Police: Gypsum father was shot twice in head

Eagle County Sheriff Joseph D. Hoy speaks at the Eagle County Courthouse during a press conference on Tuesday about the murder of Joseph Kelly Jr. and the suspect, Kelly's 13-year-old son.
Anthony Thornton | |

GYPSUM — A 13-year-old boy allegedly shot his father in the back of the head with a rifle, and put the gun’s muzzle against his father’s temple and fired.

While the order of the shots taken remains unconfirmed, one thing does not: Joseph Kelly, 50, was dead for six days in the Gypsum home he shared with his son before his body was discovered. The boy was reportedly in the house with the body for much of that time.

Those two bullets to the head killed Joseph, said Kara Bettis, Eagle County coroner. She ruled the death a homicide.

Bettis said Joseph was shot with a .22 caliber rifle.

The boy is being charged with first-degree murder in connection with his father’s death, said Joe Hoy, Eagle County sheriff.

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He will probably not be charged as an adult, but that still remains to be determined, said District Attorney Bruce Brown.

“This is a young child so we would be very reluctant to charge him as an adult,” Brown said. “We haven’t even finished our investigation. Once you get past the questions of what happened, you get to why it happened.“

The shooting appears to be an isolated incident, Hoy said.

“No evidence indicated any intention to cause harm to anyone else,” Hoy said.

Bettis said the body had begun to decompose and stink when Eagle County Sheriff’s deputies went to the house Monday morning. When they arrived, the boy admitted to deputies that his father was dead inside. Joseph’s body was found in a small area off the kitchen, Hoy said.

The motive remains under investigation, Hoy said.

The only other contact with law enforcement was a domestic case while Joseph and his wife were in the midst of a divorce, Hoy said.

Joseph and his son were living together in the house. The boy’s mother was not living with them.

Friends of the family said they were shocked, describing the boy as “extremely intelligent.” They also said he and Joseph were close, and did many things together, including big game hunting. A few county staffers described Joseph as a delightful man.

From graffiti to guns

Local law enforcement’s involvement began Wednesday, April 30, when Joseph didn’t show up to talk to Eagle County sheriff’s deputies about a graffiti case they were investigating.

Joseph had worked in the tech industry, but the economic downturn forced him to look for other employment, friends said. He found it in Eagle County’s pubic works department.

Hoy said when Joseph didn’t show up for his public works job for several days, his boss became suspicious, especially after Joseph’s son called the department to say his father would not be coming to work.

Monday morning someone from the public works department contacted the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, suspicious that something was wrong, Hoy said. Deputies stopped by the house for a “wellness check,” to make sure everything was OK.

It wasn’t.

When deputies arrived, about 11:30 a.m. Monday, the boy answered the door and told deputies that Joseph was dead inside. After a quick search they discovered Joseph’s decomposing body near the kitchen.

The boy was taken into custody, Hoy said.

He was advised Monday afternoon by District Court Judge Fred Gannett, and transferred to the Mount View Youth Services Center in Jefferson County.

That’s the nearest juvenile jail to Eagle County, and it’s where Eagle County and several other Colorado counties jail juvenile inmates.

The Eagle County jail does not have a facility to house juvenile prisoners, and state law prohibits juveniles from being housed with an adult jail population.

Gannett ruled that the public would be restricted from accessing the teen’s court file.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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