Crime

What’s next for teen accused in beating death of 16-year-old cousin?

Dexter Mendoza Kelley pleaded not guilty to murder in the March beating death of his 16-year-old cousin Cliff Allyn.
Dexter Mendoza Kelley pleaded not guilty to murder in the March beating death of his 16-year-old cousin Cliff Allyn. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

A Meridian native has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder in the beating death of his cousin, a Vancleave High School freshman.

A Jackson County grand jury indicted Dexter Mandoza Kelley, 19, on a charge of murder in the March 31 beating death of Cliff Allyn, 16. Kelley had an arraignment on the murder charge earlier his month.

He is tentatively set to go to trial Feb. 21 before Circuit Judge Dale Harkey.

Kelley has remained jailed without bond since his arrest. Jackson County officials took him into custody on the same day he is accused of killing Allyn, a member of his school’s JROTC program and a University of Alabama fan.

An autopsy showed Allyn died of blunt force trauma to the body during what Sheriff Mike Ezell has described as a beating.

Allyn’s body was found a day after he was reported missing. Dexter Kelley had even joined his relatives in the search for Allyn. When sheriff’s K-9s found Allyn’s body, Kelley took off running, relatives said, but was later taken into custody.

Kelly’s and Allyn’s grandmother, Kitty Johnson, last saw Allyn playing basketball with Dexter Kelley and his brother, Dustin Kelley, a former Latin Kings street gang member, outside Johnson’s home in rural Vancleave.

Allyn lived at Johnson’s home.

When she walked back outside, Allyn was gone and Dexter Kelley was back at his brother’s mobile home on the property.

Dexter Kelley has a history of run-ins with law enforcement. In the past, he has admitted threatening the lives of his father, brother and other relatives with weapons, such as knives and scissors.

His father, Paul Kelley, told the Sun Herald that his son has mental health problems and the family had tried to get him help.

Allyn’s mother, Jenny Smith, wants Kelley to go to prison for what’s he’s done but she fears his attorney will try to fight to have him treated at a mental institution instead of going to prison.

If convicted, Dexter Kelley could go to prison for life.

He is being held in the Jackson County jail. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Department investigated the case.

Margaret Baker: 228-896-0538, @Margar45

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