New York man who killed a woman after a wrong turn in his driveway gets 25 years to life

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© 2024 Will Waldron / Times Union

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan holds a news conference following the sentencing of Kevin Monahan on Friday, March 1, 2024, at Washington County Courthouse in Fort Edward, N.Y. Monahan who fatally shot 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis after the SUV she was riding in mistakenly drove into his rural driveway in upstate New York was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in prison.(Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP, Pool)

FORT EDWARD, N.Y. – A man who fatally shot a 20-year-old woman after the SUV she was riding in mistakenly drove into his rural driveway in upstate New York was sentenced Friday to more than 25 years to life in prison.

Kevin Monahan, 66, was convicted of second-degree murder in the death last April of Kaylin Gillis. She was riding in a caravan of two cars and a motorcycle that was trying to leave after pulling into Monahan's long, winding driveway while looking for a party at another person's house in the town of Hebron.

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“I think it’s important that people know that it is not OK to shoot people and kill them who drive down your driveway,” Judge Adam Michelini said. Apart from the wider deterrent effect, Michelini said it's important that Monahan remain behind bars rather than be free to harm more people.

The judge handed down the maximum sentence after Gillis' father, boyfriend and best friend told Monahan and the packed court room about their anguish and the immeasurable void in their lives.

“Kaylin was a sweet and loving soul, something you can only wish to achieve,” boyfriend Blake Walsh said from the stand, as Monahan sat with a stony face. “Kaylin was everything you wish you could be. I will never be able to forgive you for your actions. I wouldn’t even think about it.”

The judge sentenced Monahan to 25 years to life for the second-degree murder and handed down a consecutive sentence of one-and-a-third to four years for tampering with physical evidence. A sentence for reckless endangerment will be served concurrently.

Michelini scolded Monahan for showing no remorse.

“You murdered Kaylin Gillis. You shot at a car full of people and you didn’t care what would happen and you repeatedly lied about it. You deserve to spend the maximum time in prison allowable under the law,” the judge said.

Prosecutors had asked for the maximum. The defense asked for leniency. Monahan declined an opportunity to speak. And then he was led away, to applause and a shout of “coward” from the gallery.

Defense attorneys said they would appeal.

Gillis’ death drew attention far beyond upstate New York. It came 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 younger brothers.

On the night of Gillis' death, the group of friends had realized their error and were turning around in the driveway. Monahan came out to his deck and fired two shots, the second striking Gillis in the neck as she sat in the front passenger seat of an SUV driven by her boyfriend, prosecutors said.

Monahan maintained the fatal shot was an accident and that the shotgun was defective. He also said he believed the house about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Albany was “under siege” by intruders, and said he came out to fire a warning shot to try to scare the group away while his wife hid inside.

Prosecutors argued that Monahan was motivated by an irrational rage toward trespassers.

A jury deliberated for less then two hours before returning guilty verdicts in January against Monahan for murder, reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence.

Walsh, who was behind the wheel of the SUV that night, told Monahan that he took the life of someone who “never, not for a second” threatened him. Alexandra Whiting, who was a passenger in the car, told the court she still struggles with the loss of her best friend.

“Not only do I never get to see my best friend again, but I now have a new deep-rooted fear and hatred for the world. I feel afraid in everyday situations,” Whiting said in a soft, quavering voice.

Andrew Gillis told the court that the milestones of his daughter's young life — graduating college, getting married, having children — had been cruelly stolen from them.

“Every day we wake up to the harsh reality that that she’s no longer here," he said. “We will never see her beautiful face, hear her laughter or simply be able to hug her.”

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