“Our hope and prayer is that something good comes from the suffering of all these children. Because they are worth more than this! They are valuable. Each one, no matter what they’ve done, is redeemable. Even an adult’s life is redeemable. But the child! How much more redemption can we offer them? Their brain’s still developing, they’re still growing, they’re still learning, they’re teachable. We should give them hope… That’s my hope, that we will give these kids hope, and a future.”
Kelly Greer is the stepmother of a child named Vince who, a week after he turned 15 years old, had a psychotic break that resulted in a shooting attack on his parents. His father survived, his mother died. Kelly shares her story of the trauma and grief this family experienced as the boy was transferred to adult court and sentenced to life without parole.
Interview with Kelly Greer, conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on March 03, 2017 at the MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis, MO.
Joann: Okay so tell me your name and your child's name and your relationship to that child.
Kelly: My name is Kelly Greer, and the child that I'm talking bout today is my step son. His name was Vince. And he was, he had turned 15 a week, he was 15 for a week when the incident happened. Do you want me to just tell? It was ... he turned 15 and had an obvious psychotic break. There were some signs leading up, he had been class president, he was a star athlete, he was a loving son and brother. His family was whole. I became his stepmother after this happened. When I started advocating for the family because I knew the family. And could not believe what happened and his age and that he was being treated as an adult.
So he had a psychotic break and in the morning, the morning before Thanksgiving in 1997 when his father went downstairs to wake him up for school and he shot both of his parents. And his mother died. And he was in his underwear and he had his socks on. And we would later learn that he was suicidal that night and he was up all night long trying to kill himself. And that when his father walked down and across the room he was hallucinating and he thought he was in war. And so there's a whole ... that was the beginning and that's what happened.
So the police called, when it was happening his little sister was eight years old and well, that was happening downstairs and everybody was just waking up for school and having breakfast and everything. So the older sister was 13, she heard it and her mom heard some noise downstairs, they heard something. What they heard was doors falling from the closet as my husband fell into the closet doors and after he was shot. And he didn't know he thought there was an intruder in the house, he didn't know, it was like a computer he said, "Oh my god, what happened to me?" It threw him into the room, threw him up against the closet doors, threw him back on the bed and he thought he got hit by a 2x4 or something. And as he lay there and roll over you know, he thought there was an intruder and he sees his son, backing up with his gun and I always get the guns wrong. But the gun that my husband had for hunting that was usually in his closet.
And he backed up and my husband, "Oh my god, it's my son. It's my son." And they're very close. He was his coach, they came from a large family, my husband's family they have eight kids, there's tons of cousins, they were always so close. And it was so out of character. Well so the family upstairs heard what was going on and they let ... they started calling ... because I know, his wife tried to come down the stairs and she saw her feet and yelled at her and said, "Donna go upstairs and call 9-1-1, I've been shot." And she locked the door and called 9-1-1. So she was protecting her 13 year old daughter and the eight year old was hiding in a box in the closet. And that was what happened to them.
And then you know he ran out of the house, they had a basement garage door and he could hear it lifting and he thought, "He's left." And he felt relief you know. And then he was trying to assess what's going on? I've been shot, it wasn't a 2x4 I'm bleeding. So then his son ran around and came up the deck and smashed the doors and came in and shot the mom with the daughter on her as she was on 9-1-1, as she was talking to 9-1-1. And he had a cast. He had his arm in a cast. He busted through sliding glass doors, that's how out of his mind he was. And he had had five head injuries, and at the time they didn't know much about head injuries. But he had had five sever concussions. In sports, in gym, even fell off the bleachers once in choir and hit his head.
And this last injury had broken his arm and he had hit the gym wall so hard that he had a concussion. And the doctors looked at his arm but they didn't look at his brain. And this is what resulted. Well and of course nobody knew at the time what happened, what's going on, everybody was in shock they didn't know, I mean who knows about this. This happens and the police came and they thought Stan was the shooter, not Vince. And Stan's my husband but his father. And they thought Stan was the shooter, not Vince. Because, you know. And Vince was just sitting there in a pool of blood and glass. Just totally our of it. And my husband had wrestled with him.
