Judge Reduces Charges Against Keelin to Misdemeanors in Kelsey McDuffie Death

The 18-year-old Bulloch County teen charged in the shooting death of Kelsey McDuffiel is now only facing misdemeanor charges after a judge reduced the charges Tuesday morning.

Adan Allen Keelin, represented by defense attorneys Kendall Gross and Matt Hube, appeared before Superior Court Judge Gates Peed on Tuesday seeking bond and a hearing on the preliminary details of the pending case against him. 

Case Background

Keelin was arrested on May 9 following an investigation by investigators with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators said on April 16, Keelin was showing McDuffie how to disassemble and reassemble a Taurus G2 9mm semi-auto handgun. During this activity, the handgun discharged, while in the hands of Keelin. The bullet traveled through Keelin’s left hand and struck McDuffie in the rear of her head. Keelin was transported to East Georgia Regional Hospital where he was treated and released. McDuffie succumbed to her injuries. More on that here.

Investigators subsequently charged Keelin with the following:

Involuntary Manslaughter (felony) (see code section)

  • in the commission of an unlawful act (that act being Reckless Conduct, in this case) when he causes the death of another human being without any intention to do so by the commission of an unlawful act other than a felony.
    • The punishment, if convicted, is 1-10 years

Possession of a Firearm or Knife During the Commission of a Felony (that felony being Involuntary Manslaughter) (see the code section)

  • Any person who shall have on or within arm’s reach of his or her person a firearm or a knife having a blade of three or more inches in length during the commission of, or the attempt to commit:
  • Any crime against or involving the person of another;

Reckless Conduct (a misdemeanor) (see code section)

  • A person who causes bodily harm to or endangers the bodily safety of another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his or her act or omission will cause harm or endanger the safety of the other person and the disregard constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care which a reasonable person would exercise in the situation is guilty of a misdemeanor

Keelin has remained behind bars since he turned himself in on May 9. His attorneys filed paperwork for a bond hearing and a preliminary hearing in mid-May. 

Tuesday Court Proceedings 

Investigator Reid Odom with the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office testified Tuesday, fielding questions from both the defense and ADA Russell Jones. Keelin, who did not have to address the court Tuesday, wept through the majority of the forty-five minute hearing. 

Direct Examination

While being questioned by Jones, Odom said 911 received a call at 1:13 a.m. about a female who had been shot in the head. Deputies responded to East Georgia Regional Medical Center and Odom arrived around 1:40 a.m. He spoke with two individuals who had transported Kelsey McDuffie to the hospital as well as Adan Keelin, who also arrived for treatment. 

Odom testified that Keelin was cooperative with law enforcement, answered questions, and submitted to a blood alcohol toxicology kit, which was sent off to the GBI Crime Lab in Savannah. Keelin walked investigators through the actions he took before the firearm discharged and explained the inner workings of the gun. In particular, Odom discussed how the Taurus G2 gun requires someone to depress the trigger to a degree and pull the slide back when disassembling it.

Earlier in the day, around 4:00 p.m., a much larger group had ventured to the river for ‘one to two hours.’ Odom said a number of the parties interviewed from the river admitted that there was alcohol and marijuana consumption at the river, but that ‘it was not a high level of consumption.’ On cross examination, however, Odom testified that he did not notice impairment on the part of Keelin when he was interviewed. Keelin’s story, he said, matched what witnesses said and what preliminary investigative findings revealed.

According to Odom, around 1:00 a.m., a group of friends were hanging out in a utility shed, a common activity at a common place for the group, at the time of the incident. The shed, approximately 10×10, was furnished with chairs and a t.v. and they were all sitting in a half-circle at the time of the discharge of the firearm. Both Keelin and McDuffie had assembled and disassembled the weapon in the period leading up to the incident and witnesses indicated that McDuffie had been in possession of the gun moments before it was fired. Odom said Keelin was seated next to McDuffie when the gun was discharged and the bullet struck both him and McDuffie. 

Odom said Keelin’s toxicology kit, the ballistics from the firearm, the shell casing, and the projectile, and the autopsy report of Kelsey McDuffie are all still pending. 

