Kelly pleads guilty to DWI, manslaughter

Harley A. Kelly

— Photo from the Albany County District Attorney’s Office
Harley A. Kelly

ALBANY COUNTY — Two 19-year-olds, said to be best friends, were in a car crash in June that killed the passenger.

 On Monday morning, the driver, Harley A. Kelly of Middleburgh, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter, a felony, and to driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, before Judge William A. Carter in Albany County Court.

Kelly faces three to nine years in state prison when sentenced on Nov. 20, according to a release from the Albany County District Attorney’s Office.

The release said events unfolded this way: On June 9, at about 2:40 a.m., Kelly was driving drunk in the area of Pond Hill Road and Route 10 in Rensselaerville. She failed to stop at a stop sign and drove off the road at a high rate of speed. The car became airborne before crashing into a large pile of rocks on the side of the road. As a result of the crash, the 19-year-old passenger, Emily Fydenkevez, was killed upon impact.

Blood test results revealed that Kelly was driving with a blood alcohol content of .16 percent and had active cannabis in her system. Kelly also admitted to drinking at a party prior to driving, the release said.

In June, Inspector J.T. Campbell of the Albany County Sheriff’s office told The Enterprise that the two were going home to Middleburgh when they crashed. They knew each other from school and were best friends, he said.

According to a statement from the Middleburgh Central School District’s website, both Kelly and Fydenkevez were former students. Fydenkevez, a 2018 graduate, was fourth in her class and achieved numerous awards upon graduation. She planned on attending Empire State College to study environmental engineering after graduation, according to the district’s website.

After the crash, Kelly was brought to Albany Medical Center for injuries that were not life-threatening. At the time, she was charged with driving while intoxicated as well as failing to keep right and failing to stop at a stop sign, both violations.

On Aug. 5, Kelly was arraigned in Rensselaerville Town Court before Judge Muriel Frasher. She was charged then with second-degree manslaughter and second-degree vehicular manslaughter, both felonies; driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor; and additional vehicle and traffic violations, according to Assistant District Attorney Mary Tanner-Richter, the bureau chief of the Vehicular Crimes Unit in the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, who is prosecuting the case.

The courtroom on Aug. 5 was packed with about 30 people, with some turned away by the bailiff because of overcrowding.

Some in the crowd were friends or related to Fydenkevez; others were the family or friends of Kelly. Several people had known both of the young women.

Candice Arney was in the courtroom with her two daughters, who had known both Kelly and Fydenkevez. She said that on the night of the crash she had been planning a trip for the group of friends.

“I wish I could let Harley know I’m there for her,” said Arney’s daughter Rachel after the hearing, looking at the ground while holding back tears. She added that she also wished she could see Fydenkevez again.

Kelly had been Rachel Arney’s first friend after moving to the area in 2015, Arney told The Enterprise. The two graduated from Middleburgh High School in 2017; Fydenkevez graduated the following year.

“And Harley and Emily, they were always together … ,” said Arney. “They were very close.”

Arney said she did not want to speak on behalf of either young women’s families, but said that both Kelly and Fydenkevez had been involved in many community efforts in the tight-knit village and school district.

“I never thought it would be them,” she said, of being in a crash.

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