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As Lapses In Parole Rose, So Did Killings

District Felon Charged In Slayings and Rapes

By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 12, 2004; Page A01

The stranger came in through the kitchen window, readying the German semiautomatic.

The little girl saw him first. "Daddy! Daddy!" screamed 9-year-old Erika Smith.

"It's a day we will always remember when the rest of the world forgets," Carol Smith wrote on the first anniversary of the slayings of her daughter, Erika, and Erika's father, Greg Russell. (Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

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Upstairs, in the house on a shady street in Silver Spring, her father dropped the phone he'd been talking into. "Erika!" Greg Russell roared. The line cut off.

By the time police kicked in the front door that August night in 2002, father and child had been shot to death.

Three nights later, the killer struck again, prosecutors say.

Seattle tourist Katie Hill was shot in the head, moments after stepping out of the Takoma Metro station in Northwest Washington. Hill, a lawyer who favored the gentle pastimes of knitting and pen collecting, fell onto her back, arms splayed above her head.

The slayings were shocking in their randomness and brutality, and there was community outrage when police identified the killer as a D.C. parolee named Anthony Kelly -- a veteran criminal who had been released from prison nearly five years early. Parole agencies maintained that they had done all they could to keep him in check.

Prosecutors have since charged Kelly with killing three people, raping two women, assaulting a police officer and stealing five guns and five cars -- all in the nine months after he left prison. Most of the crimes occurred while he was on "maximum supervision."

Documents and interviews show that Kelly never should have qualified for parole and that he should have been locked up again well before the killings.

Other mistakes occurred, including failures by parole employees to follow parole agency guidelines and lapses in supervision. After Kelly was arrested in an assault on a police officer, his parole officer did not know that Kelly failed to show up for a pretrial hearing until nearly three weeks later -- and then only when Kelly called to tell him.

So many agencies missed so many chances to stop Kelly before the killings that it "sounds like the worst case I've ever heard of," said Carl Wicklund, a 30-year veteran of parole issues and executive director of the American Probation and Parole Association, a 30,000-member organization of criminal justice professionals. "It's almost surreal."

Kelly, 40, repeatedly has said he was arrested as a scapegoat in the high-profile slayings and that he was somewhere else when each homicide occurred. He has said that he is especially angry that police would charge him with the slaying of a child and that he wants to face trial quickly to prove his innocence. His defense attorney has suggested that police might have planted evidence against him.

The prosecutions against him in Montgomery County and the District stalled this spring after a judge ruled that he is mentally incompetent to stand trial. He is in custody in a maximum-security ward of a psychiatric facility in Maryland.

Whatever the outcome of Kelly's trials, the implications of the case are particularly disturbing in the District, one of the nation's most violent cities. Kelly, whose IQ has been tested at 67, fooled his parole officers for months. Some 2,500 other inmates come home from prison to the city each year, and law enforcement agencies struggle to keep track of roughly 14,000 men and women who are on parole or probation at any given time.

In that shifting tide of difficult lives, parole officials thought they knew all about Anthony Kelly.

They were wrong.

A Life Marked by Crime

Trouble and Anthony Kelly have long been on a first-name basis. He has spent more than half of his adult life in prison, according to court records, having been convicted over the years of 14 crimes, 12 of them felonies.

A grade-school dropout, Kelly endured a poverty-stricken childhood in Northeast and Southeast Washington, according to psychological evaluations filed in court. By 20, he notched his fourth arrest as an adult, and he went to prison after pleading guilty to "34 second-degree burglaries . . . 12 car thefts and 27 thefts from autos," court records show.

Broad-shouldered and strong, Kelly repeatedly fought with inmates and argued with guards, according to records and psychological evaluations. A parole officer at Lorton Correctional Complex noted in a 1988 report that Kelly was "extremely troubled . . . a pathological liar."

In 1996, he was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for pulling out a gun, chambering a round, pointing the weapon at his wife's aunt and threatening to "blow off" her head, as well as her husband's, according to court documents.

Life did not get easier in prison. An enraged fellow inmate stabbed Kelly in the back of the head shortly after he was incarcerated, nearly killing him. Over the years, Kelly reported neck and back pain from that and other incidents, as well as pneumonia, vomiting blood, ulcers and an irregular heartbeat.

While in prison, he filed more than 30 handwritten lawsuits against police, prosecutors, the judge, prison officials, even his defense attorney. Meanwhile, he told these people and others that he was a changed man.

"I am so glad that I did time, because it woke me up, and now I am a good person," he wrote in a letter to his sentencing judge during the winter of 2000. He continued the thought in a subsequent handwritten missive: "It is time to give back to society for all that I have taken from it. . . . [I am] no threat to the community at all."

The U.S. Parole Commission concluded that Kelly deserved another chance in 2001 and granted his request to be released.

The commission did not realize that Kelly was not who he was presenting himself to be. While petitioning for parole, Kelly submitted a phony GED certificate, dated March 17, 2000, and he was seeking millions of dollars in loans from banks for a nonexistent business, records show. The false GED helped Kelly maintain an "ordinary program achievement" record, a status that changed his score on an agency grid from "deny parole" to getting parole "with highest level of supervision," according to agency guidelines. The agency did not notice the deception.

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