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Mother of murder victim wants police investigated, fired

By Audra Gamble/The Holland Sentinel • Feb 6, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Five days shy of her 22nd birthday, Grand Valley State University nursing student Rosemarie Reilly was shot and killed by her former boyfriend.

Had Ottawa County and GVSU police officers been more proactive, Pam Reilly said her daughter would still be alive.

“She was very smart and very hardworking,” Pam Reilly said of her daughter. “She was an amazing big sister and she was such a role model. She was going to do amazing things.”

Rosemarie was killed Nov. 6, 2016, by Jeremy Kelley, whom she had taken out a personal protection order. Kelley found Rosemarie at her friend’s house in Grand Rapids, dragging her into the street by her hair before shooting her.

At the time of her murder, there were two warrants out for Kelley’s arrest. In a federal lawsuit filed by Pam Reilly, the Reilly family claims Kelley was given special treatment by police because his father, Sean Kelley, was a cop on the east side of the state.

“We know Jeremy would have been brought to justice if his father wasn’t a cop,” said Jim Rasor, the Reillys’ attorney. “If law enforcement had done what law enforcement should do, this horrible catastrophe could have been diverted.”

The lawsuit names Sgt. Dennis Luce, Sgt. Chris Dill and Deputy Eric Tubergen of the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office; the GVSU Police Department’s now-Chief Brandon DeHaan and Officer Collin Wallace; and Sean Kelley’s estate as defendants. The lawsuit claims the police officers all spoke with Sean Kelley about his son, and honored Sean Kelley’s requests for the officers to go easy on his son.

“Every police officer I spoke to told me they knew (Jeremy’s) dad was a cop and they had spoken to his father,” Pam Reilly said. “He had no right to intervene where his son was.”

Pam Reilly said she wants the Sheriff’s Office to launch an investigation into the officers’ actions in this case. While she didn’t create it, she also supports an online petition calling for the police officers to be fired.

“I want justice for Rosemarie,” she said. “I want others to know what she could have been. I don’t want her ever to be forgotten. I don’t want her death to be in vain.”

What led to the murder

Rosemarie Reilly was on the dean’s list for six semesters at GVSU, and had already been accepted into several graduate schools. When her mother last talked to her, she said Rosemarie was excited about becoming an anesthesiologist and planning to do medical mission work in Haiti. She volunteered at a nursing home in her free time.

“She was an amazing kid,” Pam Reilly said. “They didn’t just take her from us. They took her from her sister and her family.”

The Kelleys and the Reillys knew each other when their children were in high school, with Jeremy Kelley living in the Reillys’ home at one point when there was family strife in the Kelley household. In college, Jeremy and Rosemarie lived together.

But, in September 2016, the couple broke up. On Oct. 5, Kelley was admitted to Holland Hospital for a suicide attempt. After the hospital visit, he began stalking Rosemarie.

A few days later, Rosemarie met her mother for lunch. Her nose was crooked and she had bruises on her face. In a fight, Kelley had broken her nose.

Kelley called Rosemarie 43 times between Oct. 8 and 11. She retrieved her belongings from his trailer on Oct. 16, staying with a friend in Grand Rapids and an aunt and uncle in the area. The next day, she was granted the PPO.

Despite not being allowed to contact her, Kelley continued trying to call his ex-girlfriend, stalking her on campus on her way to classes. Between Oct. 17 and 22, he contacted her 86 times via texts, voicemails, calls and emails to her student account. All of these points of contact violated the conditions of the PPO.

By Oct. 28, the Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant for Kelley for domestic violence charges, but the warrant was mailed to him and he wasn’t picked up by police. On Nov. 2, another arrest warrant was issued against him by the GVSU police for stalking. Again, he wasn’t picked up by law enforcement.

On Nov. 6, Kelley killed Rosemarie before fatally shooting himself.

Ottawa County legal counsel Doug Van Essen said the county is actively fighting the claims of favoritism toward Jeremy Kelley in the lawsuit in federal court.

“Although we are certainly sympathetic to the Reilly family for its loss, many of the allegations in the complaint are plainly false,” Van Essen wrote in an email to The Sentinel. “We expect a jury to exonerate these officers when the real facts are known.”

Van Essen also said “the county does not terminate personnel based upon online petitions or allegations in a complaint filed by (the) plaintiff’s lawyers, and we suppose that people are thankful for that.” He said Sheriff’s Office personnel have been exonerated by federal juries in the past three lawsuits filed against the department.

The Reillys are suing for medical, funeral and burial expenses, along with compensatory and punitive damages.

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