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Horace Edward KELLY





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape - Necrophilia
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: November 16-25, 1984
Date of arrest: November 25, 1984
Date of birth: 1959
Victims profile: Sonia Reed (female, 21) / Ursula Houser (female, 42) / Daniel Osentkowski (male, 11)
Method of murder: Shooting (.357 magnum revolver)
Location: San Bernardino, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on May 21, 1986

On November 16, 1984, police officers in San Bernadino, California, were alerted to the discovery of a woman's body at a local cemetery. Nude from the waist down, with her bra unfastened, the victim had been raped before she was shot in the chest and neck with a .357 magnum revolver. 

She was identified as 25-year-old Sonia Reed, last seen at a drug party the night of November 15. The following day, 42-year-old Ursula Houser was found dead in a San Bernadino alley, two miles from the Reed murder scene.

Shot twice from behind with a .357, the victim had then been dragged 35 feet to concealment, where the gunman finished his assault by raping her corpse. Ballistics tests matched bullets from the two shootings, and investigators knew they had a serial killer on their hands. 

Eight days elapsed before the next attack, in Riverside. Daniel Osentkowski, age 11, was walking his 13-year-old cousin home from a neighborhood store when they were accosted by a black man in uniform.

The stranger drew a pistol and grabbed Osentkowski's cousin, dragging the girl toward a van parked nearby. Daniel waded in on the attacker, kicking the man's shins, freeing his cousin before the gunman opened fire. Osentkowski was fatally wounded, but the gunman fled empty-handed, his would-be victim providing police with descriptions of both man and vehicle. 

That evening, 25-year-old Horace Kelly was stopped in a light green van, arrested when officers found a recently-fired .357 magnum in his vehicle. A native of New Jersey, employed for the past two years as a security guard, Kelly first denied everything, then confessed when his surviving victim made a positive I.D. 

Convicted of murder and attempted murder in the Osentkowski incident, Kelly was sentenced to death on May 21, 1986. 

Eight months later, he was convicted on two counts of murder in San Bernadino, receiving another death sentence.

Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers


Killer of 3 Is Mentally Fit to Be Executed, a California Jury Finds

By Don Terry - The New York Times

May 15, 1998

San Rafael, Calif. - A competency hearing that was supposed to have lasted a week ended here today after more than a month when a divided Marin County jury found a deeply disturbed death-row inmate with an IQ hovering in the 60's mentally fit enough to be executed.

The inmate, Horace E. Kelly, 38, is scheduled to be put to death this summer for the murder of three people in Southern California in 1984.

It is unconstitutional to execute the insane, and mental competency hearings are often convened before someone who is accused of murder is tried or before someone who is convicted of murder is sentenced. The Kelly hearing was called just days before Mr. Kelly's scheduled execution last month, when prison officials and state psychiatrists expressed doubts that he was able to meet the minimum mental competency standard. Mr. Kelly's lawyers argue that his insanity developed after he was sent to death row.

The threshold to be found competent for execution is so low that capital punishment experts can recall only a handful of cases across the country of a condemned inmate's being spared after such a hearing. If a jury, or a judge in most cases, determines that an inmate was ''aware'' of his pending execution and the reason for it, the inmate is deemed legally competent to die.

In a 9 to 3 verdict, the jury for Mr. Kelly said yes to both questions, even though one psychiatrist testified that when he asked Mr. Kelly during an interview what crime he had committed, Mr. Kelly answered, ''I'm here to go to college.''

Most of the mental-health experts who testified, including one appointed by the court, said Mr. Kelly was not competent enough to be executed.

''It was pretty much a surprise,'' Michael Aiello, the jury foreman, said of the decision. ''I thought we'd have a much closer vote. He's clearly insane.''

But Robert Mountanos, a juror who voted with the majority, said it was obvious that Mr. Kelly was aware of his crimes and his fate.

''I think he's ill,'' Mr. Mountanos said. ''But he's not insane.''

Robert B. Mazer, Mr. Kelly's main lawyer, said he would appeal. ''Mr. Kelly has a broken brain,'' Mr. Mazer said. ''He's completely out of touch with reality.''

Only one of the half-dozen psychiatrists and psychologists who testified at the hearing said that Mr. Kelly was competent to be executed, and she reached that conclusion, she said in court, partly because Mr. Kelly beat her in a game of tic tac toe.

The psychiatrist, Diane McEwen, who was appointed by the court, also said that Mr. Kelly was able to tell her the approximate ages of the three people he killed.

The other experts, including the other court-appointed psychiatrist, said that Mr. Kelly was suffering from severe mental illness and was unable to communicate coherently.

In his prison cell not far from here, according to testimony and prison logs, Mr. Kelly rolls his feces into little balls, hoards food in the toilet, rarely bathes and speaks in a low, rambling, incoherent string of mumbles. Most of the time, however, he remains silent.

His keepers call him Smelly Kelly and wear face masks when they clean his cell or escort him to meet with the small army of psychiatrists who have interviewed him over the last few years and months.

As the verdict was read, Mr. Kelly did what he has done for the entire hearing. He stared into the distance, a vacant expression on his face.


