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Tuolumne County District Attorney Laura Krieg announced today that Kelly Kessler, 54, formerly of Twain Harte, was ordered released from state prison by Judge James Boscoe when he granted Kessler’s motion for resentencing under Penal Code section 1170(d)(1) (a newly amended state law) on February 4, 2019.
Kelly Kessler was convicted by a jury on February 28, 2003 of the following counts: Felony in Possession of a Firearm, Exhibiting a Firearm, Petty Theft, and Aggravated Trespess. Kessler was also found to have suffered two prior strike convictions, for a 1994 robbery and a 1995 residential burglary, and a prior prison sentence for the robbery along with a receiving stolen property conviction. On May 5, 2003 the court sentenced Kessler a total of 26 years to life in state prison. On May 13, 2004 the Fifth District Court of Appeal affirmed Kessler’s conviction in full.
The underlying facts leading to Kessler’s conviction were that about five months prior to November 2001, Kessler and Dorrey Hite drove from Tuolumne to Modesto to purchase heroin at a residence. Sometime later, Hite returned to the Modesto residence without Kessler and made another heroin purchase.
On November 18, 2001, at about 2:30 a.m., Kessler and Kevin Wallen arrived at Hite’s Tuolumne apartment and kicked the door in. Kessler had a big black gun. She swung the gun around, pointed it at Hite’s face, and said at least three times “I’m going to shoot you!” Kessler said that Hite had gone to Kessler’s “connection’s house,” and said something about losing $20 in a drug deal. Hite ran out the back door of her apartment, yelled “she’s got a gun” and yelled for her neighbors to call the police. Kessler followed Hite to the back steps of the nearby apartment of her neighbor, John Castro. Castro came out, saw Hite struggling with Kessler, and broke the two women apart. Vickie Paul, a friend of Castro’s wife and a guest in Castro’s apartment, came out and went into Hite’s apartment. Paul saw Wallen at Hite’s front door, and heard Wallen say to Kessler “Let’s go.” Kessler left by reentering the back door of Hite’s apartment, walking through the apartment, and then exiting through the front door. While walking through, Kessler took Hite’s cellular telephone. Very shortly thereafter, Kessler approached Hite’s front door again, this time carrying an open Buck knife. The police arrived, and Kessler dropped the knife and walked to the police vehicle.
Police found the gun and Hite’s cellular telephone in the Ford Bronco Kessler and Wallen had driven to Hite’s apartment. Wallen was sitting in the parked Ford Bronco when police arrived at the scene. Police found the open knife with its blade stuck in the ground near Hite’s front door. The knife had the initials “K.W.” etched on the blade.
In October of 2018, Kessler filed a petition for resentencing under a newly amended state law permitting a court to recall a sentence when the Secretary of the Board of Parole Hearings makes a recommendation. The court has discretion to resentence the defendant to less time than was originally imposed.
Kessler obtained a recommendation from the Secretary of the Board of Parole because she only had one discovered rules violation in her time in prison and in the Secretary’s opinion had otherwise been an exemplary prisoner. The People opposed the motion because this was Kessler’s third major felony conviction in less than a decade and her prior prison commitment did nothing to redirect her criminal behavior. The court found that Kessler was not the same person who was previously before the court and that the circumstances had changed since her conviction such that incarceration was no longer in the interests of justice. However, the court did make the defendant waive enough credits so that she could be placed on parole for three years. The court further ordered her immediate release from state prison which occurred at the courthouse directly after court concluded.
For more information, contact:
District Attorney, 209-588-5450