Jail administrator’s wife accused of pulling gun on students going door-to-door for school fundraiser

Updated: Aug. 13, 2019 at 7:00 PM CDT
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WYNNE, Ark. (WMC) - The first day of school is Wednesday for students in Wynne, Arkansas and students will likely have more to talk about than new teachers and classes. Namely, that four students were held at gunpoint selling cards for a school fundraiser last week. Now some in the community wonder if the woman charged received special treatment.

The four teenagers were going door-to-door selling discount cards for the high school football program. The Wynne School system said two of the students wore school jerseys. All four of the students involved were African-American.

The district notified parents of those involved after the incident, according to Superintendent Carl Easley.

The incident took place at a home on Morningside Drive at 10 a.m. Aug. 7.

In a media statement, Wynne Police Chief Jackie Clark said officers responded to a report of “suspicious persons” and arrived to find four juveniles lying on the ground with a woman standing over them with a gun. The officer let the children stand up and they explained they were selling cards for a school athletic program.

Bill Winkler has lived in the neighborhood for four decades and says seeing the students isn’t uncommon.

“Usually, it’s right before football season, late summer or early fall the kids were out selling these discount cards,” Winkler said Tuesday.

On Monday, Wynne police arrested 46-year old Jerri Kelly on four counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Kelly doesn’t have a mugshot because Cross County Sheriff David West told WMC Action News 5 that she had a “medical issue” while she was being booked.

Kelly is the wife of Cross County Jail Administrator Joe Kelly, one of West’s employees.

“During that time she was as at the jail, a bondsman arrived and bonded her out, and they went back home,” West said.

West maintains despite no mugshot, which is standard procedure for anyone booked into jail, Jerri Kelly did not get preferential treatment. Her husband, Joe, remains on the job.

“I’m professional. My department is professional. There was no special treatment. She went through the steps just like any other person would,” said West.

Nobody came to the door at Kelly’s home Tuesday where WMC Action News 5 inquired for comment. Meantime, neighbors are left uneasy at the details of the encounter.

“They’re just kids,” said Winkler. “You worry about your neighborhood, and you wonder who is this person.”

Wynne Superintendent Easley said the district is reviewing its fundraising policy and considering no longer allowing door-to-door sales.

Cross County Court staff told WMC Action News 5 that Kelly is scheduled to make her first appearance in front of a judge Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Wynne Police Chief Jackie Clark said a circuit judge set Kelly’s bond at $10,000.

“As we focus on our children, no bond will ever be set too high to protect our children, but in the real world bonds are only set to guarantee appearances in court,” said Clark in a statement. "Sometimes as police officers or citizens we don’t always agree with bonds being set too high or low, but our goal is always to ensure justice is served in the end.

When asked if Kelly received special treatment, Clark said, “This is about those four kids, and our focus is completely on those kids."

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