CINCINNATI – Screams and crying filled the hallways of the Hamilton County Courthouse on Wednesday after a woman demanded a more lenient sentence for the man who killed her 11-year-old child.
On Thursday, after spending a night jailed in the Hamilton County Courthouse, she expressed sentiments of grief and remorse.
"My emotions just came over me, but I do apologize," said Kristina “Tina” Lanza who was held for contempt of court along with Danielle Lott after several public outbursts during the sentencing hearing for Deandre Kelley, 34.
As tears poured from their eyes and words were difficult to find, Lanza and Lott appeared for a contempt hearing Thursday in front of Judge Nadine Allen.
“After I advised them specifically, that if they said one more word, shouted one more time, screams one more time, disrupted my court one more time, I’d find them in contempt. At this time, I’m finding both Christina Lanza and Danielle in contempt,” Allen read.
She let them go free after only one night in jail, but not before asking them to apologize.
The appearance was less than 24 hours after the two women and a handful of friends and family erupted inside Allen’s courtroom after learning that Kelley, Lanza’s longtime boyfriend, will serve six years behind bars for fatally shooting the couple’s daughter, Shanti Lanza.
On the night of the incident, Kelley arrived home intoxicated shortly after 2 a.m. and got into a fight with Tina Lanza. Lanza ended up kicking Kelley, her boyfriend of 15 years, out of their Delhi Avenue home as a result.
Once outside, Kelley pulled out a firearm and fired four shots into the air.
One of those bullets pierced through the home’s siding, entered a second-story bedroom and struck 11-year-old Shanti Lanza in the chest. The fifth-grader later died at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters stated that Shanti ran into the bedroom to hide after her parents started fighting.
On Wednesday, Kelley appeared before Judge Nadine Allen to be formally sentenced for one count of reckless homicide charge stemming from the incident.
The prosecution dropped charges of involuntary manslaughter, endangering children and a weapons charge as part of the plea agreement with the defense. Kelley faced up to 17 years in prison if convicted on all charges but the two sides settled on six years, the lowest possible sentence.
“Six years is the minimum. The only reason we’re going that low is because she is requesting (the most lenient possible sentence). We’re just not going to go any lower,” Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeie said.
Kelley’s attorney, Hugh McCloskey Jr., told reporters that after talking the case over with the judge, his client realized that deal on the table was the best deal he was going to get.
Despite the agreement between the prosecution and the defense on the length of the sentence, the courtroom erupted when Allen announced the six-year prison sentence.
Tina Lanza pleaded with Allen to reduce the sentence, asking for leniency because it was an “accident” and stating she’d suffered enough through the loss of her daughter.
It’s what her daughter would have done, Lanza claimed.
"I know Shanti would have forgave her daddy. This was a total accident,” she said. “I’m just saying anybody when they shoot up in the air, they don’t realize that they do come back down.”
Allen called the argument for a lighter sentence "foolish" and “objectionable” before attempting to calm the courtroom.
But the commotion continued and police had to escort out many of those in attendance.
After the hearing, Kelley’s supporters and loved ones made their feelings known to those inside the halls of the downtown courthouse.
"No justice served (for Kelley)!" screamed Lott, who referred to herself as Shanti Lanza's aunt.
Allen ordered the Lanza family and Kelley’s supports to reenter the courtroom in an effort to quell the outbursts.
But the emotions and cries for a lighter sentence spilled back in with them.
After ignoring multiple requests to tone down their behavior, Tina Lanza and Lott were held in contempt of court by Allen.
Their refusal to obey led Allen to order both women jailed overnight, eliciting a new round of responses from those in the courtroom.
“What about my kids? I don’t have nobody to get my kids,” Lott screamed as she was taken into custody. Sheriff’s deputies escorted her children out of the courthouse and left them over to the temporary of a relative.
During her in-court apology to Allen on Thursday, Lott struggled to get through her statement, saying that she is "so sorry for the way I acted in the courtroom.”
“I realize that my emotions took over. I should have never disrespected you. You are the judge," she said after her night locked up in county jail.
While some understand why the women responded the way they did, Piepmeier believes the behavior was "totally unacceptable.”
"It's a court of law and you have to respect it. There's certain ways you have to behave and the kind of
behavior we had yesterday was totally unacceptable and we just can't let it happen," he said."We can't just say, well they're upset. It has to stop and you can't act like that in a courtroom. We will not put up with it and the judges will not put up with it."
During an earlier court appearance, Deters blamed those in Kelley’s life for “enabling” him.
Hamilton County Clerk of Court records show Kelley was arrested for a domestic disturbance involving Shanti’s mother in 2007. He was convicted on an assault charge involving two other people in 2003.
“This is the end of the road for this enabling," Deters said. "He needs to be in jail and the rest of them should be looking in the mirror for the reason this little girl is dead.”
Both Lanza and Lott have since been released.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.