Texas Gunman Broke Child’s Skull, Assaulted Wife, in Troubled Life



Law enforcement on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., on Monday.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times

NEW BRAUNFELS, Tex. — He beat his spouse, cracked his toddler stepson’s cranium and was kicked out of the army. He drove away buddies, drew consideration from the police and abused his canine. Before Devin P. Kelley entered a rural Texas church with a military-style rifle, killing no less than 26 folks on Sunday, he led a deeply troubled life through which few in his path escaped unscathed.

In 2012, whereas stationed at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, Mr. Kelley was charged with badault, in accordance with Air Force information, which mentioned he had repeatedly struck, kicked and choked his first spouse starting simply months into their marriage, and hit his stepson’s head with what the Air Force described as “a force likely to produce death or grievous bodily harm.”

“He badaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull,” mentioned Don Christensen, a retired colonel who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force, including, “He pled to intentionally doing it.”

Prosecutors withdrew a number of different expenses as a part of their plea settlement with Mr. Kelley, together with allegations that he repeatedly pointed a loaded gun at his spouse.

He was finally sentenced in November that 12 months to 12 months’ confinement and discount to the bottom potential rank. His closing obligation title was “prisoner.”

His first spouse, Tessa Kelley, divorced him whereas he was confined and was awarded the couple’s solely 4 home goods of worth: a tv, an Xbox, a marriage ring and a revolver.

After his confinement, Mr. Kelley was compelled out of the army with a foul conduct discharge. The Air Force mentioned the conviction ought to have barred Mr. Kelley from proudly owning any weapons. Instead, regulation enforcement officers say, he purchased a number of.

Friends from New Braunfels, Tex., the place he went to highschool, expressed shock within the aftermath of the taking pictures, remembering how Mr. Kelley was a pleasant, if awkward, teenager who grew up energetic in his church. His senior yearbook picture exhibits him smiling, with untamed hair and a Hollister T-shirt. But lately, buddies mentioned, he grew so darkish that many unfriended him on Facebook.

“I had always known there was something off about him. But he wasn’t always a ‘psychopath,’” a longtime good friend, Courtney Kleiber, posted on Facebook on Sunday. “We had a lot of good times together. Over the years we all saw him change into something that he wasn’t. To be completely honest, I’m really not surprised this happened, and I don’t think anyone who knew him is very surprised either.”

Instead of straightening out after his dangerous conduct discharge, Mr. Kelley started a protracted downward slide that culminated within the taking pictures Sunday.

After getting out of confinement, Mr. Kelly moved right into a barn at his mother and father’ home, which that they had transformed into an house, in accordance with the native sheriff’s workplace information.

During the subsequent two years, he was investigated twice for abusing ladies. The authorities in Comal County, which incorporates Mr. Kelley’s hometown New Braunfels, launched information on Monday that confirmed he had been the topic of an investigation for badual badault and rape in 2013.

The investigation ended with out the submitting of any expenses — Mr. Kelley’s solely skirmishes within the native courts had been visitors violations.

Less than a 12 months after the badual badault report, deputies had been summoned once more after Mr. Kelley’s girlfriend on the time, Danielle Shields, reportedly despatched a textual content message to a good friend saying she was being abused. Deputies who responded advised a dispatcher, in accordance with the report, that it was a “misunderstanding and teenage drama.” Mr. Kelley married Ms. Shields two months later, native information present.

At the time of each episodes, Mr. Kelley’s appeals had been nonetheless pending earlier than army courts.

Mr. Kelley was lastly discharged from the Air Force in 2014. He married Ms. Shields in April that 12 months. Law enforcement officers described their relationship this week as “estranged.”

A number of months after the marriage, the couple moved to Colorado Springs, the place voter registration paperwork record his deal with as Parking Space 60 at a set of trailers in a gravel lot referred to as the Fountain Creek RV Park.

A lady residing in a camper subsequent door, who gave her identify solely as Susan, mentioned a person of comparable age and outline lived in Spot 60 for just a few months throughout that point.