When he heard the glass break upstairs he ran upstairs and the door was locked, he couldn't get in. So he retreated and he busted down the door. And Vince was standing there with the rifle or the gun or whatever it was and said, "Dad, go downstairs." Just as calm as could be. And Stan retreated. You know retreated and acted like he was retreating and then he jumped on him. He didn't have to fight him, he said he like melted under him. And he said, "I don't know what it was but when I looked in his eyes I could tell it wasn't him. And then I saw a clearing," and he said, "I forgave him instantly. I instantly forgave him because I knew." And he didn't know what had happened to his wife yet exactly. Because there was an island you know separating them upstairs in the dining and kitchen area. So it was just an extremely traumatic experience for this family.
And then I had heard about it, I was a single mom and I took my boys down to Arkansas every year to be with their grandma and I was on my way home and we heard something on the news about it, on the radio. And then I got home and I heard it on the TV. And I didn't recognize the names. Honestly I thought it was probably something that happened in the city, I honestly did. I never dreamed that it would be somebody we knew. Then my son saw the newspaper and they said, "Mom, you know this family. This is ... we played ball against them in tournaments and he was the coach. He coached third base and we were both pitchers and he was the ... he also caught and his dad would coach third base when I played third base and he'd always be you know, rooting on the other team when I was standing there."
And I'm like "oh my goodness it is, this is the family we know." And I would remember we would always see them, their whole family would show up at the sports events and they'd just fill the bleachers. Cousins, grandparents, aunts, uncles, you know. And I was a single mom with two boys and I always thought, "What a lovely family. I would love to have a family like that." My parents were living out of state and I didn't have that kind of support. It was such a supportive family, it was shocking. It was shocking and it was heartbreaking. And at the times my sons were 13 and 15. And I sat down at the table and I read that paper and I thought, "He's a baby." You know, "What happened to this child?" I had no idea about anything. I didn't know them that intimately.
I just knew something happened to him, in him, through him and he needed help. And my heart just instantly broke for them, and broke for him. Like it would break for my own sons. So I was ... I knew his sister better so I called his sister and asked, "Is there anything I can do?" And she just said come to the vigils and they'd have prayer vigils, candlelight vigils, they were doing petitions, they were doing everything they could to try to raise awareness, because Vince had been taken into custody and he was in juvenile and they had planned a hearing. The whole family, the whole entire family supported him. Everyone in school, the teachers, the principals, everyone supported him. And everyone showed up at the hearing which was held like in January so this is ...
He had just turned 14 a week before, I mean 15 a week before this happened. So for all intents and purposes he was a 14 year old kid. He had just started high school, he didn't drive, he hadn't had a date, I mean he's a kid. A 14 year old kid, in trouble. Never been in trouble before. Never had any problems with the law. Like I said he was an honor student, he was in the gifted program, he was just really really doing well. Actually leading up to this he was experiencing some difficulties so the teacher had said, "I really think he needs to be looked at, he's not healthy." And they'd been having a little bit of trouble and they thought maybe it was girl related or just normal ... it was hard to comprehend someone so smart could have a mental issue. That someone so intelligent could not function mentally.
And Stan could not put those two things together. So he had all the support and it was snowing that morning in January I remember and I was getting ready for work and the news was on in the background and I saw that they were having this juvenile hearing and I was shocked. That they could potentially certify this kid as an adult and put him in the adult system. Which I didn't even understand at the time entailed but to me it was mind-boggling. And as I said I had a 13 and a 15 year old son myself and I was like no way can they navigate that and they would need help if that happened. I would want to do nothing but help my son through this. And understand what happened and get him the help he needed you know. Because it was so out of character and obviously something tragic had happened.
So when I saw that I called my friend and she said, "Yes, we're having the hearing, come down." So I went down and just sat in the waiting room, it was packed, with so many people. And everyone testified on his behalf. Even I think he had been seen by a counselor or a psychologist or something when he was in juvenile and you know even looking back at the records and everything they showed a lower IQ than he has, they showed paranoia, some other attributes that would indicate that he was struggling mentally. But they didn't do anything to treat him. Nothing. And they didn't consider that. They had an attorney, they hired a psychiatrist, at the time the psychiatrist that they hired diagnosed him with schizophrenia. And we are not certain, I mean who knows. But he definitely had a psychotic break.
