Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 - In an afternoon hearing today, Cory Kelly of Galion pleaded guilty to reduced charges in the July 4, 2011 death of Joseph Rosella of Morrow County.
Kelly faced charges of aggravated murder and tampering with evidence before accepting a plea offer of voluntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence, and agreeing to testify truthfully against any co-defendants involved in the crime.
Kelly appeared in court with his attorney, Earl Desmond, where Morrow County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Hickson, Jr. explained Kelly’s rights and affirmed that he understood the consequences of changing his original ‘not guilty’ plea to ‘guilty.’ A jury trial was scheduled to begin March 3, and Kelly signed papers relinquishing the trial and acknowledging a part in Rosella’s death.
Voluntary manslaughter is a first degree felony and carries a sentence of 3 - 11 years. Tampering with evidence is a third degree felony and can result in a sentence of 9 - 36 months. The sentences would be served consecutively.
As recently as January 27, 2014, Desmond filed a motion to drop all charges against Kelly, citing the 180 day limit under the ‘speedy trial’ statute has expired and the case should be dismissed on those grounds. What changed?
“With the motion to dismiss, it’s a 50/50 proposition with a jury trial,” said Morrow County Prosecutor Charles Howland after the hearing. “A straight murder charge will bring a suspect 15 years-to-life in prison. The reduced sentence brings a maximum of 15 years.” Howland said there are also serious questions as to the cause of death.
“There are multiple theories as to what happened, and how and why.”
Howland said Kelly was living with Carmella Rosella, daughter of the victim, and having arguments about the property and about Kelly staying in a trailer that was owned by Joe Rosella. One alleged theory, Howland said, was about Rosella possibly reporting Kelly to the parole board for parole violations. Kelly was on probation after his February 14, 2011 release from prison over a conviction of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
“Worse yet, there are multiple theories as to ‘who did what’ in participation in this matter,” Howland continued. “[Kelly] said he hit [Rosella] with a ballbat. These…,” he said, showing post-mortem photos of the victim, “are cleavage injuries. That’s an ax mark. That would cause real problems with a jury; [implying] there was another individual involved. Rosella was supposedly beaten to death with a ballbat, but in another area, there are ‘cleaving’ injuries. Those injuries create problems of ‘who’ and ‘when’ the victim was killed.”
Howland said according to Rosella’s common-law wife, the door was locked to the garage where the murder happened, but when law enforcement officials investigated the scene, there was no sign of forced entry.
Yet another problem was the toxicology report from the Franklin County Coroner. Her report, Howland said, did not come up with alcohol in Rosella’s blood, which conflicted with testimony from witnesses (at a party July 3, 2011) that the victim was ‘drinking like a fish.’
Additonal statements are expected to be made at the sentencing hearing tomorrow, February 26 at 3 p.m. in the north courtroom of the Morrow County Courthouse.