“I’m not who I used to be. I’m not even who I was supposed to be,” Kelly testified in an Alabama court, according to AL.com. “I lived the story of Cinderella with no happy ending.”
Kelly’s remarks underscored the impact of Richard and Cynthia Kelly’s maltreatment, as a judge imposed the sentence agreed upon when the couple pleaded guilty to child abuse in December: 10 years in prison, only two years and a day of which they will have to serve. They will then be on supervised probation for three years, AL.com reported.
Shelby County Circuit Judge William H. Bostick called the sentence inadequate but lamented that his hands were tied by the state’s sentencing guidelines.
“Mr. and Mrs. Kelly, it was in your best interest to enter a plea to this charge because if I had the authority, I would sentence you to a lot more than a 10-year split-two sentence,” Bostick told the couple, according to AL.com. “It would be somewhere in the realm of 20 years to life if I weren’t constrained by the law. But I am.”
Ethan and his older brother, Eddie Carter, met Richard and Cynthia Kelly in 2007 when the couple adopted them. They gave up custody of Carter a year later, citing behavioral issues.
Ethan Kelly said that’s when the abuse began, ABC 33/40 reported.
From the time he was 11, the couple kept Ethan trapped in a basement room for nearly 23 hours each day with only a box spring in the room. Locks, an alarm system and a camera prevented him from leaving. Curtains covering the closed window collected stains from Kelly using them to dry his hands, Helena police Detective Sean Boczar testified, according to the TV station.
Ethan was allowed a supervised trip to the bathroom each morning, Boczar said. He said Richard Kelly, now 60, and Cynthia Kelly, 51, also gave their adopted son diapers after he got in trouble for urinating in a litter box, according to AL.com.
Speaking directly to the court, Ethan said his adoptive parents poured salt and alcohol into his open wounds, forced him to run laps and bang his head against a wall, and beat him with belts and wooden paddles.
“They told me no one loved me or would ever love me,” Ethan testified, according to AL.com.
“Even though you’ll never say, ‘I’m sorry,'" he told his adoptive parents, “I forgive you.”
But Richard and Cynthia Kelly did not seem to want their son’s forgiveness. The couple denied abusing him and claimed they brought him to football games, extracurricular activities and his sister’s cheerleading competitions, AL.com reported.
In their version of events, Ethan’s bedroom was bare because he had destroyed some of the furniture in it and they took the rest away as punishment. They fed him once a day because otherwise he would eat too much, they said, and they kept him separated from the rest of the family because their dog barked when he was around.
The couple said they were scared of their adoptive son, who they claimed threatened to kill them in their sleep and once put his hands around Cynthia Kelly’s neck at night, according to AL.com.
Bostick told the Kellys he found their explanation inadequate. He acknowledged that their adopted son “had problems, but parents are supposed to treat problems, not ignore them,” ABC 33/40 reported.
Richard and Cynthia Kelly’s avoidance of Ethan’s problems came to an end on Nov. 13, 2016, when Richard took the boy to a hospital. He was then airlifted to another a hospital, placed on a ventilator for about a week and held for more than a month before he was placed in a therapeutic foster home, according to AL.com.
That ordeal, Bostick said, may have been for the better.
“Ethan, if I may say so, I’m glad you almost died four years ago,” he said, according to AL.com. “Because if your physical condition hadn’t gotten bad enough to require that medical intervention, you probably wouldn’t be here today.”