So he had a schizo-effective disorder at that moment whatever it was. It was definitely a psychotic break. Pretty much rubber stamped it and sent him to the adult court. They said it was due to a lack of facilities. Which later we started groping and searching and I say we because I started advocating for the family. I was working on networking, I developed a website for them, and online petition and started doing whatever I could to raise awareness. Which I didn't understand at the time probably wasn't a wise thing to do since they had court battle ahead of them, but anyway I did it. We just thought the court would be just and fair. The one thing that was difficult too was that ...
Joann: That… that sound is so loud and annoying.
Joann: Ok, that what was so difficult? Hang on a sec. [Pause for sound to stop.]
Kelly: Okay, so then we had searched around for answers as to what could be done with a child that has definitely had a mental break, committed a crime in the midst of that and needed help and needed to be held accountable. What do we have in Missouri that is available to this child? So we searched everywhere, all the way up, making phone calls all over the country. We called every senator, every congress person in the state, in the US Senate, the House, we sent letters to the president, we did everything we could think of. We did. Made phone calls, we just tried everything we could. And we went to resources, Campaign for Youth Justice, different probably national level juvenile justice. But there was nothing anyone could really do for us since it was in the middle of the court case. Nobody could intervene, nobody could step in.
So what happens in January is they transfer him to the justice center in Clayton for adults. To a trial. They charge him with first degree murder, first degree assault, and two counts of armed criminal action. Okay? No mercy. No concern about his state of mind or his wellbeing or his personhood. Here, you know, never been in trouble with the law in his whole life and he gets transferred in with the harshest of the harsh. Actually he was at Gumbo at first because they had the jail out in Chesterfield but they shut that down and then they transferred him to St. Louis County.
So okay now what happens, his attorney filed an appeal. Well to appeal the certification. You can't do that. Okay. You can't appeal the certification, there's no law that allows that. So this child is now stuck in the adult court system until that system is exhausted. And do you know what exhausts an adult court system? Or court case? All the way up the US Supreme Court and we know how long that takes. It would take forever. And ever and ever. He'd be old and gray before he ever was able to get a second look or a second chance. As a juvenile, as a child. He's a child. Just 15 years old.
So anyway, we couldn't believe it. And that was one of the major moments of defeat, feeling defeat. So now this family is grieving, I mean grieving the loss of their mother and wife, okay? They're grieving the loss of their brother and son. They're overcoming and trying to work through the shock and the trauma that they experienced at the hands of someone they love. And who they still love and have hope for and want to help. And their hands are tied, literally they can't do anything. Now that Vince is in the adult system, the extent of contact is when he wants to contact you. You know when he wants to make the phone call. And if he's feeling depressed or ashamed or whatever he's going through or frightened or whatever he can't get on the phone and call you.
He can't even meet with counselors there or anything. Because anything he says can and will be used against him. So he has no safe place to go. And the used it, they used his psychiatric treatment within the jail against him in court. Everything he said, when he was ... when they first arrested him and took him to the jail house in the city that he lived in, in Saint Anne, there was no father, the father was in the hospital, the mother was on life support. They went to the hospital and they got his brother-in-law who was a friend of the police who was a citizen cop. He had gone for the citizen training and he was very angry what happened of course, he didn't understand it. And that's how he was expressing himself.
And when he went to represent Vince, and it wasn't at my husband's approval, so it wasn't with the parents' approval, and Vince did not have an attorney present with him, and when he went there to be there when they were interrogating, he didn't even hug him, he didn't even greet him, he didn't even say hello, he didn't even treat him as a human. So he basically had no advocate from the very beginning because his father had been shot, a bullet lodged into his spine still till this day. Thank god his spine was not severed. But he couldn't go be with his son because he was in the hospital of course. And his mother couldn't go because she was on life support.
