By Maysoon Khan, The Associated Press on January 23, 2024.
FORT EDWARD, N.Y. (AP) – A man was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for fatally shooting a young woman when the SUV she was riding in mistakenly drove up his rural driveway in upstate New York.
A jury found Kevin Monahan, 66, guilty of second-degree murder for shooting 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis on a Saturday night last April after she and her friends pulled into his long, curving driveway near the Vermont border while they were trying to find another house.
The group’s caravan of two cars and a motorcycle began leaving once they realized their mistake. Authorities said Monahan came out to his porch and fired twice from his shotgun, with the second shot hitting Gillis in the neck as she sat in the front passenger seat of an SUV driven by her boyfriend.
During the trial, Monahan and his attorney maintained the shooting in the rural town of Hebron, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Albany was an accident involving a defective gun.
Gillis was killed days after the shooting of 16-year-old Ralph Yarl in Kansas City. Yarl, who is Black, was wounded by an 84-year-old white man after he went to the wrong door while trying to pick up his brother.
Monahan testified during the trial that he felt like the house he shared with his wife was “under siege” when the revving motorcycle and the two other vehicles pulled up his driveway. He said he fired a warning shot to let the intruders know that he had a gun.
But he said the second, fatal shot was unintentional.
He said he tripped over nails sticking up from the deck, lost his balance and the shotgun struck the deck. That, he said, accidentally caused his gun to fire at the Ford Explorer carrying Gillis.
“I didn’t mean to shoot the second shot,” Monahan testified last week. “The gun went off.”
Prosecutors argued Monahan showed a depraved indifference to human life by firing at the SUV.
“He acted out of anger. That’s the only thing that can be inferred from shooting at people within 90 seconds of being on his property,” Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris told jurors in his closing arguments Tuesday. “He grabbed his shotgun and intended to make them leave as fast as possible and he didn’t care if they were hurt or killed, just so long as they left.”
Prosecutors also presented evidence that Monahan claimed to have been sound asleep when police showed up at his house later that night.
Gillis’ father, Andrew Gillis, has described his daughter as someone who loved animals and had dreams of becoming a marine biologist or a veterinarian.
Maysoon Khan is a corps member for The Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.