CAMBRIDGE — The man convicted of second-degree assault in connection to the fatal stabbing of Roderick Russ Jr. in October 2020 was sentenced to 10 years in jail Friday, Nov. 18.
Dorchester Circuit Court Judge Brett Wilson sentenced Ryshon Kelly, 24, of Cambridge, to 10 years in jail — the maximum sentence for a second-degree assault charge.
The case against Kelly stemmed from his involvement in a late October 2020 social gathering turned violent, with several physical scuffles among attendees leading to a fight resulting in Russ’s death.
Cambridge police officers responded to the 700 block of Douglas Street on Oct. 24, 2020, for a reported stabbing and found Russ collapsed on the ground suffering from a single stab wound to the chest. The stab wound was later revealed to have cut through to his heart.
Multiple witnesses told police that the stabbing was preceded by an altercation with Kelly, who fled the scene. In March, 17 months after Russ’ death, Kelly was arrested at a hotel in Dover, Delaware.
Kelly had initially faced more serious charges, including second-degree murder and first-degree assault, but a jury found him guilty of only second-degree assault following a four-day trial in September.
Prior to sentencing, Dorchester County State’s Attorney Amanda Leonard said the state was not satisfied with the trial’s outcome. She called Kelly’s act “senseless and entirely unnecessary,” and pointed out that Kelly had many opportunities to stop and leave.
While state sentencing guidelines recommended probation to three years in jail, Leonard said she didn’t believe the guidelines were right considering the finality of what happened that night, and asked the court to impose the maximum sentence.
Russ’ sister and mother gave victim impact statements detailing the grief they felt following his death.
Shaquanna Manokey, Russ’ sister, said she felt a tremendous amount of pain after his death and in seeking justice. His loss not only affected her, but also her young daughter, who saw Russ as “uncle dad.” Russ took it upon himself to step in as a father figure for Manokey’s daughter, calling and checking in, making sure she felt seen, heard and loved — doing what a dad was supposed to do, Manokey said.
Manokey also said she felt the jury’s verdict was unfair, saying that the 12 jurors just wanted to get back to their lives.
“We can’t get back to our regular lives,” she said, citing the toll Russ’ death took on her and her family.
Russ’ mother Jeanne Elliott spoke fondly of her son, the “dancing king.” Russ had so much love for people, she said, and he worked to share his love for dance with the community through creating a dance team. He was a mentor, a motivator, a counselor and a big brother to each young person he taught, she said.
“My children, my granddaughters, my mother, my family, his friends — we all have to live with this life sentence of never seeing, hearing, my baby boy again,” she said.
Elliott said that now, all she’s left with are the memories.
“When you stabbed my son in his heart, you also stabbed me in mine, but mines is far worse because you let me live,” she said. “The worst pain a mother has to endure is to see her child’s lifeless body; a part of me died right there.”
After Kelly disappeared for 17 months, Elliott said she had to go into fight mode seeking justice, but she never gave up because she wanted to see Kelly behind bars.
Ellliott concluded by saying that the day of sentencing was a day of power and release, and released Kelly from her mind and heart to God and the universe.
Kelly’s defense attorney James Rhodes said he did not make light of anything that occurred, but asked the court for probationary discipline.
Two of Kelly’s family members gave their own statements on the 24-year-old, explaining that Kelly has a future and that prison was not a place for him. They asked the court for leniency in sentencing.
“I know for sure that he has remorse,” Rhodes said, sharing how Kelly wanted to write to Russ’ family before the trial.
Rhodes later disagreed with Manokey’s assessment of the jury just wanting to go home, saying that the panel took the case seriously in their deliberations. The jury took two hours to render their verdict.
Kelly wasn’t someone who was a menace to the community, Rhodes said; he was trying to be a peacemaker that night when he could have been the aggressor and swung back multiple times.
Kelly also spoke briefly prior to sentencing, apologizing to the family members and friends who remained in the courtroom. He said he never meant to cause Russ’ death and it did affect him. He honestly believed his life was in danger, Kelly said.
Kelly asked for mercy from the court, explaining that he had lost his freedom in ways he couldn’t imagine.
“I am worthy of another chance,” he said while also acknowledging that he wouldn’t be welcome in some parts of the community following release.
Russ’ mother and sister left while Rhodes and Kelly spoke, but returned for the disposition.
Before giving the sentence, Wilson said Russ’ family’s victim impact statements were some of the most eloquent he’d heard in his career. He commended all parties for handling the difficult situation, and acknowledged the strong family values presented in the courtroom. Despite tragedy, both families continued to stand by those values.
Wilson handed down the 10-year sentence, saying it was the most he could do. He expressed hope that everyone could heal to some extent and move forward. And as for Kelly, Wilson said it was an ending for him, but was not the end.
Following the disposition, prosecutors Leonard and Ella Disharoon said that while they wished they could’ve done more, they expressed gratitude for the sentence — the maximum penalty.