So here now he's in the adult system, so what does he get with his family? Well first of all he gets no schooling, he just turned 15, he gets no schooling. He is a highly gifted, high IQ individual who gets no schooling. He's a child who has nothing to do. Nothing. To be safe he's isolated from others and he is locked into a cell where he has nothing to do. And he's mentally suffering. And he just experienced I consider him a victim himself. To me I liken it to more of a victim, or I liken what happened to him as less culpable than when someone decides to take a drink and drives and wrecks a car and kills somebody when they're drunk. Because they knowingly, knowingly altered their mind. And they knowingly got into a vehicle and they killed someone. They should be held more culpable than someone who's had a psychotic break.
Well not in the courts and not with juveniles. And that's what we learned, because he got no help. Okay they had a grand jury hearing before they came down, I'm kind of backtracking now, they had grand jury hearing. I mean all of this is new to the family, the family's never had legal cases or law involvement with the law before, ever. Nobody in the family. As a matter of fact my husband's father had written in sort of his final words, and I'm so proud of my children, all graduated from high school, a few in college and nobody in jail. Just kind of that old time country boy, I'm proud of my kids things.
And his dad was gone when this happened. Grandpa had already gone to heaven so there was no help or advice from him either for my husband, Stan. How to navigate through this. Anyway, so the grand jury ... at the grand jury hearing the assistant prosecuting attorney told the family we are going to do everything we can to get him help. If we determine that he has a need for help we are going to do everything we can to get him help. Of course they didn't. They didn't get him any help. They had all kinds of testimony on his brain injuries, we even tried to get the attorneys to do a brain scan. They said that wouldn't be good because if it didn't show anything it would be detrimental to the case.
We had no clue, you're at the mercy of these attorneys, you're at the mercy of these prosecutors. You don't know who ... we had no idea that they were using things you say against you or interrogation tactics. We didn't understand the process at all. And I say we, I'm speaking for the family because I wasn't involved early on through all of the process but I've learned of all. But anyway, so then what happened is he's in the Saint Louis county jail and the contact with his family now is two, I think it was two nights a week that you could go. One or two for 45 minutes. And you go up, he was up on the sixth floor or something, he got moved different times. But you go up and you could ... there could only be three of you.
And especially when Stan and I later got married we were a combined family, we were a blended family, there was five of us. We could never go as one family ever to see him. We couldn't even go, Stan and I and both of his daughters. We couldn't even do that. Somebody had to stay behind. We could never go together. And you would have to, you know, it was loud in there, it was all cinder block and glass and the phones crackled, the wires never worked they were always short. It was very difficult to have any kind of contact.
Joann: So the situation was, you were…
Kelly: Right. So the situation was we were divided by this glass. There's no contact. There's just ... it was just so sad and so hard. And only one of us could really be up there at a time. The others had to sit in the back and then there would be other families there and little kids running around and people cussing and screaming and little kids having fits. It was very difficult to have a visit. It was very difficult to have a visit. And you know there were times when we couldn't go. We would show up and for some reason he was on lockdown and we would not know why. Or there were times when he wouldn't come and we wouldn't know why. We didn't know what was happening to him.
And you couldn't do anything about it. And I mean just stupid, silly things like somebody wearing something they weren't allowed to wear. And they didn't have any way ... my husband once gave the shirt off his back to somebody visiting a family member because they weren't allowed in because it was a man and he had a tank shirt on. So it was just so many rules and regulations and limitations and when he did call us it was very expensive. We had to put money on his books, it was very expensive for him to call home. We were blessed to have the resources, but there were so many families that would not have those resources.
And it's so ... if you study mental illness and you look, I've since had a brain injury myself so I really relate to what Vince went through personally in a very significant way. You need the support and love and affirmation of your family. That is the most critical thing to healing and good health. It's so critical. Even with therapy and everything else. And he wasn't getting any of that. We tried for awhile, we paid for his health insurance, we continued paying for it for two years hopeful that we would be able to get him access to doctors to help him. Never were able to.
