July 18, 2012 - "This is probably the worst day of my life."
Megan Roberts during happier days. (click for larger version)
It was an ironic statement coming from a man whose brutal actions ensured his young daughter would never live to see another day of her life – good or bad.
Robert Brian Kelly finally spoke in public last week with regard to his murdering his 20-year-old biological daughter, Megan Roberts, last year. His statements were made just prior to his sentencing.
"I wish I could answer the question as to what would make a human being, let alone myself, do something as heinous and violent as I did to someone that I loved as much as I did Megan," said the 53-year-old Oxford resident as he stood crying in the Oakland County Circuit Courtroom of Judge Rudy Nichols.
For his crime, Nichols sentenced Kelly, who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder as part of a deal, to 20 to 30 years in prison. He will receive credit for the 429 days he's already served. Kelly was also ordered to pay $26,432 in restitution, plus a criminal victims right fee of $130 and state costs of $68.
"I've been here 20-plus years, Mr. Kelly, and this is going to go down as the biggest puzzle I've ever seen," Nichols said.
On May 9, 2011, Kelly bludgeoned Roberts, a 2009 Oxford High School graduate, to death with an aluminum baseball bat as she slept in her bed in their village home on S. Glaspie St.
Following the attack, Roberts was described as "unrecognizable" by both the investigating officer and family members. She suffered a traumatic brain injury that left her in a coma, requiring mechanical ventilation and tube feeding. She was taken off life support on July 14, 2011 and passed away 13 days later in the hospital.
"I wish I could bring Megan back so badly," Kelly said. "I wish I could go back in time. I think about it all the time – if I could just go back in time. The rest of my life is going to be in a jail. That isn't the plan I had.
"It isn't my intention to hurt anyone. It never has been . . . I wish I could understand what happened on that day. I truly am sorry and I ask for your forgiveness and your prayers."
No motive for the murder was discovered by investigators. Kelly's defense attorney, Sanford Schulman, previously claimed his client suffered from some type of mental illness.
Kelly, who's a former psychologist, alluded to his mental illness during his pre-sentencing statement.
"Helping was what I did. It made me feel whole," he said. "To take the life of one of the most important people I've ever had the pleasure to know, I can't understand (why). I can only say that if a family member or a student or someone that you care about starts to display very unusual behavior such as a loss of weight, not doing normal activities, becoming isolative . . . get help for the person because if I had gotten help, I believe I would have avoided taking Megan's life."
Last year, Kelly was examined by doctors from the state's Center for Forensic Psychiatry who deemed him competent to stand trial and be held criminally responsible for his actions.
Kelly noted how he thinks about Megan "every single day."
"I hear songs that bring back all the years and the good times that we had," he said. "I was a good dad. I know I was a good dad and I don't know why I did this."
"I am so sorry and I realize that there's no punishment that can have me repay all of you for what I've done," Kelly noted. "I deserve the punishment that the law decides to give me."
Kelly isn't the only one who got to speak his piece in the courtroom.
Sandra Bucklin, who was Megan's aunt (on her mother's side) and legal guardian following the attack, delivered a heart-wrenching statement about the severity of Roberts' medical condition, the effect the murder has had on her family, the life Megan had and was continuing to build, and Kelly's ultimate betrayal of everyone's trust.
"Kelly not only took the life of his own daughter, he took something from all of us that day," she said. "He took a daughter, a niece, a cousin, an aunt, a sister, a granddaughter and a friend. He took a life full of potential away from all of us."
"The hole that exists in my sister's (Roberts' mother) heart today will never heal," Bucklin noted. "Mothers are not supposed to bury their daughters."
Bucklin's description of Roberts' medical condition following the attack painted a graphic picture that was truly horrific and profoundly sad.
"The trauma to her brain was so severe, there was no hope for recovery," she said. "Megan's wounds were fully visible and a constant reminder of the brutality and how close to death she really was."
"Doctors were quoted as saying, 'This is the worst brain injury we have ever seen,'" Bucklin noted. "Her skull was fractured like an eggshell. Large portions of Megan's brain were removed or gone as a result of the impact.
"They described removing tiny fragments of her skull within her brain and compared it to digging egg shells out of the whites of a hard-boiled egg."
Even if by some miracle Roberts had somehow survived, Bucklin said doctors told the family, "She will never be the same. She will not be the Megan you knew. She is gone."
The effect of Roberts' murder upon her family has been devastating and deep, especially for the young children like her cousins, nieces and nephews.
"He took the innocence of all of our children and that is irreplaceable," Bucklin said. "Because of his actions, they not only have to know there is incredible evil in this world, they now know it exists in their own family and have to live with this cruel decision for the rest of their lives.
"He took some of their childhood away when he took Megan with his grisly act. They had to watch all of us break down in a way that we could not hide. They had to learn what murder means."
"The children that are aware of these events are confused and traumatized. None of them will never be the same," Bucklin added.
The picture Bucklin painted of Roberts was that of a young lady who was working hard to build a bright future for herself. She was attending college at Oakland Community College, working at the Hamlin Pub in Orion Township, having a great time with her friends, and in love with her boyfriend.
"Megan was on the right path," Bucklin said.
She was also a daughter who loved her father very much.
"She was daddy's little girl, a dedicated, loving daughter, constantly seeking her father's approval," Bucklin said. "Megan just wanted to make Kelly happy and proud."
Following the attack, Bucklin told the court they discovered Roberts' had received acceptance letters from a number of colleges both in and out of state.
"Megan opted to stay home and attend Oakland (Community College) so that she could stay with her dad," she said. "She did not want to leave him."
Considering how much Kelly was "loved . . . trusted . . . accepted" by Roberts' family, Bucklin said that's what made this murder all the more puzzling. She said they "depended on him to be that voice of reason" and "guide the children down the right path."
"We will never really know what his state of mind was in the moments of the brutal attack on his daughter," Bucklin said.
If Kelly was afflicted with some type of mental illness that drove him to kill Roberts, Bucklin indicated that's no excuse, especially for him. "As a professional psychologist and father, Kelly had the duty and responsibility of protecting his daughter, even if it was from himself," he said.
After many years of treating patients with mental illness and depression, Bucklin said Kelly was "equipped . . . with the knowledge and tools to recognize the warning signs and the need to get help."
"He's aware of the potential dangers of not addressing mental issues and/or personality disorders," she added.
Bucklin made it clear that "no motive, no reason could ever justify walking into your daughter's room while she slept peacefully, taking a baseball bat and brutally, mercilessly beating her on the head with such force (that) she was unrecognizable."
"He left her there to suffer and die," she said. Bucklin noted that the emotion Kelly displayed in the courtroom prior to his sentencing was a first.
"Every time we've seen him in the courtroom outside of today, there has been not one sign of remorse or sadness," she said.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.