CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati man jailed in the accidental shooting death of his 11-year-old daughter was denied his request Thursday to attend the girl’s funeral, with a judge saying that public safety trumps his grief.
In an emotional hearing in Hamilton County court, Judge Nadine Allen said that too many members of the public and some relatives are angry to allow Deandre Kelley, 34, to attend the funeral Saturday of young Shanti Lanza.
Allen said the neighborhood where the funeral will be held is not particularly safe and that Kelley will have to “grieve symbolically.”
Kelley’s attorney, Hugh McCloskey Jr., had argued that Kelley’s presence at the funeral would help the whole family begin healing and suggested the possibility of allowing Kelley a private viewing away from the public “to say goodbye to his daughter.”
Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said allowing that would be wrong.
“He’s a horrible person for what he did,” he said. “He shouldn’t go to the funeral, he should go to prison.”
Allen’s decision prompted Shanti’s mother, Kristina Lanza, to sob loudly in court and appear to nearly faint. She had wanted Kelley to attend Shanti’s funeral, saying the shooting was an accident.
Kelley had previously pleaded not guilty to reckless homicide and pleaded not guilty during the hearing to three new charges, including involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and having a weapon under disability.
If convicted on all counts, Kelley could face up to 17 years in prison.
According to Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters, Shanti was having a slumber party with several friends Sunday when her mother, Kristina Lanza, began arguing with Kelley about him bringing a gun into the home. Lanza ordered Kelley out of the house, but he returned drunk around 3 a.m., prosecutors said.
The children, who were downstairs watching TV while Lanza slept upstairs, opened the door for Kelley, who walked in, turned and fired a gunshot out the front door, prosecutors say.
Shanti then ran upstairs for her mother, who again ordered Kelley to leave. That’s when Kelley walked out and fired two shots into the air. One of them hit Shanti’s lung, who was hiding in an upstairs bedroom. She later died at a hospital.
Deters said Kelley had previously been charged three times with domestic violence but was never prosecuted because Lanza refused to testify.
“This is the end of the road for this enabling,” Deters said in a statement. “He needs to be in jail, and the rest of them (Shanti’s family) should be looking in the mirror for the reason this little girl is dead.”
Relatives have described Shanti as a happy, beautiful child who loved her father. She was a ballet dancer who enjoyed rapping with her father and was set attend the School for Creative and Performing Arts next year, they said.
Kelley’s brother, Antwon Kelley, described his brother as a family man and loving father of seven children who lost his teenage son a year ago in a still-unsolved shooting.