We tried the psychiatrist that we had hired to evaluate him when it first happened. He would prescribe medications but there was no way to assure that he would take them. So he had no help. And he's in there with criminals. You know, adult criminals. No peers, nobody his age. Now when he turned 16 he did have a roommate and his name is Adrian and he's a very good friend of ours and we still ... he ended up with a 25 year sentence and his case was similar to Vince's but he plea bargained and got 25 years. But what ended up happening to our son is he waited over two years for trial. Over two years not a day out in sunlight. Not a day. Horrifying.
You can't do anything. You can't protect him. You can't reach him. You can't really know how he's doing. And he, the person that he is, was so full of sorrow that he hurt his family like that. That he never complained. He never complained. So he did not cry to us, he did not cry for help, he did not beg for help, he did not tell all of the things that were happening to him. We came at times and he had bruises. He had swollen eyes and like I said at times we weren't able to go, he did tell us one time that he witnessed a murder. He witnessed a murder, someone beat someone to death with a sock full of soap. And then on the news they said the man choked on a Jolly Rancher. But our son witnessed it, he saw it, and he told us all about it.
So this is what is happening to this just 15 year old. So for his 16th birthday, that was a memorable moment. His first birthday in jail awaiting trial as an adult. And we visited him on that day, three of us. And then a few others met us afterwards in the parking lot and it was night time because that's when the visits were. And we brought a cake and we put candles on it and we got balloons, helium balloons and he said afterwards that he was able to go to rec, and he told us which side of the building. And he knew the sides because his dad taught him all about nature, he knew east from west and he knew where the sun set and rose. So he told us which side of the building to go to and we sang happy birthday and we let the balloons go. And we could see like shadows up there at the window and who knows if they were his. Or whose they might be.
And so we saved the cake. We wrapped it up and we put it in the freezer. We thought maybe one day he could have a piece of the cake. And we just kept trying. So then he turned 17 he'd been there two years. And then they finally started a trial that January. After his 17th birthday. And the room was filled with more reporters. Every thing he went through, all of the struggles all of his psychosis, everything his struggle with suicidal thoughts, his everything he suffered from, every thought he had, was just broadcast to the world. And it was ironic because he said in psychoanalysis that he felt as if his thoughts were being broadcast to the world. And they ended up being broadcast to the world.
And the old juvenile system used to protect children. They wouldn't even release their name. And here in his darkest hour and need, and in his family's most traumatic time in their life, victims themselves, wanting to help their son and brother and grandson who they find equally a victim. Vince lost his mom, too. Psychotic break, it wasn't him. And he had no choice. And here he was suffering right along with his family. And at the same time he's a teenager and a teenager who doesn't want to admit that he has a problem or wants to boast to his girlfriend or doesn't want his friends to think that he's crazy. I mean it's just ... it's really an unfathomable place to me. It's just an unimaginable situation to be in, I can't fathom what he experienced.
And he did it without the help he needed. And here he was now in trial. And it was so highly publicized and the prosecutor, it was just right after they changed the laws and made them tougher. During where they made it tougher for juveniles and they allowed for the certification of juveniles as an adult. It was just like a year or two later, I think it was '96 when those laws came to be and I was clueless. I didn't know juveniles could be treated like that. You know some states it was as low as nine years old. In Missouri it's 12. I'm flabbergasted. I had no idea that they could throw a child into an adult criminal system, with adult criminals. And ignore their needs at this great time of need.
So it was just unbelievable really. So what happened then, they sequestered the jury since it was this timely ... and the prosecutor made a name for himself. Here was and I don't mean to say it but here was a white suburban boy that was a teenager that committed this awful crime, he didn't care why or how, it was just his decision that he was going to be as firm and tough as he could because that was what was happening at the time. Now I cannot say that was the motives, but he had the power to do that. Because the legislature gave him that power to do that. And he has to do his job, so I'm not ... but we don't think it was the right decision. Because it was justice without any mercy at all.
So here we have this court room filled with reporters, a jury that's sequestered. A two week trial. Okay? Bear in mind that Vince's dad Stan is both the father of the defendant and a victim. Okay? We're not that far into the trial and who's going to hire an attorney for that boy, right? The father. The family, right. Well the judge decides one day because the prosecutor raised it that it's a conflict of interest. So because of an apparent conflict of interest that the father is a supporting the sun through the hiring of an attorney that that just is an apparent conflict of interest since he's a victim and that's not allowable. So the attorney that had been paid for, with a lot of money, to represent Vince was now had to withdraw. Because he could not have a conflict of interest or even the appearance of one or it would compromise the case.
