
The saving grace of Jennifer’s life was her son, Andrew. He was born with a heart defect and had his first open heart surgery at just 4 days old. For the first year of his life, he didn’t once leave the hospital and eventually got a heart transplant.
All through that time, Jennifer stayed with Andrew as much as she could. “In the hospital, she took the day shift because that’s when all the procedures were and doctors came in and I took nights,” Jennifer’s mother Pam Ferris said…
Things Are Looking Up
Once Andrew got his transplant and he was able to leave the hospital, things started to go much better for Jennifer. It finally seemed like her life was headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, those relatively good times wouldn’t last long.
…But Not For Long
Jennifer and her husband began having troubles with their marriage. On top of that, Andrew’s health began to deteriorate quickly shortly after his 4th birthday. In the end, Andrew couldn’t fight any longer and the 4-year-old passed away. His death sent Jennifer into a tailspin…
Andrew’s death was the worst element of a storm of bad events that all seemed to be happening at once. “Everything happened that one month,” Pam said. “She was going through a divorce. Her son died, lost a job, lost the apartment, lost the car.”
Left With Nothing
Having lost nearly everything that mattered to her, Jennifer started drinking heavily. Without a permanent place to sleep each night, Jennifer would take what opportunities presented themselves for a warm bed. So when a man named Daniel invited her and another homeless friend over to his house to drink and spend the night, she and her friend said yes…
Jennifer and her friend were glad to be indoors enjoying a drink at first but as the night went on, the mood started to change. With each drink he had, Daniel seemed to get more and more mean. At one point, Daniel got particularly agitated and Jennifer’s friend told him to “calm down.” That’s when Daniel crossed a line.
Fit of Rage
Rather than calming down, Daniel flew into a fit of rage and beat the man unconscious. As he was beating her friend, the terrified Jennifer tried to escape Daniel’s apartment. When she turned to see Daniel just behind her, she rolled her wheelchair down a flight of stairs in a last ditch effort to escaped the crazed man…
Jennifer lost control of her wheelchair as she flew down the stairs and Daniel, beer in hand, was easily able to catch up with her as she tried to right herself. When he got to her, he finished off his beer and proceeded to sexually assault Jennifer with the bottle.
When he’d finished, Daniel smashed the bottle on the ground. Oozing with arrogance, Daniel said to Jennifer “my name is Daniel Bryan Kelley. I want you to remember it, but it won’t do you any good because no one will believe you. You’re homeless, you’ve been drinking, and I just destroyed the evidence.”…
I Will Remember
Kelley simply left Jennifer there at the bottom of the stairs and went back to his apartment. After she managed to get back in her chair, Jennifer wheeled herself a mile and a half to a McDonalds to call 911. When she got off the phone, she asked the staff for a pen and wrote “Daniel Bryan Kelley” on her hand.
Contrary to what Kelley believed, the New Special Victims in the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office did believe Jennifer. With her and her friend’s testimony, they were able to arrest Kelley and charge him with sexual assault…
The fact that Jennifer got the support, empathy, and compassion of the people in the D. A.’s office mattered a lot to her. She used it as motivation to begin to turn her life around. “If they can believe in me and my mom believes in me, I can do this,” Pam said Jennifer thought.
Jennifer was able to testify at Kelley’s preliminary hearing, but she would ultimately be unable to see justice served. Due to her medical problems, she passed away before Kelley was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison. But the story doesn’t end there. Kelley mounted an appeal…
During the trial, the jury was told of another assault charge Kelley had in another state. His lawyer was able to argue that knowledge of the other conviction had influenced the jury’s decision. While his appeal was successful, it didn’t overturn the conviction. Instead, Kelley would be re-sentenced.
Still, Kelley considered this a win. A new jury was convened to reconsider the findings of Kelley’s trial. But after the jury returned from quick deliberation, any thoughts of “winning” quickly evaporated with just 3 words. The foreman of the jury read out Kelley’s new sentence: life in prison…
Justice Finally Served
“I think the jury returned a verdict that expressed their disapproval and disgust of the situation,” Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore said. Even though she was no longer alive, Jennifer, the tragic victim of life’s circumstances and of Kelley’s viciousness finally got justice.
No Less Deserving
“The actions of Mr. Kelley, I believe, reflected his opinion that, because the victim, in this case, was homeless, that she was less of a person.” Elmore said. “The citizens of Tulsa County have twice now shown that they disagree.”