Kelly pleads guilty to rape, murder of Briana Rabon

Published: Sep. 28, 2015 at 1:11 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 8, 2015 at 1:11 PM EDT
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Stephen Ross Kelly (Source: Kershaw County Detention Center)
Stephen Ross Kelly (Source: Kershaw County Detention Center)
Briana Rabon, 18 was found dead in a wooded area behind Haig's Creek Subdivision in Elgin on...
Briana Rabon, 18 was found dead in a wooded area behind Haig's Creek Subdivision in Elgin on Feb. 26, 2014.

KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A 21-year-old Kershaw County man accused of raping, killing, and then stashing the body of an 18-year-old woman in a wooded area pleaded guilty Monday.

Trial was to start Monday for Stephen Ross Kelly in the death of Briana Rabon, 18, who was found dead behind Haig's Creek Subdivision in Elgin on Feb. 26, 2014. 

Instead of going to trial, Kelly pleaded guilty to all charges, including criminal sexual conduct, kidnapping, murder and a criminal domestic violence charge involving a household member.

Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said investigators zeroed in Kelly after they discovered the two were acquaintances and that Kelly "figured out he was getting caught in his lies" during the interview process.

"My investigators interviewed Stephen Kelly and partway during the interview he decided he needed to talk to a lawyer," Matthews said.

However, Kelly told investigators he was the last person to see Rabon alive, but could not account for her whereabouts after that, according to an arrest warrant.

Briana Rabon's family and closest friends filled half of the courtroom gallery, and at one point in Monday's hearing rose as a group in support of Briana's mother, and asked that the maximum sentence be handed down.

Kelly's defense told the judge he wanted to save Rabon's family the heartache of a trial, and that Kelly is ready to accept punishment. His mother took to the stand as well, citing Kelly's drug use as the catalyst leading up to Stephen Kelly's actions.

"I know in my heart that my child is not a monster," Kelly's mother said to Briana Rabon's family, "We're two families here in major tragedy."

Soon after his mother finished addressing the court, Stephen Kelly began speaking, first attempting to offer his apology to Rabon's family, and then asking to tell his version of events.

"I feel like if anything's right, it's to let the Rabon family know what happened that night," Kelly said.

The family turned him down.

Stephen Kelly went on to say: "I think about everyday what would have happened if I'd just let her go. Let her run."

He then asked the judge to give him the sentence he deserves.

Kelly was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

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