Originally created 12/10/97

Jury to decide how Kelley was involved



It's up to a Richmond County Superior Court jury today to decide how involved Larry Kelley was in the murder of Army Staff Sgt. Kevin Spann.

"Nobody is squeaky clean in this case, but the evidence falls short that Larry Kelley participated in murder," Mr. Kelley's attorney, Michael Garrett, told the jury in closing arguments Tuesday.

Both sides rested their cases in the second day of Mr. Kelley's murder trial. After hearing legal instructions from Judge Bernard Mulherin Sr. this morning, the jury begins its deliberations. The choices are guilty or not guilty of felony murder, malice murder, and use of a firearm during commission of a crime. If the jury rejects a verdict of guilty, it could choose the lesser offense and find Mr. Kelley guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

Tuesday, Mr. Kelley, 19, took the witness stand in his own defense, telling the jury that the Mother's Day slaying of the Fort Gordon soldier was his lover's idea.

His lover was Gina Spann, 31, who asked Mr. Kelley to move into the Old Waynesboro Road home she shared with her husband, Staff Sgt. Spann, 35. Their marriage, Mr. Kelley quoted Ms. Spann, was an open relationship in which each went his own way.

At the end of February, Mr. Kelley gathered up his clothes, his comic books, video games and toy dinosaur collection and moved in with Ms. Spann, he testified. "At first, she talked about getting a divorce and then she came up with the idea of killing him," Mr. Kelley testified.

Ms. Spann told him that Staff Sgt. Spann had raped her, Mr. Kelley testified. Mr. Kelley admitted Tuesday that he broke into his parents' home to steal a gun for her and later he and friend Christopher Bargeron, 18, agreed to kill her husband.

The first plot was to choke him and throw him in a lake, while the second was to shoot Staff Sgt. Spann. Both times the teen-agers backed out, Mr. Kelley testified.

That's when Gerald Horne, 18, and Matthew Piazzi, 17, entered the conspiracy. They also made one failed attempt on Staff Sgt. Spann's life. But on May 11 when the soldier opened the door to his home, Mr. Piazzi shot him in the throat and in the face, Mr. Piazzi testified Tuesday.

"The issue in this case is whether this defendant (Mr. Kelley) joined in a conspiracy ... and if Kevin Spann was murdered as a result of that agreement," District Attorney Danny Craig told jurors.

As a party to a crime, Mr. Kelley was just as guilty of murder as Mr. Piazzi, or Mr. Horne or Ms. Spann because he was there from the beginning of the conspiracy to kill Staff Sgt. Spann, and he stayed in the conspiracy through the fourth attempt which proved fatally successful, Mr. Craig said.

But Mr. Kelley's attorney argued that Mr. Kelley was effectively dropped from the conspiracy when he twice failed to kill Staff Sgt. Spann. From that point on, Mr. Kelley was merely present, Mr. Garrett said.

Ms. Spann, who faced capital murder charges in the death of her husband, pleaded guilty to malice murder and a weapons violation in exchange for a life sentence without parole plus an additional five years.

Mr. Horne and Mr. Piazzi each pleaded guilty to felony murder and received the mandatory life sentences. Mr. Bargeron pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and received a five-year prison sentence followed by a five-year probationary sentence.