Devin P. Kelley.

by way of Texas Department of Public Safety

“He was kind of off,” she mentioned as she loaded blankets into one of many RV park’s washing machines.

He mentioned whats up just a few occasions in pbading however was by no means pleasant and stayed just a few months, she mentioned. She by no means heard any arguments from his trailer.

“The only thing that sticks out about him was his dog,” she mentioned.

He had a pet that he stored tied up within the solar all day outdoors his RV with out water, she mentioned. She additionally recalled an episode through which the police had been referred to as as a result of he had struck the canine repeatedly within the head.

Records present Mr. Kelley was charged with cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor, in August 2014, pleaded responsible and was given a deferred sentence. He moved out just a few weeks later, she mentioned.

While in Colorado and Texas, Mr. Kelley bought various weapons at gun shops, in accordance with regulation enforcement officers. On Monday, the Air Force admitted that it had didn’t enter data from Mr. Kelley’s home violence court-martial right into a federal database that would have blocked him from shopping for the weapon used within the church badault.

Mr. Kelley, whose father, Michael Kelley, is a pc programmer and accountant, enlisted within the Air Force quickly after graduating from New Braunfels High School in 2009. Devin Kelley served as a low-ranking airman in a logistics readiness unit. A LinkedIn account in his identify says he labored in cargo and distribution earlier than his court-martial.

The account says that after the army, Mr. Kelley briefly labored as an aide at a youth Bible faculty in Kingsville, Tex., “helping their minds grow and prosper.”

Friends mentioned on Facebook that lately, Mr. Kelley had turn out to be vocally anti-Christian, to the purpose the place many stopped speaking with him. His Facebook web page, which has been deleted, listed that he appreciated various atheist teams.

“He was always talking about how people who believe in God were stupid and trying to preach his atheism,” considered one of his Facebook buddies, Nina Rosa Nava, posted on the location, saying she unfriended him due to it.


A house in New Braunfels, Tex., which information present was owned by Mr. Kelley’s mother and father.

Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman, by way of Associated Press

Law enforcement stopped wanting saying non secular views could have influenced Mr. Kelley, saying Monday that the taking pictures could have been motivated by a “domestic situation” involving Mr. Kelley’s estranged spouse and her household.

Mr. Kelley by no means held jobs for lengthy after the army. In June of this 12 months, Mr. Kelley was employed as an unarmed evening safety guard at Schlitterbahn, an unlimited water park in New Braunfels. Less than six weeks later he was “terminated,” a spokeswoman for the park, Winter D. Prosapio, mentioned Monday, including, “He was not a good fit.”

By 2017, he had returned to a home in New Braunfels that information present was owned by his mother and father. The home was about an hour from the church the place the taking pictures occurred. According to native regulation enforcement, Mr. Kelley’s second spouse at occasions attended the church with members of her prolonged household.

The cowl picture on Mr. Kelley’s Facebook web page seems to indicate a Ruger 8515 rifle, geared up with extra aftermarket merchandise, together with a red-dot aiming sight for quicker concentrating on and a two-stage set off for larger accuracy.

Such rifles have been authorized for civilians to personal in many of the United States for the reason that federal badault weapons ban expired in 2004, and have turn out to be common amongst many firearms house owners.

Mr. Kelley appeared enamored with the weapon. He posted of it on Oct. 29 with the caption “She’s a bad bitch.”

Law enforcement officers guarded the cactus- and rock-dotted Kelley property in New Braunfels on Monday morning, when the highest of the home was simply barely seen atop the tree line. A wire fence ran alongside the roadway.

Signs on a cattle gate on the entrance learn “No Trespbading” and “Beware of Dog.”

Some neighbors mentioned they often heard gunfire from the property. But on this stretch of the Texas hill nation, that’s hardly trigger for alarm.

One neighbor, who would give his identify solely as Doug, mentioned he heard photographs fired on the Kelley property that may set his canine barking.

“My dogs, they would be outside, and we would hear, ‘Bim-bam, bim-bam, bim-bam, bim-bam,’” he mentioned.

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