Boyfriend of woman fatally shot when they turned into the wrong driveway testifies in murder trial

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© 2024 Will Waldron / Times Union

FILE - Defendant Kevin Monahan, left, listens to opening statements in his murder trial, Jan. 11, 2024, at the Washington County Courthouse in Fort Edward, N.Y. Blake Walsh, the boyfriend of a 20-year-old woman fatally shot in the neck when they pulled into the wrong driveway last year, testified Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in the second-degree murder trial of Monahan, 66, who is charged with fatally shooting Kaylin Gillis when the friends she was with turned into the wrong driveway near the Vermont border on a Saturday night last April. (Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP, Pool, File)

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. – The boyfriend of a 20-year-old woman fatally shot in the neck when they pulled into the wrong driveway last year described to a jury Thursday hearing a shot pierce the car and then seeing his girlfriend slumped over in the passenger seat.

“Frantic in the car ... people were screaming,” Blake Walsh said, describing the moments leading up to when Kaylin Gillis was shot.

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Walsh and a group of his friends testified in the second-degree murder trial of Kevin Monahan, 66, who is charged with fatally shooting Gillis. On a Saturday night last April, the couple and their group of friends drove into the wrong driveway in Hebron, some 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Albany, near the Vermont border.

The group’s caravan of two cars and a motorcycle turned around once they realized their mistake. But authorities allege Monahan came out on his porch and fired two shots from a shotgun, striking Gillis with the second shot.

Gillis’ death drew attention far beyond the rural town in upstate New York. The killing happened just 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's defense attorney, Arthur Frost, has said Monahan was scared by the group of strangers arriving late at night at the remote home he shared with his wife. Frost told the jury last week the shooting was a “terrible accident” involving a defective gun that went off when he stumbled and banged it into something.

Monahan also is charged with reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence.

Walsh, 20, and a handful of his friends testified that they were headed to a party at another house in the area and mistakenly turned into Monahan's long, snaking driveway. The house had no lights on when they pulled up.

"We were trying to figure out where we are,” said Jacob Haynes, who was in the back seat. “We knew we were not at the right house.”

The house lights turned on about the time the two vehicles made a three-point turn to leave. Walsh said he heard a loud noise as he was backing up and one of his two friends in the back seat of the SUV said someone was shooting a gun. That's when the panic started.

Alexandra Whiting, who also was in the back seat, said she saw through the rear window a man holding a gun on the porch.

Walsh said he heard a sound like metal breaking in the car upon the second shot. He said he ducked as he drove away. He asked if his friends were OK. Whiting and Haynes were, but Gillis was slumped toward the door and unresponsive.

The friends saw by phone flashlight that Gillis was wounded. During his testimony, Walsh choked up as recalled pulling up next to the Jeep driven by his friend Katherine Rondeau to tell her about Gillis.

“He said 'Kaylin’s been shot. We need to get to a hospital,'” said Maxwell Barney, who was also in the Jeep.

Gillis’ friends called for help once they found a cellphone signal several miles away. Meanwhile, Haynes kept his hand on Gillis' neck wound to stop the bleeding. A dispatcher guided the friends through CPR while they waited for help to arrive. But emergency workers were unable to save her.

Frost, who argues Monahan felt threatened, focused on how the two vehicles were briefly stopped next to each other on the driveway during cross examinations. He also established that most of the friends did not notice the private property sign by the driveway.

Some of the friends had consumed alcohol or marijuana earlier that evening, according to testimony.

Rondeau told the jury that she was leading the group of friends to what she thought was the house of a friend hosting the party.

“I thought I knew where I was going,” Rondeau said, beginning to cry.

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