Family tensions escalate after Midgyett found guilty

Friday, November 9, 2007 | 12:48 p.m. CST; updated 9:38 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

COLUMBIA — A Columbia man was found guilty Friday morning in his second trial for the slaying of Carlos Kelly. When the jury announced its verdict after seven hours of deliberation, family and friends of the victim and the defendant shouted at each other in the courtroom at the Boone County Courthouse, and two people were removed by Columbia police.

Travis Midgyett, 28, was found guilty of second-degree murder and first-degree attempted robbery Friday by a Clay County jury. His sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10. This was his second trial for the crime after a jury deadlocked in March. Deliberations began Thursday night and continued Friday morning.

Midgyett family members — especially women and small children — cried after Judge Gene Hamilton read the verdict. On the other side of the courtroom, family of the victim displayed a framed picture of Kelly in celebration of the verdict. That brought outbursts of anger and threats from the Midgyett family while Columbia police who were present to hear the verdict struggled to keep the groups separate as they escorted them from the courtroom.

“It’s not justice,” a woman from Midgyett’s family shouted.

“Everybody has lost, so what’s all of the animosity for?” a family member of Kelly’s yelled back.

Kelly’s mother, Mary Kelly, said it was difficult going through the trial for a second time, but she said she was glad about the verdict.

“It’s been a very long time,” she said.

Her son was killed on March 29, 2006, in his home on Cynthia Drive after Midgyett and Rodney Cunningham, 30, broke in looking for drugs and money. Both men were charged in the crime, and Cunningham was found guilty in May. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Cunningham testified in court Thursday that Midgyett swung the landscaping timber that struck and killed Kelly. His testimony was one of the differences between Midgyett’s first and second trial and was influential in Friday’s verdict because it placed Midgyett at the scene of the crime, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Steven Berry said.

“Testimony of a co-defendant against a defendant is always going to be important to a jury,” he said.

Berry also said that testimony from two women, Teisha Moody and Angela Young, who were at Kelly’s house when the crime occurred, helped the jury find Midgyett guilty. The two testified on Wednesday that after they spent the night drinking and doing drugs, Midgyett and Cunningham broke in and held them captive while they ransacked Kelly’s home in search of cocaine and money.

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