LAPORTE | A 20-year-old Chicago man apologized to the parents of 17-year-old Kevin Kennelly Jr. before he was sentenced Thursday for killing their son in 2011 with a punch in Long Beach.
James Malecek under a guilty plea was sentenced to 145 actual days in the LaPorte County Jail for Class C felony involuntary manslaughter.
The balance of the four-year sentence will be served on electronic monitoring.
Malecek told a packed courtroom in LaPorte that his actions did not reflect the type of person "I really am."
"Every day I think about the pain and suffering you're experiencing. It truly was a terrible accident," Malecek said.
LaPorte Circuit Judge Tom Alevizos told Malecek to honor Kennelly and his family by leading a good, productive life after serving his sentence instead of using the experience as an excuse to go down hill.
The mood in the courtroom was somber as the victim's parents, Kevin and Jean Kennelly, told stories about the incredible joy their only child brought to their lives and his large extension of family members and friends.
"He was a gentle soul. So funny and smart," said Jean Kennelly, who went on to describe the "unimaginable loneliness" Kevin's unexpected death has brought to them.
They said he was an avid White Sox fan and a good enough athlete to have aspirations of playing Division III college baseball after high school.
Neither of Kevin's parents was willing to offer forgiveness to Malecek, who showed little emotion during the hearing except for a slight cracking of his voice during his brief speech.
"How can we forgive when the destruction is so complete?" asked Jean Kennelly, who added she and her husband also were killed but didn't die.
"I can no longer go fishing with him or simply just sit and talk," said Kevin Kennelly Sr.
The families of Malecek and the victim, also from the Chicago area, both have summer homes in Long Beach.
On July 4, 2011, Kevin and four of his friends after a fireworks show made their way over to a party attended by Malecek and a large number of other young people in the 2600 block of Lakeshore Drive.
Jean Kennelly said her son did not know most of the people at the party and was offered vodka by Malecek's sister and declined the offer.
She said Malecek's sister punched one of her son's friends, triggering an altercation, and her son got between the combatants to try and restore peace.
That's when Malecek punched her son in the jaw with such force fragments of his jaw bone went into his brain, said Jean Kennelly.
She said her son was pronounced brain dead the next day but kept alive until his organs were harvested.
"I will spend the rest of my life wondering why you did this," she told Malecek.
In accepting the plea, Alevizos said there was no proof that Malecek intended to kill the boy and had no prior criminal record.
He also told Malecek he was given a break.
"You need to take this gift because it could have been a lot worse," Alevizos said.
The Malecek family issued a statement Thursday afternoon expressing condolences to the Kennelly family.
They describe Malecek as "admirably loyal and trustworthy. It was, perhaps these qualities that put him in the horrible and unfortunate situation he faces today."
"When confronted with a situation in which he felt compelled to help, protect, defend and remain loyal he acted and his actions resulted in this terrible accident."