Cross Examination 

Defense attorney Kendall Gross asked Odom a host of questions about his investigation into the shooting, including specifics about the wounds suffered by Keelin. Odom said the bullet traveled through the bottom of Keelin’s left palm and exited out the top of his hand on the side. Keelin is right handed. 

Gross also asked Odom about the state of the gun and magazine at the time it was recovered by investigators. Odom said the weapon had one round in the chamber and one round in a magazine at the time it was taken into evidence, in addition to the one spent shell casing recovered at the scene. No other shell casings or bullet holes were found at the scene and investigators were unable to determine ‘who’ racked the gun before it was fired. 

Gross focused heavily on Keelin’s demeanor at the hospital and the witness statements about Keelin’s behavior with the gun. He asked Odom if anyone stated Keelin pointed the weapon at anyone or was playing with it as if it was a toy. Odom replied ‘no’ to each question.

“Taking a gun apart is inherently a dangerous thing if you’re not careful about it being unloaded, true?” Gross asked Odom.

“True,” Odom replied.

“Other than failing to make sure that the gun was unloaded and pointed in a safe direction, can you think of anything wrong or criminal that Adan Keelin did?” Gross asked Odom. “I’m not talking about the alcohol or drug use. I’m talking about just the firearm.”

“Other than failing to ensure it was unloaded and pointed in a safe direction, other than that? Personally, I wouldn’t have been doing that in a small, enclosed space with other people sitting around me,” Odom said. “I believe that was a little reckless as well, but on the whole, other than what you said, no sir.”

“Certainly it’s not illegal to break a gun down and clean it?” Gross said.

“Correct,” Odom answered.

ADA Jones redirected and asked, “But you also wouldn’t disassemble a firearm after consuming alcohol and marijuana, would you?”

“Correct,” Odom answered.

Judge Peed asked to whom the gun belonged to, which Odom replied, “The defendant.”

State Asks Court to Bind Charges Over for Grand Jury Consideration

After the evidence was presented by the state, ADA Jones asked the court to bind the case over for grand jury consideration and a possible indictment. 

Gross argued to the court that Involuntary Manslaughter can be a felony or a misdemeanor and that misdemeanor Involuntary Manslaughter occurs when an individual causes a death while doing ‘a lawful act in an unlawful manner.’

“Without conceding Keelin is guilty of anything,” Gross said speaking on what the state laid out, “This is misdemeanor level of involuntary manslaughter….It is imprudent to break a gun down when it is loaded. But it is not illegal. We’re asking the court to not bind this over as a felony on the manslaughter charge.”

Jones argued that under the totality of the evidence presented and the fact that the state is waiting for the toxicology report, that they smoked earlier in the day, that the defendant was right next to the victim, that it’s “reckless conduct because he was right next to her, under the probable cause standard.”

Judge Peed asked, “Is that based on the evidence presented or based on what you expect?”

Jones replied, “Both.”

Peed subsequently ruled that the charges bound over would be misdemeanor Involuntary Manslaughter and Reckless Conduct, also a misdemeanor. The Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Crime charge would not go any further at this time.

Issue of Bond 

Under Georgia law, a person charged with misdemeanor offenses is entitled to a bond, even without the discretion of the court. Nevertheless, defense attorney Matt Hube argued that Keelin was not a flight risk, has no assets or resources to flee, and still lives with his parents – who he ‘desperately needs financially and emotionally.’ Hube also said the best evidence that Keelin would not flee existed in the fact that investigators called him on a Monday and told him he would be charged and to turn himself in by Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. and he did so early. 

Judge Peed set the bond at $25,000 – cash or property – and ordered that Keelin not possess any firearms or contact anyone connected with the case. 

“Ladies and gentlemen in the courtroom, I don’t have any authority because you’re not before me, but this defendant is. I would encourage you, in the interest of all, to limit the contact with one side or the other. It’s just not appropriate. I’m sure that, even in the best case scenario, feelings can be strong. Somebody died. So, conduct yourselves appropriately,” Peed said.  

The case will now be transferred to state court for further adjudication. Keelin could be charged with other offenses at a later date should evidence still pending support those charges. 

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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