SALINA, Kan. – A rural Kansas man was sentenced to a little more than 10 years in prison for fatally shooting his 9-year-old stepbrother in the face during an argument about doing chores.
Ryan Velez, now 18, was only 14 when he shot Kaden Harper on June 1, 2010, while the boys were home alone in rural Assaria.
Velez has spent about four years at Larned State Hospital and was ordered back to Saline County District Court after he turned 18 for further sentencing. With time served, Velez is expected to be in prison for about five years and nine months, The Salina Journal reported.
Velez’s attorney, Mitch Christians, argued during a hearing Monday that Velez should receive a shorter sentence or one that would allow him to receive outpatient treatment while on probation. He said Velez is still young and his mental health issues could be successfully treated but not if he was sent to a hostile prison environment.
However, Kaden’s mother and stepfather urged Judge Patrick Thompson to keep Velez in prison.
“He allowed his temporary anger to cause him to do something permanently stupid,” Kaden’s mother, Courtney Holmes, said.
Kaden’s father, Kevin Harper, told the judge he would “strongly object” if Velez went free. He said he supported Velez for the first two years of court proceedings but has changed his mind. Harper lived with Velez’s mother, Angela Harper, and the two boys in Assaria.
“There has never been any remorse, nor has the truth been spoken,” Harper said. “He’s smart enough not to let the truth out if it interfered with his goal of coming home.”
Saline County Attorney Ellen Mitchell said Velez still did not seem to understand the consequences of the crime, despite extensive treatment at Larned, where staff was concerned about his lack of remorse and continued problem behavior.
Velez’s mother did not speak during the hearing. Velez also declined to address the court.
Thompson said a review of state hospital records convinced him that Velez was a “serious threat to public safety” and knew what he was doing when he shot Kaden.