So then we had to hire a second attorney. So now there's the monetary ... I mean it's ridiculous how much in all I can tell you that our family had to spend $75,000 trying to protect Vince and get him help. Throughout this entire thing. And it's not about the money, we would have spent millions. We would have done everything we could to earn the millions to spend the millions. Anything we could to help him. But no money made a difference. So it doesn't matter who you are, where you come from, how much money you have, this can happen to you too. It can happen to you. And it happened. And it happened.
So the mind blowing thing is, you go through this two weeks of a trial and it's shocking. It is absolutely shocking what you discover in a trial, in an adult trial. First of all things we discovered were okay the conflict of interest, the fact that they publicized everything. They had news feed, court TV in the courtroom so that child had no protection from exposure or further harm. Nobody was protecting him. No one in any kind of way. Even at the victim's request, Stan, my husband had filed a affidavit for non-prosecution with the prosecution office. He did not want to prosecute his son. And that didn't matter, it was overlooked, it had no effect. They had talked about Vince pleading guilty but he, as a child, said I'm not guilty. He just couldn't ... he didn't do it in his right mind and he knows, he couldn't even remember most of it. And he knows that he didn't do it on purpose and he wasn't responsible for it. He understood that much.
So he wouldn't accept a plea bargain. He would only of any kind of thing, he would only plead not guilty. And they don't have in the state of Missouri even in the adult court, not guilty by reasonable of insanity. You're either guilty and insane or you're not guilty. Or you're guilty. He had no options. And all the family wanted was to get him help. When Donna died there was a list of psychiatrists and counselor's office in her purse that she had been calling from work to find out where to send her son and who accepted their insurance. Because the teacher had said, "We're concerned, he's not healthy, there's something going on with him. We don't know what it is but you need to get him help." And that's when they finally decided they needed to get him help.
And it was too late. They didn't know it was too late. Well none of this mattered, you know, all the testimony, nothing mattered. And anything that Vince did that was childlike was used against him. The letter he wrote, when the police first took him in they said, "Do you want to write a letter to your parents and your sisters?" So he wrote a letter apologizing, telling them that he didn't mean to hurt anyone. So basically he was admitting guilt. And they used that in his trial. A letter he sent to his girlfriend, "My parents have an attorney. I think they're gonna get me off." I mean he sent that to his girlfriend. He's a 15 year old kid. He's thinking he doesn't want them to think he's crazy or a murderer or a ... you know what I mean? He's a kid.
And Ashley, with his inhibitor shot at the time, not even able to really control things. Or his thoughts or shape them. All of that was used against him. Everything in trial and like I said it was a two week long trial, they were sequestered, it was difficult. So anyway, they ended up, the jury ended up finding him guilty on all four counts. They found him guilty of first degree murder, first degree assault, and two counts of armed criminal action. And we understood that the jury went back and the majority was against ... well first of all when they did the jury pool they asked if anyone would be willing to send a child to prison for the rest of their lives. And whoever said they couldn't was dismissed. So you end up with a jury pool that is adults, certainly not your peers when you're 15 years old, wouldn't you say?
I mean that to me was like ... all adults, and people who don't understand mental illness, okay? So anyway the jury pool went back and half were four Vince and half were against Vince. Half were going to do ... no they had a majority for not guilty and after being sequestered all that time, two weeks away from their family and everything, in a hotel. And the prosecutor would go up and say horrible things, during the trial, on TV. Very outspoken and very, my husband was also outspoken but he was kind, but he said I'm fighting for my son. I'm doing whatever I can to fight for my son. I know my son and I know he needs help. So I guess it became a personal thing to the prosecutor because he was vicious. Even in the courtroom you know, he would say thing, he tried the case himself, the head prosecuting attorney. He tried it himself and he stood in front of the people and would say, "Suppose I told you ..." and then would say a lie.
