CINCINNATI – A Cincinnati pleaded guilty to the accidental shooting death of his 11-year-old daughter during a drunken fight with the girl's mother and was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison.
Prosecutors say Deandre Kelley, 34, was drunk on Jan. 12 when he fought with his longtime girlfriend outside their home and fired two gunshots into the air. One bullet fatally hit their daughter, Shanti Lanza, who had been hiding in an upstairs bedroom as the fight unfolded during a slumber party with her friends.
In an emotional hearing in Hamilton County court that saw the girl's mother and aunt arrested for contempt of court, Kelley pleaded guilty to one count of reckless homicide. In exchange, prosecutors dropped charges of involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, and a weapons charge.
Kelley's attorney, Hugh McCloskey Jr., said that after talking the case over with Judge Nadine Allen, his client realized that a six-year sentence was the best deal he was going to get. Kelley had faced up to 20 years in prison.
During the hearing, Shanti's mother, Kristina Lanza, insisted that Allen give Kelley a lighter sentence, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
"I know Shanti would have forgave her daddy," Lanza told Allen. "This was a total accident."
Allen told Lanza that was a stupid thing to say.
"Does anybody think that guns shot in residential neighborhoods don't go into buildings?" Allen asked Lanza, according to the Enquirer. "You're saying things that are foolish."
After the hearing ended, loud noises erupted in the hallway outside court and Shanti Lanza's aunt, Danielle Lott, could be heard screaming, "No justice served!" according to the Enquirer.
That prompted Allen to call the Lanza family back in. She then cited Lott and Kristina Lanza for contempt and ordered them jailed, prompting another eruption of screaming from family members, the Enquirer reported.
Prosecutors say that on Jan. 12, Shanti was having a slumber party with several friends when Kristina Lanza began arguing with Kelley about him bringing a gun into the home. Lanza ordered Kelley out of the house, but he returned drunk around 3 a.m., prosecutors said.
The children, who were downstairs watching TV while Lanza slept upstairs, opened the door for Kelley, who walked in, turned and fired a gunshot out the front door, prosecutors say.
Shanti then ran upstairs for her mother, who again ordered Kelley to leave. That's when Kelley walked out and fired two shots into the air. One of them hit Shanti in the lung as she hid in an upstairs bedroom. She later died at a hospital.
A distraught Kelley had petitioned to be released from jail shortly after the shooting to attend Shanti's funeral. Allen turned him down, saying too many members of the public and some relatives were too angry with Kelley to allow him to safely attend.
Shortly after the shooting, Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said that Kelley had previously been charged three times with domestic violence but was never prosecuted because Lanza refused to testify.
"This is the end of the road for this enabling," Deters said. "He needs to be in jail, and the rest of (Shanti's family) should be looking in the mirror for the reason this little girl is dead."