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Facing Death Threats, Husband of Arkansas Woman Charged with Holding Black Teens at Gunpoint Resigns as Jail Administrator

The husband of a white Arkansas woman facing charges after she held four Black teenagers at gunpoint earlier this month has resigned from his gig at the local jail as public outrage over the incident continues to grow.

Joe Kelly, former administrator at the Cross County Jail, stepped down days after his wife, Jerri Kelly, 46, was arrested for pulling a gun on a group of Wynne High School students out selling discount cards to raise money for their football team.

Jerri Kelly

Jerri Kelly returned to the Cross County jail on August 15 to have her mugshot taken after an alleged “medical issue” prevented her from taking one after her August 12 arrest. Kelly’s husband, Joe Kelly, was the jail’s administrator at the time. (Photo: Cross County Sheriff’s Office)

The jail administrator found himself at the center of the controversy and was even targeted with death threats after his wife skipped the process of being properly booked into jail. It’s standard procedure for every suspect to take a mugshot, but Jerri Kelly didn’t after officials claimed she suffered a “medical issue” during booking on August 12 and was quickly bonded out.

What further raised eyebrows was the fact that the Arkansas woman was booked into the very jail her husband was employed, sparking allegations of favoritism by Joe Kelly and his staff. Sheriff David West denied this, however, insisting Jerri Kelly received no preferential treatment.

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

The sheriff said Kelly returned to the jail later that week to have her mugshot taken.

Since the incident, WMC Action News said moving boxes were spotted in the couple’s driveway and no one answered the door when local reporters knocked for comment. Neighbors said the Kellys up and left — and folks are happy they’re gone.

“Yes. We don’t need those kind of neighbors, because it starts problems,” Dale Baldwin, a neighbor, told the outlet. “And we don’t want problems.”

Authorities arrived to the couple’s home August 5 to find a find a gun-toting Kelly standing over the four Black youths, who were lying on the ground. Officers were responding to a “suspicious persons” report made by Kelly herself when the teenagers explained they were going door to door for a school fundraiser.

As they walked up the driveway of Kelly’s Morninside Drive home, one of the teens, 16, said the woman came out armed with a gun. That’s when he said she ordered them to the ground, forced them to spread their legs and keep their hands pinned behind their backs until police arrived.

The grandmother of that teen, who asked to remain anonymous, told FOX 13 that the incident has left the boy traumatized and that she’s currently seeking a therapist for her grandson. 

“She put a gun right at [his] head and he said, ‘I made peace with God and that if I die I make it to heaven,’” said the grandmother, recalling what the teen told her. 

Former neighbor Dale Baldwin also decried the incident, and said Kelly’s actions are not reflective of the community at large.

“We have a variety of neighbors and friends and I wouldn’t want that to happen to anybody’s kids,” he said. “Those kids weren’t trying to start any kind of problems.”

Outraged locals also questioned why Jerri Kelly’s bond was reduced following the incident. Deputy prosecuting attorney Vincent Guest cited the Arkansas’ woman’s ongoing health issues.

“Mrs. Kelly’s bond was reduced because of a concern that the Cross County Jail would be unable to attend to Mrs. Kelly’s medical conditions should be incarcerated,” Guest explained.

Jerri Kelly is charged with four counts of aggravated assault, false imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a minor. She’s scheduled to appear in court Sept. 30.

Watch more in the video below.

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