"Suppose I told you ..." that Vince's father was a coach and that he yelled at him all the time. It's like nobody testifying to anything like that. Nobody said anything and they would use "suppose I told you" kind of statements to influence the jury. They even used our marriage to influence it. When our daughter, the oldest daughter was on the stand they asked her where do you live, and she said, "I live with my dad and my stepmom." And they're like, "Who is your stepmom?" And she said, "Her, in court." Like that's a bad thing that he remarried. It's not. He had a good marriage, he was hurting, and he's a gift in my life, I'm so glad to have him, and he's glad to have me and we've been married 20 years now you know. But they tried to use that against us. Like after two years the man can't marry and move on with his life and his children can't have a mother.
It was just really mind boggling. Anyway, so…
Joann: What was his sentence?
Kelly: The sentence was life without possibility of parole. Life and two 20s. The first time he was sentenced and I say that because we appealed and he went back for a second trial. He had to do this again. And go back to saying ... you know, so he was immediately transferred to a maximum level five prison in I think I can't remember, intake they transfer him to Fulton and then from there he went to Petosi. And it's a maximum level 5, maximum security prison where they do all the executions. Okay? So now here he is, still needing help, thrown in that situation and we find out later that he tried to commit suicide at that time.
Again, if you protect a juvenile, or a child, I'm going to call him a child, because that's what he is. If you protect a child, I mean 14 years on the earth is not a very long time to live and then to have a mental break and then have all this trauma. I just don't even know, it's just by the grace of god that he even lived. But he was in there and he tried to commit suicide. And one time when we visited he was so out of it we knew something was wrong, and you know we couldn't stay with him we couldn't do anything about it. So we made sure we came back the next day and you know it's like an hour and a half away, it wasn't too bad and we were grateful for that, that we didn't have to travel too far but still some people couldn't travel that far to see their child.
And then there were times when we got turned away. And we couldn't visit. So we never knew for sure. And again we could not contact him, we had to rely on him contacting us. And we had to always keep money in his account. Which we could afford to do but not all families can do. It's heartbreaking. And they would charge incredible amounts, ridiculous amounts for people to talk to their kids. Anyway, so ...
Joann: What happened with the appeal?
Kelly: It was overturned and he was given a new trial. So when it was appealed he came back to Saint Louis County. But when it was appealed on one of the most ridiculous, they tried to do everything to taint the family. And it's really sad, pitiful and ridiculous the way they tried to do that. So it was overturned by one fact that could be up at public record, that you could see that would make you wonder. And instead of real issues like he wasn't represented properly, his rights weren't upheld when he was first taken into custody, he didn't receive any help for mental illness, he wasn't protected as a child, he wasn't given the psychiatric care that he needed, all these things that were key issues were not the things that the case was overturned on. It's almost laughable, really, how the system handled this case because it's so bizarre and so ... you can't believe it. As a thinking, logical human being you just can't believe that we would treat a child like this and put them through all this and put so many stumbling blocks in the process.
So then the case was overturned. He went back a second time and we understood that the jury was so pressured, one was vomiting when the decision came down. They were so pressured to change. And then just simple things that I didn't even know about. Instructions to the jurors, okay, they give instructions to the juror that say any psychiatric information that was given during the course of this trial is not submittable as evidence.
So they go back and they can't use anything because Vince wasn't diagnosed prior, you know. There was no way to help him and get that submitted as evidence. And then they did other things like, oh I don't know. Just all sorts of things.
Joann: So what was the outcome of that second trial, and ultimately then what happened?
Kelly: The second trial he was again found guilty first degree murder, first degree assault, armed criminal action, armed criminal action. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. It would have been a death sentence if he would have been 16. Because at 16 you can do that. So it was life without possibility of parole, life and two 20s. And instead of doing them concurrent, this judge, we had to go back to the same judge, with the same prosecutor, okay, in the adult court and he did it now. Instead of concurrent he did it consecutive. So Vince had no hope of ever getting out of prison, ever.
