A plea for Ryan

Kelly family calls for justice in murder case, community to hold rally amid alleged plea bargain for defendant

Missing piece: Members of the Kelly family holds a painting of Ryan by forensic artist and Philadelphia police officer, Jonny Castro, after it was presented to them at the 2nd annual Beef and Beer for Ryan Kelly. PHOTO COURTESY OF AMY CAMPBELL

By Melissa Komar

Ryan Kelly wasn’t given the opportunity to bargain for his life when he was shot in the chest on Thanksgiving morning in 2015.

He couldn’t plead that he only wanted to walk to his home mere feet away where his mother stood waiting at the door for her youngest child of five, only to see him murdered in cold blood.

He didn’t get the chance to ask his killer to reconsider so he could go on to someday start his own family.

Ryan Kelly was robbed of all the life that lay ahead of him, but, under Larry Krasner, Philly’s new district attorney, the man who allegedly took away those opportunities may one day have the chance to experience them.

A week and a day before thousands of Philadelphians took to the streets to participate in March for Our Lives, a planned anti-gun violence rally and a demonstration of solidarity for the victims of the recent Parkland school shooting, the Kelly family received grim news.

Cydney Pope, the fourth and newly assigned ADA for the case, called Ryan Kelly’s mother, Cathy Kelly, on Thursday, March 15, requesting an emergency meeting with the family on Friday, March 16.

According to the Kelly family, Pope, along with the detective assigned to the case, Joseph Bamberski, arrived at their house to inform them her superiors had attempted to make a guilty plea bargain with the defendant charged with Kelly’s murder, David Ramos Jr., a Wissinoming resident, to avoid trial and possible life in prison.

The judge appointed to the case, Steven Geroff, reportedly dismissed the deal because the sentence was too low: 22 ½ to 44 ½ years for pleading guilty to murder, according to the Kellys.

Now, the DA’s office is scheduled to meet with Ramos on Wednesday, March 28, in an attempt to make another plea bargain.

“Throughout the entire case, we were told it was cut and dry. There was no doubt about it that the defendant would get life in prison without parole,” said Amy Campbell, Kelly’s sister, sitting at her parent’s kitchen table this past Sunday. “Throughout the entire process, it was said to us it was such a concrete case. We had so much evidence against David Ramos.”

“And, that the new DA would not affect our case,” added Bill Kelly, Kelly’s father. “But, he has affected our case. And a lot of other people’s cases.”

Keanu Glenn, the other defendant charged in the case, pled guilty last year to third-degree murder, robbery and other charges in exchange for a plea bargain that included a 20- to 40-year prison term.

The Kellys met Pope in February for the first time, after the prior ADA was fired by Krasner.

“She pretty much told us everything else the other ADAs had said. That it was a clear-cut case, there’s so much evidence. We all felt really confident about the case and where it stood,” Campbell said. “She was pretty much telling us this was one of the easiest cases she could take to trial and that she was 100 percent for this.”

“She said she wasn’t worried about the case. He’s going away for life without parole,” added William Kelly, Kelly’s brother. “She said she was more worried about the family going through this again.”

When Cathy received the phone call on March 15 and told her about the request for the emergency meeting, the family had no concerns, based on their previous meeting with Pope.

“When she came out with Detective Bamberski, as she sat down, the first thing she said was, ‘We messed up.’ We thought we were getting positive news knowing the case was set to go to trial on April 2.”

After telling the family how many years Ramos had initially been offered, she told the Kellys “most people in PA serve 80 percent of their term. She kept saying that to make it sound better,” according to Rich Campbell, Kelly’s brother-in-law.

“At one point, she said we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” said Cathy Kelly, gesturing to herself and her husband, Bill Kelly. “But, it would be more of our kids and grandkids.”

Pope then asked the family how many years they would think would be fair for a sentence.

“Well, forever. Life without parole,” Bill Kelly said. “And she said, ‘That’s not gonna happen.’ ”

When the family asked what a realistic sentence might shape up to be, the response hinged on Krasner’s control of the DA’s Office: 35 to 70 year prior to Krasner, 30 to 60 now that Krasner is the DA.

Reached via email, Cameron Kline, senior communications advisor for the DA’s Office stated, “because this is still an open and active case, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office cannot comment.”

The Kelly family would prefer to go to trial and not give Ramos a deal; that is not an option and a new deal would be offered, according to Campbell.

“They think they are doing us a favor by not having to sit through a trial, but we don’t want him to get out,” William Kelly said. “If [Ramos] accepts the plea deal, that’s him getting out when he’s 50 years old and getting a second chance. Ryan didn’t get a second chance.”

While getting justice for Ryan is ultimately what the Kelly family hopes for, making sure no other individual or family can be hurt is just as important.

The Kelly family said they were told by Pope the approach wasn’t just for Ryan’s case, it would be used more frequently going forward, that murder cases wouldn’t be taken to trial.

The family of Robert Wilson III, a Philadelphia police officer shot and killed during a robbery at a GameStop, may be facing a similar situation. Krasner recently visited the family asking their opinion about a plea deal, despite after a judge approved the prosecution going forward to seek the death penalty, according to The Daily News.

Amy Campbell wrote a letter to express her disappointment, demand justice for her brother and garner support from local officials, legal authorities, the media and posted it on social media on Friday. Campbell dropped the letter off at state Rep. John Taylor’s office the same day and within a couple hours, Patty-Pat Kozlowski contacted her for permission to organize a rally.

The Port Richmond native and Bridesburg resident is running in the 177th State Representative District race and was at the office with Taylor when Campbell visited and had seen the letter circulating on Facebook.

Kozlowski was outraged, having been involved with the family since Kelly’s murder, first helping to organize a cleanup in his memory, and later assisting with a tree planting in his honor and donating her DJ services to the beef and beer fundraiser in his name.

“I saw Amy’s statement online and I was crushed about it. I was ticked off,” Kozlowski said. “It’s one thing for the DA to be soft on petty crime. But, when he’s actually attacking the victims, and this was cold-blooded murder, and, now he is trying to plead it? It’s preposterous and if we don’t speak up, who’s going to? It’s a damned shame. If we don’t stand up for justice for Ryan, it’s going to be someone next in Philadelphia.”

Kozlowski spoke with Taylor and then contacted Campbell to suggest holding not only a candlelight vigil, but a protest rally to get the word out that what could happen goes beyond the boundaries of Port Richmond.

“We never thought this was going to happen in Port Richmond. We never thought this was going to happen to Ryan,” she said. “But, this is going to impact the whole city. There could be a Ryan Kelly walking down the street in South Philly, Rittenhouse, Chestnut Hill or Somerton. Unfortunately, another kid is going to get killed and what’s our DA going to do? Give the killer a plea deal? This has to stop,” Kozlowski said.

For the Kelly family, it may be too late to stop a plea bargain in Ryan’s case, but there will be more families.

“At this point, I feel the criminals have more say and more rights than the victims,” Campbell said. “It’s important to get the message out there. This is happening across the city. It might be too late in Ryan’s case, but there are going to be other cases. We just hope the victims and victims’ families have more rights going forward. If we can help other families, that would be enough.”

The Justice for Ryan Kelly rally and march will be held on Saturday, March 31, from 7 to 9 p.m. The march and rally will begin at 2700 E. Venango St., the site where a tree was planted for Ryan at Saint George School, and will continue on Venango Street to Almond Street, the site of Ryan’s murder. For details or to help, contact Patty-Pat Kozlowski at 215–816–3363 or yopattypat@yahoo.com.