BOISE – Kyle Kelly, a former Boise State University student who pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for accidentally shooting and killing a BSU club hockey player, will serve less than one year in the Ada County jail.
Kelly, 21, of Hampton Bays, New York, admitted to accidentally shooting 22-year-old Robert “Bobby” Skinner in the neck, killing him, on Aug. 23, 2019. The two friends, along with Kelly’s roommate, were playing with guns – dry-firing unloaded weapons – when Kelly fired a pistol at Skinner, unaware that a magazine had been loaded into the gun, according to his account. All three men were intoxicated.
After an emotional sentencing hearing on Friday, when both of Skinner’s parents told of the grief caused by the death of their only son, Judge Samuel A. Hoagland convicted Kelly of involuntary manslaughter. Hoagland handed down the maximum 10-year sentence, with a two-year fixed prison term and eight years indeterminant. Hoagland then suspended the prison term, and ordered Kelly to serve one year in county jail, while crediting him 10 days time-served. He also ordered Kelly serve 500 hours of community service and pay $6,000 in fines as well as restitution to the family at an amount to be determined.
In total, Kelly will serve 355 days in jail and nine years of probation. If he violates probation, he may be subject to the full prison term.
“Given the nature of the crime, and particularly the result of the crime, and given the nature of the defendant, I am persuaded that a period of incarceration is warranted,” Hoagland said. “But I am not persuaded that Mr. Kelly is the type of criminal that must go to prison.”
Kelly was arrested in July in New York, his home state, where he now lives. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in October.
On Friday, the defendant’s attorney, Mark Manweiler, asked the judge for 10 years probation along with community service. He argued Kelly, 20 years old at the time, was unfamiliar with guns, he was drunk, and he didn’t know the handgun was loaded. Deputy Prosecutor Heather Reilly argued Kelly should have known the danger of playing with guns, and she repeatedly pointed to the fact that Kelly lied to police in his initial statement. Reilly requested a sentence of five years fixed imprisonment and five years indeterminant on top of restitution and a civil penalty.
Patricia and Robert Skinner, Bobby’s parents, appeared disappointed by the judge’s decision. Robert Skinner repeatedly shook his head as Hoagland explained Kelly will serve nine years of his sentence on probation. In victim statements, both parents asked the court to sentence Kelly to 10 years in prison. The Skinners said they are skeptical of Kelly’s telling of events. Kelly initially lied to police on the night of Bobby’s death. Kelly said that Bobby shot himself. When confronted with evidence that Bobby could not have shot himself, less than 24 hours after his original statement on Aug. 23, 2019, Kelly told detectives that he shot Bobby, not knowing the handgun was loaded.
Robert Skinner said his son, an independent young man and stellar athlete, who took trips to Thailand on his own and hoped to open a taco shop there, would have turned 24 last month. Distraught and unable to move on, Skinner said he wears his son’s clothes and hockey equipment and sometimes drives his car. “I can’t let go of him,” he said. Skinner said he and his wife were “unwilling participants” in this tragedy and no parent should have to bury their child.
“You don’t want to be a member of this club, ever,” he said “I wish it had been me, instead of Bobby, that died that day.”
Patricia Skinner said she now visits a therapist two days a week, and she finds herself becoming angry and jealous at friends whose families are intact.
“I have become a loner,” she said. “I will never be the same. Grief is always with me, from the moment I wake up in the morning until I cry myself to sleep.”
On Friday, Kelly apologized to Skinner’s parents, saying he thought of Bobby as a brother.
“I wish I could go back and change things,” he said. “I hope that someday you can find some way to forgive me.”
He added, “I will never touch a gun again.”
Hoagland ordered Kelly’s community service consist of telling his story to other young men in police-sanctioned programs. He must complete the 500 required hours within five years of his release from jail. In justifying his sentence, Hoagland suggested Kelly is unlikely to be a repeat offender and he showed remorse.
“I don’t think that prison is the appropriate place for Mr. Kelly at this point in time,” he said. “He would likely come out worse than he went in.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.