Victim’s Father Breaks Down as Bail Is Denied in Wrong-Driveway Shooting
FORT EDWARD, N.Y. — A man accused of shooting a young woman who had inadvertently driven up his driveway in a rural area of upstate New York was returned to jail without bail on Wednesday, a move that the victim’s shattered family hailed, even as the prosecutors in the case said more charges could be forthcoming.
The man, Kevin Monahan, 65, is charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty. During a brief hearing in a Washington County courthouse, prosecutors laid out a vivid and frightening depiction of Mr. Monahan’s actions, which included using a shotgun to shoot at the car in which the victim, Kaylin Gillis, 20, was traveling while it attempted to drive away.
“They were at the defendant’s property for a very short period of time, when they were fired at,” said Christian P. Morris, the county’s first assistant district attorney, adding thatMr. Monahan could face additional charges, including attempted murder and assault of other individuals in the cars.
For the most part, Mr. Monahan sat quietly, shackled but dressed in a suit and tie, even as relatives of Ms. Gillis sat stone-faced. He spoke briefly when asked by Judge Adam D. Michelini about past travel.
Moments after the judge’s decision, the victim’s father, Andy Gillis, spoke to reporters for the first time, breaking down as he tried to talk about his daughter’s bright future and the man who shot her.
“I just hope to God he dies in jail,” he said, adding that it was “the best possible outcome” that Mr. Monahan did not make bail.
Ms. Gillis was shot on Saturday night as she and a group of her friends were traveling in a caravan of two cars and a motorcycle that mistakenly drove up Mr. Monahan’s driveway in Hebron, N.Y., a small, bucolic town near the Vermont border, while looking for a friend’s house.
Authorities say that the drivers of the three vehicles had realized their mistake and were turning around when Mr. Monahan fired two shots, at least one of which struck Ms. Gillis, who was sitting in the passenger seat of the last car to turn around.
Mr. Monahan’s lawyer, Kurt Mausert, has disputed official accounts of a reckless shooting, noting his client has a nearly spotless record — except for a 43-year-old misdemeanor for drinking and driving — and accusing the county sheriff of prejudicing the case.
“It is not the simple scenario of these people took a wrong turn and within 20 seconds of them taking the wrong turn, this guy’s on his deck blasting away,” Mr. Mausert said on Tuesday. “That’s not what happened.”
Ms. Gillis’s death is one of just one of a series of recent shootings involving gun attacks on individuals who were simply lost: Last week, a Black 16-year-old, Ralph Yarl, was shot by an 84-year-old white man in Kansas City after mistakenly going to the wrong house while trying to pick up his brothers from a friend’s home. He was shot in the head but survived.
Then, on Tuesday, two high-school students in Elgin, Tex., were shot just after midnight by an assailant after apparently trying to get into the wrong car in a supermarket parking lot.
On Wednesday, the Washington County district attorney, J. Anthony Jordan, said he understood why the case “touches a chord across the country.”
“But for me as a prosecutor,” he said, “we have a lot of work to do to assure justice for Kaylin.”
Mr. Morris, Mr. Jordan’s first assistant, said in court that Mr. Monahan could also face a weapons charge, though it was unclear what that would involve; under New York State law, no license is required for a regular shotgun, according to the State Police.
Ms. Gillis came from a family with a law enforcement connection: Her father is a correction officer at Washington County Correctional Facility. Since his arrest, Mr. Monahan has been held in neighboring Warren County and will continue to be held there.
The shooting in New York was also not unique, even in Washington County, a patch of farm-friendly territory northeast of Albany: In 2016, another local resident, Brian Tschorn, shot at a driver who had driven down his long, rural driveway while looking for a relative’s home.
In that case, the driver was unharmed, but Mr. Tschorn served nearly two years in state prison. The charge, and potential sentence, facing Mr. Monahan are far more serious, with a minimum of 15 years in prison.
The circumstances of Ms. Gillis’s shooting were chilling: She and her boyfriend and several friends were driving to another friend’s home on Saturday night, when they pulled onto a largely dirt road in Hebron where Mr. Monahan lives with his wife in a ridge-top house.
The three vehicles turned into Mr. Monahan’s long, curved driveway, which is flanked by a tree with two worn “private property” signs, warning off trespassers, and a small “private drive” sign. The two cars and motorcycle ascended the drive before realizing their error, authorities said, and turning around to leave.
Then there were shots.
Neighbors had said that Mr. Monahan, a self-employed builder and longtime resident whose home sits on about 40 mostly wooded acres, had a reputation as a sometimes surly character who loved dirt bikes and largely kept to himself.
Adam Matthews, who lives next to Mr. Monahan and has known him for decades, said his neighbor could be aggressive and intimidating. “He was a difficult guy,” Mr. Matthews recalled, adding he was “known to have altercations with people.”
He added that Mr. Monahan was “always concerned with trespassing,” and that the wide opening of his driveway resembled a road to some drivers. He added that at one point Mr. Monahan had draped a chain across the mouth of his driveway. That chain, however, was not there on Saturday night.
The shooting had scared Mr. Matthews, as it did others in the town; he said he wondered what might have happened had one of his friends gone up the driveway.
“We had people over for Easter brunch, and there was a girl that hadn’t been to the house in quite some time, a young girl just driving,” he said. “What if she’d gone up his driveway instead of mine?”
The shooting had also struck fear in others. On Wednesday, Dallas Salls, a friend of the victim, said she was just “just anxious everywhere I drive now,” saying she had an anxiety attack driving to her sister’s after Ms. Gillis’s death.
“I just started bawling my eyes out,” she said. “I just thought somebody was just going to come out and shoot me. Like I just can’t even drive anywhere at night anymore.”
The night of the shooting, the car containing Ms. Gillis had to drive about five miles searching for cell service before her friends were able to find a signal on a road adjacent to a local cemetery. But it was too late.
In his remarks, Mr. Gillis — who cried repeatedly, while trying to compose himself — cursed the lack of cellular coverage along the rural back roads, wondering if that lost time had meant that his daughter lost her life. But he also wondered in sheer horror how a planned night out at a friend’s house could instead end in a murder.
“I would never have dreamed in a million years,” he said, “that this would happen.”
Hurubie Meko contributed reporting. Kitty Bennett contributed research.