For the mother of a 16-year-old Vancleave boy who was brutally beaten to death by his own cousin, even the maximum sentence her son's killer received for the crime Thursday does little to ease her pain over the loss of a son.
"My life has been forever changed by the hands of a monster," Jennifer "Jenny" Smith told Judge Dale Harkey on Thursday before he sentenced her nephew, Dexter Kelley, now 21, for the murder of her son, Cliff Allyn.
Kelley pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and Harkey sentenced him to the maximum amount of prison time for that charge, 40 years to serve day for day.
Before his death on March 31, 2016, Allyn was an avid member of ROTC at Vancleave High School. "Cliff had so many dreams he wanted to fulfill, and all of that was taken away from him by a cruel and hateful monster."
On Thursday, Kelley revealed exactly how the murder took place.
The two cousins were playing basketball outside the home of their grandmother, Kitty Johnson, along with Kelley's brother, Dustin Kelley, a former Latin Kings gang member. Allyn lived in Johnson's home and the brothers lived in a mobile home on the property.
Dexter said Thursday he was mad because he thought Cliff was messing with his dog. Cliff said he hadn't messed with the dog and told him to "(expletive) off."
Dexter said he punched Cliff until he was on the ground. He then pulled his neck back until it popped, stabbed him repeatedly in the neck with a screwdriver and then went back to the shed to get a ratchet. He hit Cliff in the head with a ratchet several times, then used a four-wheel ATV to drive Cliff's body into the wood, where he dumped it.
All that was previously reported was an account from Johnson, who said she went outside to find Allyn gone and Dexter Kelley back with his brother at the mobile home.
The family reported him missing the same evening. A day later, Jackson County authorities found Allyn's badly beaten body in some woods about 200 yards away from his grandmother's home.
He was found with stab wounds to his neck, strangulation marks around his neck and other injuries from the beating.
Paul Kelley said his son, Dexter Kelley, has suffered from mental illness his entire life and the family had tried repeatedly to get him help and treatment for the disease.
On Thursday it was revealed Dexter was not taking his prescribed medication for his mental illness at the time of the killing. He is taking medication now. A doctor evaluated him and determined he was competent to stand trial.
Smith and Paul Kelley are now estranged.
For Smith, each day since her son's murder has been a struggle to survive because the pain she feels over the loss of her son is deep and everlasting.
"I can no longer hear the words, 'I love you, Mom,' from my son ... anymore or feel the hugs of happiness or sadness," Smith said Thursday. "I will never be able to see my son grow into the great man I know he would have been. The day my son died, a part of me died with him."
District Attorney Tony Lawrence said Kelley will be in jail until he is 60 years old.
"He will essentially spend the rest of his life in prison for taking his cousin's life. He killed Cliff for no reason and then hid it from his family and law enforcement. I hope this sentence will deter the rise in violence committed by our youth and that they will know that committing senseless acts of violence will not be tolerated."
Assistant District Attorney Cherie Wade spoke to how the family had been "torn apart."
"While no amount of jail time will fill the void of the loss of Cliff, the victim's family is satisfied with the results of court today," she said. "I commend the work of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, as their investigation helped to resolve this case without having the families suffer the additional trauma of a trial."