UNDERSTANDING KELLI: Family Members Speak Out

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It’s a question without an answer. Why did a young mother kill her two year-old child before taking her own life?

Family members say 23-year old Kelli Sly was dealing with depression. Officers checked on her welfare Saturday night, but just 12 hours later, police say she took her own life. Sly told police Saturday night that she wasn’t suicidal just frustrated by a lack of help caring for her 2-year old son.

The next morning, police were called to the Highway 5 bypass. Investigators say Sly intentionally took her own life by driving her car into an overpass. Officers then went to Sly’s Indianola apartment, where they found the body of 2-year old Gavin Sly. Police say evidence shows Kelli Sly was behind his death.

Kelli’s family is beside themselves. They say Kelli’s mom and Kelli’s estranged husband both called Indianola police the day before she killed herself and her son. They both begged police to do something, but when police went to talk to Kelli, she refused help.

Kelli’s sister in law says the whole family was planning an intervention to convince her she needed help, but they were just a few hours too late.

“They were best buddies. He helped his mommy. They cleaned together; she cleaned and he picked up,” says Brittany Kilts, Kelli’s sister in-law.

Family members say while Kelli loved her son Gavin, they admit the Sly family wasn’t always happy. They say Kelli was battling a tough fight with depression.

“There were people trying to help her trying to get her the help she needed,” says Kilts.

On Saturday, things took a turn for the worse. In the past few weeks Kelli lost her job and received an eviction notice. Kelli sent several text messages to her estranged husband Tim; leading Tim to believe Kelli might hurt herself. But because Kelli took out a protective order against him, Tim could not call or visit Kelli.

“It’s devastating. There are people out there that are talking very badly about my family and they have no clue,” says Kilts.

Brittany Kilts says Tim loved his son and did everything he could to get Kelli help.

Tim called police, and they checked on Kelli. Kelli said she was fine. But hours later, she killed her two year-old son Gavin.

“For people who ultimately take those steps and hurt others, kill others or kill themselves, their hopelessness is so profound they don’t see things the way we see them anymore,” says Dr. Jeffery Kerber of Iowa Health Counseling Centers for Central Iowa.

Dr. Kerber says it’s hard to understand why those suffering from depression act the way they do. Kelli’s family knows she loved her son. To them, nothing can explain her actions.

“I was shocked. I couldn’t believe she’d do that. I knew things were hard but I didn’t imagine they could be that hard,” says Kilts.

Kelli’s family may never understand how she felt the day she died. But for them, it doesn’t matter. Nothing can ease the pain of losing two young lives filled with such potential.

“We can sit there and say why do you think she did it? Even if we knew would it make a difference? Will it make us feel better? No.”

Indianola police say Kelli left an envelope in her apartment, and that evidence in that envelope proves she killed her son and then herself. Investigators won’t say how Gavin died, just that his autopsy will be performed this week.


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