Killer gets light sentence

He laughs at victim's mother

Staff WriterJanuary 31, 2006 

Burrell is described as a member of the Bloods gang.

Since a gunshot wound took her son's life last March, Doris Haynes has been diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.

But coming across the state to a Wake County courtroom Monday truly sent her sugar and pressure sky high.

The shooter got only a few years in prison for killing her son.

And just like the last time she faced Rodney Burrell in court, the teenager laughed at her.

But it's Haynes who will have the last laugh, she said Monday.

The former correctional nurse said she's seen what happens to guys like Burrell, 18, who go into the prison system.

No, it won't bring back her son, Keith Owen Kelly, but what she said awaits Burrell may fulfill her wish that he suffer for his crime.

Burrell had been charged with first-degree murder.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter under an deal in which his sentence was three to 4 1/2 years in prison. Prosecutors also dropped the murder and a common law robbery charge against Burrell.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Burrell would have spent the rest of his life in prison. Because the crime was committed when Burrell was 17, he was not eligible to receive the death penalty.

Burrell had no prior convictions and voluntarily acknowledged involvement in the fatal shooting of Kelly, 33, who was from the Asheville area.

Kelly had been released from prison in 2002. After spending a few months living with his brother and wandering around western North Carolina, his family lost track of him for two years.

The family found him when they were told he was dead.

Investigators think Kelly followed a prison buddy to Raleigh. A gun Kelly was trying to sell loosely linked him to Burrell, who Wake prosecutor Doug Faucette called "a known Bloods gang member."

At some point before the shooting, Kelly tried to sell the weapon to another Bloods member who grabbed it and took off without paying, Faucette said.

Kelly was found near the corner of Camden and Martin streets about a mile east of downtown Raleigh in what investigators described as a gang-related shooting.

During her statement in court, Haynes, 57, delicately implied that Burrell could face sexual assault or other physical dangers behind bars. Her son served nine years in the state's prison system and still has friends on the inside, she said.

"There are no words to describe the pain I felt and will feel for the rest of my life. Although I may not agree with the punishment the court hands down, I have no choice but to accept it," Haynes said, turning to Burrell.

"As I have been told, you go by the street name 'Man.' My thoughts on that are not such to speak. ...You are a coward who has to hide behind a gun."

As she spoke, Burrell giggled and smiled. At one point he bent down under the table to chuckle.

"You sit there and laugh. It's not funny!" she said.

Besides the agony of watching her son's killer amused, she's tortured by unanswered questions.

"I just will never know why Keith was killed," Haynes said. "But no matter what they do -- You cannot kill a mother's love."

Staff writer Cindy George can be reached at 829-4656 or cgeorge@newsobserver.com.

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