PONCE DE LEON —
The grandson of Destin matriarch Mattie Kelly is hospitalized in critical condition after he was found unconscious in a bathtub.
The Holmes County Sheriff’s Office is investigating how Lowell Kelly was hurt, but has released few details.
Sheriff’s Capt. Harry Hamilton said Kelly was at a party at Vortex Springs last Saturday night when a witness said he fell down some stairs and hit his head.
Kelly, who is 59, owns Vortex Springs.
Someone brought Kelly to his home in Ponce de Leon, helped him shower and left him in the bathtub covered with a blanket overnight.
Hamilton would not say who brought Kelly home.
“The following morning Kelly was found and his condition had worsened,” Hamilton said in a telephone interview Friday. “EMS was called and he was transported.”
Kelly was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
“He has been unresponsive since Sunday,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton said it is not known whether Kelly was injured accidentally or by other means.
A church full of friends and relatives said goodbye Tuesday to Lowell Kelly, a sometimes controversial heir of Destin matriarch Mattie Kelly.
Kelly, 59, died last Friday, but had been on life support after he was discovered Dec. 3 badly injured at a home he owned in Ponce de Leon.
A graveside service was canceled, friends said, because an autopsy will be conducted as the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate the circumstances of Kelly’s death.
“We got one story” about what happened Dec. 2, according to Glenn Hess, the state attorney for the 14th Judicial Circuit that includes Holmes County, indicating questions remain in the case.
The official story about what happened to Kelly has not changed since the day after the incident.
At that time, Holmes Sheriff’s Office Capt. Harry Hamilton told the Daily News that Kelly was at a party Dec. 2 at Vortex Springs, a recreational park that he owned, when he fell down a set of stairs and hit his head.
Holmes said someone he declined to identify brought Kelly to his home in Ponce de Leon, helped him shower and left him overnight in the bathtub covered with a blanket.
“The following morning Kelly was found and his condition had worsened,” Hamilton said a week after the incident. “EMS was called and he was transported.”
Hamilton declined to say who discovered Kelly at his home.
Kelly was taken to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola. His condition never significantly improved; he was placed in hospice care and died Friday.
Efforts to find out more about the Kelly case were stymied by the Sheriff’s Office and the state attorney’s office.
The Daily News has tried for weeks to get a copy of the incident report, which Florida law recognizes as a public record that must be released upon request.
Hamilton declined, claiming that the document was part of an open investigation and contained information that would harm that investigation.
Hess also refused to release the document, saying that since no arrest had been made in the case, the incident report was not a public record.
Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, the leading open records proponent in Florida, confirmed again Tuesday that incident reports are public records.
Petersen cited State Statute 119.07(3)(d) and a Florida Attorney General’s opinion, both of which the Daily News has presented to Holmes County authorities.
“An incident report doesn’t meet the definition of criminal intelligence. It’s not criminal investigation information,” she said.
“It’s quite clear.”
She said Hess’ rationale for denying the incident report to the newspaper was “ridiculous.”
But Hess continued to resist turning over the report. He said he wanted to hear from Petersen’s attorney.
“I don’t agree with what an incident report is,” the former judge said. “This is an active investigation.”
Pam Gleason with the Florida Attorney General’s Office, to whom Petersen referred the Daily News, was out of the office Wednesday.
The lack of information about the case has led Kelly’s family members and friends to question the investigation and circumstances leading to Kelly’s death.
“This case needs to be investigated thoroughly,” said Frank Barnes, a friend of Kelly’s.
Because Kelly died at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, his autopsy will be conducted by Andrea Minyard, the medical examiner for the First Judicial Circuit.
Bill Eddins, state attorney for the circuit, whose office holds joint jurisdiction with the 14th Circuit because Kelly died in Pensacola, said he hopes the autopsy will shed some light on Kelly’s death.