New details emerge in death of 20-year-old who drove down wrong driveway

Click to play video: 'Woman shot dead after pulling into wrong driveway in New York'
Woman shot dead after pulling into wrong driveway in New York
WATCH: Woman shot dead after pulling into wrong driveway in New York – Apr 18, 2023

New details have been revealed in the shooting death of 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis that provide a clearer picture of what transpired that Saturday night in rural upstate New York.

Gillis was in the passenger seat of a car travelling through the small town of Hebron with three other people when the group took a wrong turn down a driveway owned by Kevin Monahan, 65. The group soon learned they were at the wrong address and were turning around to exit the property when Monahan opened fire, letting off two shots from his porch, police said.

Gillis was struck by a bullet. By the time emergency crews responded, they were unable to save her.

According to a Tuesday report from the Times Union newspaper, Gillis was shot with a lead slug — designed to kill large hunting game — fired from a 12-gauge shotgun.

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Mugshot of Kevin Monahan, a New York resident who was charged with second-degree murder in the April 15, 2023 shooting death of Kaylin Gillis, 20. Washington County Sheriff's Office

Gillis’s boyfriend, 19-year-old Blake Walsh, told NBC News he was the one driving the car when Gillis was killed. He said she was shot in the neck.

“I want to believe it was instant. I’m hoping it was. I’m praying it was,” the 19-year-old said, breaking down in tears.

The group of friends were heading to a party in the area when they made the fateful wrong turn, Walsh told the outlet. In his car were Gillis and two other people, though they were convoying as part of a larger group. In total, there were two cars and a motorcycle travelling together.

“We thought we were at the right address,” Walsh said. “We didn’t have any cell service to figure it out. As soon as we figured it out that we were at the wrong location, we started to leave, and that’s when everything happened.”

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“My friend said, ‘They’re shooting — go!’ I tried to step on the gas as fast as I could, and that’s when the fatal shot came through.

Because there was no cell service in the area, the group fleeing the property continued driving down the road before they were able to call 911, Walsh told NBC. The call eventually came in from a location in the nearby town of Salem, five miles down the road.

“It did not feel like that,” Walsh said. “It felt like 30 seconds. The adrenaline was rushing so bad.”

Paramedics arrived at the Salem location and performed CPR on Gillis to no avail. The 20-year-old, who was a resident of Schuylerville, N.Y., was pronounced dead at the scene.

During Monday’s news conference regarding the shooting, Washington County Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy also noted that the incident took place in an area with limited cellphone service and that it’s easy to get lost if you aren’t a local.

Murphy told reporters that day that Monahan, who was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, started shooting at the group after they turned to leave. He said Gillis was an “innocent young girl,” and that there was “no reason for Mr. Monahan to feel threatened.”

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One of Monahan’s neighbours, Adam Matthews, who runs an auto repair shop in nearby Salem, said Monahan had become more and more upset in recent years at people making wrong turns into his driveway.

“I’m just a bit overwhelmed,” Matthews said in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday. “It is a tragic event.”

When officers arrived at Monahan’s house to investigate the shooting, he refused to come out, Murphy said. Authorities spoke with him through a 911 dispatcher and in person for about an hour before he was taken into custody, according to the sheriff. He has since been uncooperative with the investigation, Murphy said.

The 65-year-old labourer was arraigned on Sunday and has pleaded not guilty, according to his lawyer Kurt Mausert.

Mausert disputed the sheriff’s account of what happened on Monahan’s property that night, claiming to the New York Times that Monahan had every right to fear the convoy of two vehicles and a motorcycle coming up his driveway.

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Mausert said the vehicles were speeding up the private driveway, with their engines revving and lights shining.

“Is that a fear-inducing scenario? Well, maybe it is,” Mausert said. “It is not the simple scenario of these people took a wrong turn and within 20 seconds of them taking the wrong turn, this guy’s on his deck blasting away. That’s not what happened.”

The lawyer said Monahan did not intend to harm anyone with his shots.

Mausert also revealed that he was on the phone with his client when police arrived at Monahan’s doorstep, and that they weren’t aware anyone had died in the incident.

He said Monahan was talking to police outside his door and officials would not say why they were there and did not have an arrest warrant.

When police officials told the lawyer over the phone that someone had died, Mausert said he helped arrange the peaceful surrender.

“They told me there was a fatality, then it started to make sense to me,” he said. “At that point, it’s dangerous for everybody. My goal at that point was to facilitate my client turning himself in to the police safely.”

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As for why Monahan has been uncooperative with police questioning, the lawyer said his client was exercising his right to remain silent.

Monahan is expected to appear in court Wednesday for a bail hearing and Gillis’ boyfriend said that he plans to attend.

“I need to see who took my girlfriend away from me. I need to look at him,” Walsh said.

The couple had been dating for four years and they often spoke about being in the “two per cent,” a reference to a popular statistic that only two per cent of high school sweethearts end up married.

“I had high hopes, and I had plans,” Walsh said. “I didn’t want to be with anybody else, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

“My world was taken from me Saturday.”

Photo of Kaylin Gillis, 20, who died on April 15, 2023 after being shot by a homeowner in New York after Gillis and her friends took a wrong turn into his driveway. GoFundMe

Gillis’ father, Andrew Gillis, said in a Facebook post Tuesday that his family is devastated.

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“Kaylin was a kind, beautiful soul and a ray of light to anyone who was lucky enough to know her,” the post said. “She was just beginning to find her way in the world with kindness, humor, and love. … She was taken from us far too soon.”

Andrew Gillis wrote that his daughter was an honours student and talented artist who was looking forward to attending college in Florida with dreams of becoming a marine biologist.

“Our family will never be the same but we will be guided by Kaylin’s positivity, optimism, and joy as we learn to live with her loss,” he wrote.

As Gillis’ family mourned Tuesday, officials at the school system she attended held a news conference to express their sadness about her death. Gillis graduated in 2021 from Schuylerville High School, about 32 kilometres from Monahan’s home in Hebron.

“We have very very close-knit community,” said Katie Elsworth, the middle school principal. “And we say to them upon graduation that we will always be your school family. We will always be here to support you and take care of you and love you. And when something happens to one of students who graduated, it hurts our hearts just as much as when they’re here.”

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Schuylerville High School principal James Ducharme said Gillis had an infectious smile.

“Her smile would light up a room,” he said. “Her personality would light up any classroom that she walked into or any club activity that she participated in.”

School officials said Gillis was on the competition cheerleading team in high school for two seasons, took part in Future Farmers of America programs and was an avid artist.

A celebration of Gillis’ life is scheduled for Friday in Schuylerville.

— With files from The Associated Press

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