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Kelch sentenced to 30 years

BY Kaitlin Gebby - kgebby@wabashplaindealer.com

WABASH -- Emotions ran high in Wabash County Circuit Court when 23-year-old Corey Kelch was sentenced to 30 years for a robbery connected to the murder of Jordon Richards in 2018.

April 25, 2018 was repeated again and again in the letters read aloud by Michelle Richards, the victim’s mother.

“It was the day you changed our lives forever,” she said to Kelch.

Jordon Richards, 22, was discovered in his LaFonatine home with a single gunshot wound to the head on April 25. Kelch and his friend Kaleb Marin, 22, of Marion, were wanted in connection to his murder and for stealing firearms, drugs, prescription medicine and money from his home.

It was determined by investigators that he was shot with his own gun, a .40 caliber pistol, the same gun that was discovered in the backseat of a car four days later in a fatal wreck that killed Marin. Kelch was found and arrested May 4. He was initially charged with murder and a Level 2 felony robbery charge.

He pleaded guilty to the robbery charge in January under the condition that the murder charge would be dropped. On Monday, Wabash County Prosecutor William Hartley laid out the details of that night while Kelch testified and confirmed what had happened.

Kelch said he and Marin had a conversation about a potential robbery of a LaFontaine man. Marin asked Kelch to come pick him up from Richards’ home. Kelch drove to LaFontaine in his girlfriend’s 2001 Buick LeSabre. He said he waited there for two hours for Marin to come out of the home. He told Hartley on Monday that he never heard a gunshot while waiting in the car.

Once he came out, Kelch said Marin brought him items he’d stolen from the home, including a firearm, cocaine, xanax and money. When they drove away, Kelch said they hadn’t yet left the neighborhood when Marin realized he forgot his wallet. He asked Kelch to go inside and get it for him, and Kelch said he kicked in the locked front door and discovered Richards’ body.

After leaving again with his wallet, Kelch said they were in Marion when Marin said he left his phone at the crime scene as well.

Indiana State Police recovered the phone and discovered text messages between Kelch and Marin planning how he would escape after the robbery as well as Kelch’s share, if he helped.

Kelch said he deeply regretted not going to police, and he would “take it all back” if he could. Hartley asked him why he didn’t, and he said he was scared. He said after seeing what Marin did to Richards, “I was scared he’d do the same to me.”

His friends and relatives filled the seats of the courtroom Monday. For two hours, tissues were passed up and down the pews as more than seven people either related to or close with Richards said their piece to Kelch before his sentencing.

“You took him from us,” his mother said. “He was 22 years young … He was a kind, giving person. He would have given you the money if you’d asked for it.”

“You took away a father, brother, uncle, a son,” his sister, Amanda Richards, said. “Do you know what it’s like to hear his daughter ask where her daddy is? To hear her ask that everyday?”

Jordon Richards was a paraplegic and a veteran of the U.S. National Guard. His family said his death was “cruel” and “unnecessary,” in that “he couldn’t or wouldn’t have fought you.”

In his testimony, Kelch said he “was a different person back then,” and said the time around Richards’ murder was a “dark time” in his life that was controlled by addiction to meth and cocaine.

Hartley argued that Kelch may not be as remorseful as he says from that time in his life. According to a monitored phone call from the jail, Kelch had been orchestrating a plan to bring drugs into the Wabash County Jail the day before his sentencing hearing.

After the testimonies, Hartley requested Kelch receive the maximum 30-year sentence for a Level 2 felony due to the result of the robbery he was accessory to. He said that a plea agreement presents less risk than a jury trial with a similar sentence to Indiana’s previously recommended sentence for murders and Level 1 felonies. In addition, Kelch cannot appeal his 30-year sentence with a plea agreement.

Judge Robert McCallen III said he would have been disappointed if Hartley “had requested any less than the maximum sentence.”

“I’ll keep my words short,” he said to Kelch, “because I want you to remember every minute, of every hour of everyday what you’ve heard here today. I hope you’re haunted by what you’ve done.”

Richards’ family and friends clapped and his mother, through tears, said she was “pleased that there’s justice.”