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Kaylin Gillis' friends testify in driveway shooting trial

From left to right: Kevin Monahan speaks with his attorneys Kurt Mausert and Art Frost. Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan and ADA Christian Morris are also seen in Washington County Court.
Aaron Shellow-Lavine
/
WAMC
From left to right: Kevin Monahan speaks with his attorneys Kurt Mausert and Art Frost. Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan and ADA Christian Morris are also seen in Washington County Court.

The trial of Kevin Monahan, who is accused of killing Kaylin Gillis by shooting at a car in his driveway last year, included testimony from Gillis’ friends and boyfriend Thursday.

The 66-year-old Monahan is facing second-degree murder, reckless endangerment, and tampering with evidence charges. Prosecutors allege he shot at several vehicles that entered the driveway of his Hebron home on the night of April 15th, killing the 20-year-old Schuylerville woman. Monahan’s attorneys argue that he fired one shot in self-defense, and the second fatal shot was due to a malfunction of his gun.

Gillis’ boyfriend Blake Walsh, who was driving the SUV Monahan shot after it mistakenly turned into the driveway, testified Thursday.

Walsh said he and a group of friends had received an invitation to a party in the Salem-Hebron area, but did not know the exact address. The caravan of two cars and a motorcycle turned into Monahan’s unpaved, winding driveway despite seeing “private property” signs.

Walsh became emotional when Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan asked him about the moments leading to the second, fatal shot.

As the young men and women realized that they were at the wrong address, they began to turn around, which was when Monahan exited his home and fired upon the vehicles.

Blake described hearing a loud pop, metal breaking, and ducking as he sped down the driveway. He saw that Gillis was slumped over toward the door and was unresponsive. At the end of the driveway he called to the driver of the second car that they needed to find a hospital.

Defense attorney Art Frost questioned Walsh about the alcohol and drugs that were in his car. Walsh said he was sober.

Frost also questioned Walsh on the specific timeline of events once his car entered the driveway. In a sworn statement taken by law enforcement the night of the 15th, Walsh said that he saw lights go on in the Monahan house, realized they were at the wrong address, and began to turn around. On the stand, Walsh said that he only saw lights go on after he had begun a three-point turn to leave the Monahan driveway.

Katherine Rondeau, who was driving the other car, was called to testify next. She gave an emotional recounting of the night, and said that she believed they were at the correct address when pulling up to 1263 Patterson Hill Road; the house they were going to was only a few hundred feet further down the rural street.

Frost asked Rondeau whether she remembered smoking marijuana with anyone who was present at Walsh’s house before leaving for the party. She replied that she, Walsh, and one other person had prior to leaving.

Rondeau said that with her and Walsh’s cars next to each other in Monahan’s driveway, there was not enough room for another car to pass them while remaining on the road. 

Rory Bain was also present at Walsh’s home prior to the group leaving for the party. He testified that he drove his motorcycle up past Monahan’s home to see if anyone was inside. His motorcycle stalled as he began to go back down the hill, and when he heard the first shot he thought it may have been his vehicle backfiring.

The three other passengers in the two cars also provided individual retellings of the traumatic events.

On cross examination, Frost pressed the young men and women about the differences between their testimony and sworn statements taken the night of Gillis’ death.

Frost questioned Maxwell Barney about the sequence of events leading to the cars fleeing Monahan’s driveway. On the stand, Barney said he had heard the first shot between points two and three of Walsh’s three-point-turn out of the driveway, but in the statement he provided in April he said they began to turn around after they heard that first shot. 

Another had said in a statement that Monahan had fired “into the air.” Frost questioned whether that meant the gun was facing the car or was pointed up. 

When asked by Frost, none of the young men and women said they had tried to call out to anyone in Monahan’s home before fleeing.

Earlier Thursday, District Attorney Jordan called Jordan Caruso to testify on the genetic testing done on the 20-gauge shotgun Monahan brought out on his porch the night of Gillis’ death.

Caruso explained to jurors how she went about testing different areas of the shotgun to varying degrees of success to determine whether Monahan’s DNA was on it.

Caruso said she was able to determine Monahan had handled the weapon despite the inconclusive results of some of the comparisons.

On cross-examination, Frost questioned Caruso on some of the ways that DNA can be removed from an object. DNA naturally decays but can also be removed by chemical or physical cleaning.

The lack of conclusive DNA evidence is important to the charge of tampering with evidence, but Caruso said she found no evidence of bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or other chemical cleaning agents, and that it would be fair to say that she wouldn’t be able to conclude that anyone tried to remove DNA from the shotgun. 

A number of law enforcement officers have testified on the procedures they took and interactions they had with Monahan on the night of Gillis’ death. 

A 911 operator said she told Monahan that police had arrived at his home and wanted to speak to him due to a noise complaint, not a shooting. Monahan refused to walk down his driveway to speak with them, and instead told the operator and officers that he had been asleep since 8:30, and suggested that hunters with dogs had been in the woods behind his home and that maybe they could have been the source of the noise.

State Police investigators have also reviewed their failed attempts to locate any evidence of the two shots on the Monahan property – roughly 60,000 square feet in area.

Much of the defense’s strategy revolves around the lack of communication between Monahan and Gillis’ friends as well as law enforcement.