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New York man convicted of murdering woman who wound up in his backcountry driveway after wrong turn

Jan 23, 2024, 2:21 PM

Defendant Kevin Monahan listens to summations in his murder trial before County Judge Adam Michelin...

Defendant Kevin Monahan listens to summations in his murder trial before County Judge Adam Michelini, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at the Washington County Courthouse in Fort Edward, N.Y. Monahan, 66, was convicted of second-degree murder Tuesday for fatally shooting a young woman when the SUV she was riding in mistakenly drove into his rural driveway in upstate New York. (Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Will Waldron/The Albany Times Union via AP, Pool)

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 into his rural driveway in upstate New York.

After deliberating for less than an hour, a jury found Kevin Monahan, 66, guilty 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. Monahan was also convicted of reckless endangerment and tampering with physical evidence.

Donald Boyajian, an attorney and spokesperson for the Gillis family, said they were thankful for the trial’s outcome.

“Obviously it’s a just result, but a very sad time for the family,” he said. “It doesn’t change what is going to be forever, which is the loss of their beautiful daughter.”

The murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of 25 years to life, which Washington County District Attorney J. Anthony Jordan said prosecutors would be seeking at Monahan’s sentencing, scheduled for March 1.

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 younger brothers.

On the night of Gillis’ death, the group of friends was traveling in caravan of two cars and a motorcycle looking for another person’s house party, when they mistakenly turned into Monahan’s driveway in the rural town of Hebron, about 40 miles (65 kilometers) north of Albany. They began leaving once they realized their mistake, but 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, authorities said.

During closing arguments earlier Tuesday, the prosecution told jurors Monahan was motivated by irrational rage toward trespassers.

“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,” said Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris. “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.”

Monahan and his attorney maintained the shooting was an accident involving a defective gun.

Monahan himself took the stand in his own defense, saying he believed the house he shared with his wife was “under siege” by intruders when he saw the vehicles approach. He said he first fired a warning shot to scare the group away.

He said he then tripped over nails sticking up from the porch, 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 also presented evidence during the trial 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.

___

Associated Press writer Michael Hill contributed to this report.

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.

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New York man convicted of murdering woman who wound up in his backcountry driveway after wrong turn