Yesterday, the Arkansas Times carried a story about four black teens in Wynne (Cross County) who were held at gunpoint by Jerri Kelly, who found them “suspicious” and apparently did not take kindly to the children going door to door as part of a fundraiser.
As noted in the story, Kelly is the wife of Cross County Jail Administrator Joe Kelly. When Ms. Kelly was transported to the jail, she was apparently booked, but her mugshot was not taken due to an alleged “medical issue.” Despite the lack of mugshot, Cross County Sheriff David West–Kelly’s husband’s employer–said that Kelly was not given any preferential treatment. Kelly bonded out shortly after being booked into the jail.
All of that is fairly straightforward1 What struck me, though, on top of the missing mugshot and the quick processing and release, was the fact that Kelly and her husband appear to be ongoing recipients of “preferential treatment” when it comes to the Cross County Sheriff’s Office.
Jerri and Joe Kelly live–and the incident occurred–at 30 Morningside Dr. in Wynne. According to property records, that house is owned by a company called M&M Rentals, LLC.
The owner of M & M Rentals? According to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s website, it is someone named David West. Who lives at 18 Wynnewood Dr. in Wynne.
When West formed M & M Rentals in 2009, he lived at 18 Wynnewood Dr. (He sold that house to his father, John West, in 2015.)
Where it gets even more interesting is when you consider that, according to tax records, Jerri and Joe Kelly lived in apartment in Wynne (also owned by David West’s company) as of March 2018. Joe Kelly’s voter registration still shows him at the apartment address as of the date he submitted his absentee ballot in the 2018 election. So it was some time after the 2018 election and when the Kellys assessed their personal property in March 2019 that the Kellys moved to the 30 Morningside address.
Care to guess who was first elected Cross County Sheriff in 2018 and took office at the start of 2019? That’s right — David West. And, for bonus points, would you like guess who did not become Cross County Jail Administrator until David West had been elected? If you said Joe Kelly, you’re definitely picking up what I’m putting down here.
So…David West wins election as sheriff and Joe Kelly is quickly given a new job under West as jail administrator. Kelly and his wife also, in the same timeframe just after West’s election, move from a small apartment owned by West to a 1593 square foot house owned by West. Then, when Kelly’s racist wife pulls a gun on four black teens, two of whom had their Wynne H.S. football jerseys on, and she is arrested, she does not have to have her mugshot taken because of a “health issue”?
I have handled cases where someone was obviously in the throes of a serious health incident when they arrived at the jail. In one case, a person was obviously suffering from a drug overdose and would later die in the jail (not Cross County). Even in those circumstances, the people always had their mug shots taken. What was Ms. Kelly’s “health issue” that was so serious that no mugshot could be taken? No one is saying,2 but her brother did offer this tidbit:
Kelly’s brother told WHBQ that she is disabled and experiences seizures and her reaction was because she felt threatened by the students.
Because…you know…a common side-effect of epilepsy and other seizure disorders is to freak out about black teens near your house, pull a gun, and run outside and hold them at gun point, all without having a seizure. I think that’s in the DSM-V.
Despite all of this, Sheriff David West insists that Jerri Kelly did not receive any preferential treatment when it came to her booking at the county jail. This makes sense, I suppose. After all, when you’ve already upgraded her living situation and given her husband a job as jail administrator, not having Kelly’s mugshot taken doesn’t seem all that preferential.
If you are interested in more of the backstory on what happened and more about Jerri Kelly–who is already trying to spin herself as the victim here–Heavy.com has a great rundown of the details here.
UPDATE: Jerri Kelly’s initial appearance in court was this morning. Apparently, someone realized that the lack of mugshot was not playing well to the public, so Ms. Kelly’s picture was taken just before 10am today: