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Edwards school shocked, prayerful after student charged with murder

Eagle County residents reeling from a 13-year-old’s alleged murder of his father gathered in prayer at St. Clare of Assisi Church last week to seek healing.

Pastor of the church Msgr. Robert Kinkel called it a “very sad time” for the St. Clare of Assisi School in Edwards where Kai Kelly, a seventh-grader suspected of shooting his father, Joseph Kelly Jr., attended.

Msgr. Kinkel celebrated a Mass May 7 for the faculty, parents and students of the grade school that lies along Interstate 70 outside Vail.

“I told them to pray for all the people who are having a hard time and, in this particular case, to rely on the mercy of the Lord—that’s all that we can do,” he said.

He said he thinks many are dealing with the shock of a small town homicide.

“It is so bizarre. This is not something you would expect,” Msgr. Kinkel said. “I think that’s the part of what people are dealing with.”

Archbishop Samuel Aquila responded to the tragedy urging faithful to join him in prayer and support for the Kelly family and school community.

“No amount of words can take away the shock and grief we experience when we are faced with the evil of murder,” Archbishop Aquila said in a statement May 6. “The only adequate response any of us can offer to those who are impacted by this tragedy is to bring them the forgiveness and mercy of Christ, to reassure them that they are cared for, and pray with them.”

He also asked for prayers for Kai and the repose of his father’s soul.

The school community held a prayer service last week and counselors from the Eagle County School District and Samaritan Counseling Center of the Rockies in Edwards were available for students and families.

Randy Simmonds, executive director of the counseling center, said counselors focused on healing by keeping the community together. They visited the school daily and Simmonds met with parents May 12. He said he warned them about finding blame in this tragedy.

“Someone is always seeking someone to blame,” he said. “That is such a misguided and unproductive and unhelpful pursuit because no one saw this coming.”

Police arrested Kai May 5 after Eagle County sheriff’s deputies went to the Gypsum home he shared with his father. Joseph had not shown up for his job at the Eagle County Government’s ECO Transit Department, and Kai had called in to report his 50-year-old father was ill. Kai’s mother has not lived in the home for about a year.

Joseph also did not show up for an April 30 meeting with deputies to discuss a graffiti incident Kai was allegedly involved in.

Kai answered the door at the home and told deputies his father was dead. They found Joseph’s body with two gunshot wounds to the head. He was shot with a .22 rifle. The coroner reported May 6 that Joseph had been dead about six days.

Police are continuing an investigation into the motive. Kai is charged with first-degree murder, criminal mischief and a crime-of-violence sentence enhancement.

Msgr. Kinkel said Kai and his father attended St. Mary Mission Church in Eagle. He met Kai and called him a “bright kid and a quiet kid.”

In light of the tragedy, the archbishop also shared a reflection on Psalm 31: “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

He said, “Let us commend the souls of the deceased and of our entire community to the one who alone can give us lasting peace.”

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