MOUNT VERNON — A Mount Vernon juvenile was indicted Monday by the Knox County grand jury as a Serious Youthful Offender (SYO) for the assault and death of a 52-year-old Mount Vernon man in May. This is the first SYO case in Knox County.

Ryan Kelley, who was 17 at the time of the assault but is now 18, was charged with three felony counts and one misdemeanor, including murder and involuntary manslaughter.

The charges concerned an incident on May 1. Kelley and a group of juveniles were by a basketball court on the Hiawatha Park Pool complex when 52-year-old David Ballard biked past the park on Beech Street. Kelley and his friend reportedly taunted Ballard which caused Ballard to cross the street to the park side, according to Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Chip McConville.

Kelley and the group of juveniles then surrounded Ballard when a physical altercation occurred between Kelley and Ballard. Kelley allegedly punched Ballard in the face, causing Ballard to fall to the ground and hit his head on a concrete parking curb. The impact caused Ballard to suffer a brain bleed, according to McConville.

Three emergency calls to 911 were made by witnesses regarding the assault.

One witness reported “a guy in a red shirt”—later identified as Kelley—hit “an old guy” who was then unconscious on the ground.

A 4-minute call revealed that witnesses around Ballard observed labored breathing like he was “snoring.” Witnesses were hesitant to conduct CPR because the position of Ballard’s head on the curb looked like he might have sustained neck injury. The dispatch operator instructed witnesses not to move Ballard.

While dispatch was on its way, witnesses reported that Kelley and the group of juveniles had left the scene northbound in a vehicle. A police squad was dispatched to pursue the vehicle.

Ballard was taken to a local hospital by emergency services and later transferred to a Columbus hospital where he passed away on May 15.

Kelley is charged as a SYO due to the severity of the case and the fact that he will soon age out of the juvenile corrections system, explained McConville.

The SYO sentencing law is a fairly new legal tool enacted in 2002 that enables blended sentences. The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) only has the capacity to confine felony offenders ages 10 to 21. Prior to the SYO law, youthful offenders could either be tried as a juvenile and serve their sentences until 21 or be tried as adults. It is more difficult to designate a juvenile as an adult offender—a process called “bindover.”

Under SYO, the judge can give Kelley a juvenile sentence at the DYS and an additional adult sentence; Kelley would serve out the adult portion of his sentence in an adult facility after he ages out of the DYS. If this happens, it will be the first time a Knox County judge has issued a juvenile-adult dual sentence.

The SYO designation was not the only complication in the case. Because Ballard died in Franklin County, the autopsy report had to be transferred back into the Knox County system. Witness accounts also took a long time to gather.

It took multiple grand jury sessions to reach the indictment, said McConville.

Kelley’s indictment is one of the two murder indictments issued on Monday. The other was Caleb Sarge’s indictment for the murder of John Serio. This was the first time that Knox County has issued two murder indictments on the same day.

Other indictments issued by the grand jury on Monday include: Mark Crawford, 50, Howard, operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, a fourth-degree felony, and driving under suspension, a first-degree misdemeanor; Jacob McQueen, 34, Mount Vernon, aggravated possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony; Amanda Alexander, 30, homeless, possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony; Jessie Tuberville, 43, having weapon while under disability, a third-degree felony; William Strouse, 50, unknown, two counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs, one a third-degree felony and one a fourth degree felony; Leonard Rice, 60, Mount Vernon, having weapons while under disability, a third-degree felony; Evan Posey, 19, Mount Vernon, aggravated possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony, assault on a peace officer, a fourth-degree felony, domestic violence, a first-degree misdemeanor, resisting arrest, a second-degree misdemeanor, and illegal use or possession of drug paraphernalia, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; Anthony Morton, 34, Mount Vernon, five counts of aggravated trafficking in drugs, four are third degree felonies and one is a fourth degree felony.

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Eli Chung: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @




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