FORT EDWARD, New York — The homeowner accused of fatally shooting a 20-year-old woman when an SUV she was in pulled down the wrong driveway was described in court on Wednesday as a man with a reputation for being “short-tempered”. .
Wearing a jacket, shirt and shackles, Kevin Monahan sat next to his attorney in a Washington County courtroom as prosecutors argued he was a fugitive. Charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Kaylin Gillis, Monahan faces a life sentence of at least 15 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison if convicted. He had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Authorities said Monahan, 65, shot at a Ford Explorer from his porch on Saturday after a group of four friends realized they had driven into the wrong driveway and his home in Hebron, about 50 miles north of Albany , left.
One of the two shots hit Gillis, an aspiring marine biologist who was pronounced dead several miles away after the group called 911.
Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris Wednesday said Monahan was “confrontational and short-tempered,” which would lead to impulsiveness.
He also revealed that the suspect had recently “caused a scene” at a state Department of Motor Vehicles office, claiming Monahan was upset that he had to appear in person. Prosecutors asked the judge to post bail of between $250,000 in cash and a $1 million partially secured bond.
Monahan’s attorney, Kurt Mausert, accused prosecutors of spreading innuendos and said an alleged explosion at the DMV shouldn’t be considered for bail because “the whole state would be locked up. Everyone in the state has had a bad experience with the DMV – it’s ridiculous.”
He asked Judge Adam Michelini to issue his client bail ranging from $10,000 in cash to $50,000 in partially secured bail, saying the purpose of bail was to ensure the defendant’s participation in the criminal proceedings and not to impose undue hardship.
However, Michelini ordered Monahan to be remanded in custody without bail.
The judge said the only considerations in his decision were Monahan’s alleged use of a firearm and the fact that Gillis was killed.
“I don’t think there is more serious damage,” he said.
Michelini’s decision drew fists and slaps from Gillis’ relatives and friends.
Wednesday’s hearing shed no light on why the suspect allegedly opened fire on the SUV, but a neighbor told The Associated Press that Monahan has become increasingly annoyed in recent years at people turning wrong into his driveway .
In an exclusive interview with NBC News on Tuesday night, Blake Walsh said he and three passengers – two friends and Gillis, his girlfriend – were looking for a party when two rounds were fired in their direction.
“We thought we were in the right place,” he said. “We didn’t have cell service to find out. As soon as we found out we were in the wrong place, we started walking and then everything happened.”
Walsh, 19, of Cambridge, New York, said what happened next was blurry.
“My friend said, ‘They shoot – go!’ I tried to accelerate as quickly as possible and that’s when the fatal shot came through,” he said.
Walsh attended Monahan’s hearing but declined to comment to reporters before and after the trial.
While Mausert declined to discuss details of the shooting, he told NBC News ahead of Wednesday’s hearing that “the drivers of the vehicles made mistakes, mistakes by my client. I can’t elaborate on this further until I do my own investigation, which I’m doing right now. And until I get trackable footage from the prosecution.”
He said that Monahan had no ill intentions and that the human tendency is to slander someone when tragedy occurs.
“If the situation involves mistakes rather than bad faith, then there really is no villain,” Mausert said. “I believe this is a case that was sort of a perfect storm of failure and confluence of events leading to tragedy without necessarily having malicious intent.”
However, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said during a press conference after the hearing that prosecutors are considering other charges against Monahan. A possible charge mentioned in court Wednesday was attempted first-degree assault. Jordan, while insisting that Monahan is presumed innocent, said, “My office will do everything in our power to ensure Kaylin Gillis gets justice.”
He said the evidence would determine any new charges against Monahan, noting that after the shooting, more than 40 law enforcement officers responded and worked to gather evidence.
“We will follow facts where they lead us,” Jordan said.
Gillis’ father, Andrew Gillis, also spoke to reporters after the hearing. He said he was grateful he “had to tell her I love her before she walked out the door.”
He said he was “angry” his daughter was dead, but the fact that Monahan was being held without bail was the “best possible outcome” so early in the criminal case.
“That brings some comfort,” he says. “I think everyone in the courtroom breathed a sigh of relief when they heard that.”