Sister: Murder suspect said ‘If you tell, I’ll kill you’

Left: Kevin Stanfill Right: Kelly Ann Karl Stanfill.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A murder suspect’s sister testified Wednesday that after she witnessed her brother kill his wife last year, he threatened to kill her, too, if she ever told anyone what happened.

Kevin Stanfill is charged with open murder in the death of his 36-year-old wife, Kelly Ann Karl Stanfill. Her body was recovered from a field in Cooper Township, north of Kalamazoo, in mid-January.

During a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, Kevin Stanfill’s sister, Jerri Stripling, took the stand to testify. Stripling said she lived with the couple. She described their relationship as violent and said she had seen her brother beat his wife on numerous occasions — including times when Kelly Stanfill’s children were present.

Kelly Ann Karl Stanfill
An undated courtesy photo of Kelly Ann Karl Stanfill, from Facebook.

Stripling said the murder happened in the middle of the night last November. She said she was riding in the car with the couple when they began fighting. At some point, Stripling testified, her brother pulled their van into a field along West AB Avenue and he and his wife got out. A short time later, Stripling heard multiple gunshots. Her brother then ran back to the van.

“He got in the driver’s side, sat down in the seat, put the gun in his lap, looked over his shoulder. I was behind him in the passenger’s side in the middle seat. He said, ‘Get in the front.’ I was just looking at him, and I got out and I got in the passenger’s seat. And he looked at me and he started crying,” Stripling recounted on the stand, beginning to weep herself. “He said, ‘Sis, please don’t tell on me. Please don’t tell on me. If you tell on me, I will kill you, too.'”

It wasn’t until January of this year that Stripling got into a violent altercation with her brother and then told police what happened. She testified that she ultimately took police to the location where the murder happened and they recovered Kelly Stanfill’s body.

Stripling testified that the gun used in the murder was discarded in the Kalamazoo River shortly after the shooting. She says Kelly Stanfill actually purchased bullets for the gun as requested by her husband hours before her death.

Kevin Stanfill repeatedly shook his head in the negative as his sister testified.

Stanfill’s defense attorney cross-examined Stripling, raising questions about her credibility. She got Stripling to admit that she lied to police before telling them the version of events she now claims is true. Stripling said her conscience and persistent detectives ultimately pushed her to tell the truth about what happened.

“Kelly didn’t deserve to die,” Stripling said as she sobbed on the stand. “And those kids don’t deserve to live without a mother.”

The preliminary hearing adjourned just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, but will continue on March 9. Once it’s completed, a judge will rule on whether there is enough evidence to send the case to trial.

Kelly Karl Stanfill left behind three children. Her mother was present for the beginning of the preliminary exam. She was in tears during much of the testimony.