So he made it ten years total. And then ... and he was in several that time he got transferred to a different prison. And again maximum, level five, still about an hour and a half from us. And we went as often as we could. It was very difficult during holidays because we were trying to normalize life for the girls and for my sons, so it was hard. Our heart was so torn. We couldn't be in two places at once. So we would have to see him before or after the holiday because we couldn't take everybody. It was so limited and restricted.
So it was heartbreaking you know the way the limitations in your relationship but we did the best we could. And ten years in, one day the phone rang and it was the warden from Petosi. And I answered the phone and I was like, "Oh no," she asked for my husband, Stan. And I knew right away it wasn't good because they never call you. So my husband took the phone and I could hear them and he said, "Where? How?" You know. And my heart just sunk. And then he got off the phone and he said, "They found Vince and he's ... he wasn't consciousness and they revived him and they're transporting him to a hospital in Saint Louis. And they would call us when he was there." They couldn't even tell us which hospital or anything.
So we had to wait a couple hours until they finally called again and told us which hospital he was in. And then when we went to the hospital he was hooked up to life support. And they were keeping his lungs going with that machine. And he was beautiful. You know he didn't have any tattoos, he didn't succumb to any of that wickedness in there. I don't know how he didn't but he did it for ten years. And his ankle was shackled to the bed. And there were two guards there in the room. His color was really good. He had rope burns on his neck and on his wrists, that we didn't understand.
They did a rape kit. But we never got the results from that and the coroner did an autopsy and she said it was heroin. And we never knew him to use any drugs while he was there ever. We never had any signs except the one time we went there and it seemed like he was all messed up. Apparently he had tried to commit suicide then. We learned later from some other people.
Joann: You said he was on life support… did he die? Was there…
Kelly: He was brain dead.
Joann: So there was a decision?
Kelly: We had to. There was no hope. But our whole family got together there with him there and you could hold his hand and he was almost like he was alive because it really wasn't firm. And so he was with us and the guards stayed until they declared him dead, brain dead. And they ... we were able to give his organs for donation. And that was really good because his mother's organs were also given in donation. And a lot of people's lives were saved from that.
And the man that got ... or the woman that got Donna's heart we met and it saved her life on Thanksgiving. She was only 21. It saved her life. And she was near death and she went to college, and she got married, and she was driving, it was beautiful. And then the man that received Vince's heart loves baseball. So it was really ... I mean there's been a lot of blessings in everything that happened. But it's really still till this day unbelievable to me as a parent and as a citizen of Missouri and as a citizen of the United States that we would treat a child in such desperate need, we would not look out for him. That we would allow him and the court system to do that. And treat him that way. That we would not protect our children.
If we have such criminal neglect we would be criminals, if we treated our children like that. So anyway, I just tell my story, our story, Vince's story because he was a beautiful soul. You would love him. He was a beautiful, bright soul. He loved nature, he was a good brother, he was a loving father, he was an excellent stepson. He was a poet, he was an artist, he was so many things. And he's gone. He was a beautiful cousin. He was so funny, he had such a great sense of humor.
And he was so brilliant. He had so much to offer. It's worthless, you know. There was no redemption there. It was worthless. There was no redeeming the value of a life so young in that whole experience. And it was just riding off of life. A child. And throwing them away. He might as well of had a death sentence. And his attorney said that early on and we said, "Oh no, we're so glad he's alive." But he lasted and he held on I think for his family, for them. As long as he could.
He was suicidal when this began and he didn't get proper treatment and he still struggled with that all those years. So that's my story. That's Vince's story. That's my husband's story, Stan. And Lindsey's story. And Jenny's story. And Grandma [inaudible 00:58:59], aunt Judy. I mean, it's all the cousins. It's their life now. And our hope and prayer is that something good comes from the suffering of all these children. Because they are worth more than this. They are valuable lives. Each one, no matter what they've done, is redeemable. Even adult's life is redeemable but a child, how much more redemption can we offer them? Their brain's still developing, they're still growing, they're still learning, they're teachable. We should be giving them hope. We should be their hope. So anyway, that's my hope that we will give these kids hope and a future. That's my hope.
Joann: Thank you.
Kelly: You're welcome.