Horace E. Kelly

California: April 17, 1998

In San Rafael, a judge on Thursday postponed Horace Kelly's sanity hearing because 220 pages of his prison hospital records were missing from files that were handed over to his lawyers.

The results of the jury trial will determine whether Kelly is mentally fit to be executed.

Marin County Superior Court Judge William McGivern ordered San Quentin State Prison to provide the defense with Kelly's complete psychiatric and medical records, and the prison said it complied on March 24.

But on Wednesday prison officials came up with 220 more pages, showing Kelly was admitted to the prison hospital 9 times for psychiatric or related matters.

With the jury out of the courtroom, defense attorney Richard Mazer asked McGivern to postpone the hearing so that psychiatric witnesses could become familiar with the newly found material.

"The materials are highly relevant," Mazer said.

Ed Berberian, the Marin County prosecutor who will try to persuade the jury that Kelly is sane, opposed the delay, saying the records were unimportant.  The purpose of the sanity hearing is to determine Kelly's present comprehension, not his history, Berberian said.

But Mazer said prosecutors will tell the jury that Kelly is malingering. He said the evidence of long-standing, severe mental illness would refute those arguments.

"We are talking schizophrenia.  These are not the kinds of things that come and go like some form of mild neurosis," Mazer said.

Kelly was sentenced to death in Riverside and San Bernardino counties for the murders of 2 women and an 11-year-old boy.

His execution had been set for Tuesday but was postponed until the jury decides whether he is sane.  State and federal law forbid execution of the insane.

Kelly sat silently and almost motionless in the courtroom as 5 alternate jurors were selected and sworn in Thursday.  The 12 regular jurors were chosen a day earlier.

McGivern told the jury to report back next Tuesday when the trial is expected to begin.

The Sacramento Bee


Stop the Execution of Horace Kelly

Why a mentally ill man remains on death row

By Cameron Sturdevant

No one who knows Horace Kelly could claim he is sane, but that is exactly what a jury is being asked to say as this newsletter goes to print.

Horace Kelly is a 39-year-old man who has been on death row for 13 years. He is known to mutters to himself and does not answer questions logically. On his way to court the other day, he told his lawyer that the judge was about to decide whether he could join the Marines. Horace thinks death row is a vocational school - and that as soon as he gets his "certification," he can go home.

In his cell, Horace often sits in his own waste and rarely baths. Guards have to wear masks to clean his cell because the stench is so powerful. Michael Radelet, an expert on the execution of the mentally ill, said, "I've probably interviewed 300 people on death row across the country, including Horace Kelly, and he's the most impaired by far. There's no question about it. He's absolutely out of touch with reality."

Whether or not Horace Kelly is mentally fit to be executed remains in the hands of a 12-member jury. Kelly's court appointed lawyer said the state was trying to coach Horace so he could answer enough questions to meet the competency threshold for execution.

Horace Kelly's life has been filled with tragedy. At 3 years of age, his father scalded him with hot water, rammed his head into a wall and continued the abuse for years, according to his family. Horace's sister, Cynthia, in a statement given in March of this year, described their childhood: "I recall waking up one night to the sounds of my mother crying. I peeked through the crack in the door to see my mother hanging off the bed with my father on top of her, whipping her with an electrical cord. My mother was eight and a half months pregnant at this time." Cynthia goes on to describe being beaten and raped by her father and mother. She also described how Horace was also severely beaten and raped.

While this kind of abuse in no way justifies the murders committed by Horace Kelly, it is quite clear that the state of California could have provided the social services - like day care and medical and mental health services - which the Kelly family desperately needed.

Horace is the first African-American scheduled to die in California in more than 30 years. And he is also the first person being rushed to the execution chamber under the terms of the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, signed by President Clinton.

Activists from the Campaign to End the Death Penalty held a successful press conference and picket outside the courthouse on April 6 to raise the profile of Kelly's case in both local and national media.

This helped his attorneys win a temporary stay while the state decides if Kelly is sane enough to be executed. But Horace is not out of the woods.

California's Attorney General Dan Lungren is using the Kelly case to finesse procedures that will clear the way to execute other insane inmates. Both state and federal law, along with United Nations rules, strictly prohibit the execution of insane people, even if they become insane awaiting execution.

The 12-person jury deciding on Kelly's competency has 10 whites and no Blacks. All jurors were required to support the death penalty. Even more astounding, two people who believe that capital cases drag on too long were allowed to stay on the jury. Two others are directly related to county sheriffs. And because the sanity hearing is being tried under civil, not criminal, rules, a nine-member verdict will be enough to condemn Horace - as opposed to the unanimous vote required in criminal cases.

If the jury finds Kelly incompetent, he will be sent to a mental institution for "treatment." If after treatment his mental health improves, then he may be deemed fit for execution. As Horace's lawyer put it, "Treating him just so he can be killed, now that's really insane."

Activists must take this case to the streets in order to win justice.

The New Abolitionist - May 1998, Volume II, Issue 3



MO: Necrophile rape-slayer of two women; also shot 11-year-old boy while trying to abduct the victim's female cousin.

DISPOSITION: Condemned 1986.



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