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A woman was fatally shot by a N.Y. homeowner after she went up the wrong driveway

New York homeowner Kevin Monahan, 65, has been charged with second degree murder after fatally shooting Kaylin Gillis, 20.
Washington County Sherriff's Office
New York homeowner Kevin Monahan, 65, has been charged with second degree murder after fatally shooting Kaylin Gillis, 20.

Updated April 18, 2023 at 9:05 PM ET

A 20-year-old woman was shot and killed by a homeowner in upstate New York on Saturday after the car she was in accidentally went to the wrong address, local authorities said on Monday.

Kaylin Gillis and three of her friends were trying to find another friend's house in rural Hebron, N.Y., when they mistakenly pulled up to the house owned by Kevin Monahan, according to Sheriff Jeffrey J. Murphy.

They quickly realized their mistake and were turning the car around when Monahan stepped onto his porch and fired two shots, one of which struck Gillis.

Short on cellphone signal, her friends drove 5 miles to the town of Salem to call 911. Emergency responders performed CPR on Gillis but she was pronounced dead on the scene.

Monahan has been charged with murder in the second degree and remains in custody at Warren County Jail, the sheriff said. It's unclear whether he's retained an attorney.

He was initially uncooperative with investigators, refusing for several hours to exit his residence or answer questions, the sheriff said.

Murphy summed the case as a "very sad" incident involving an "innocent young woman."

"There was clearly no threat from anyone in the vehicle. There was no reason for Monahan to feel threatened," he said.

He added that he wasn't aware of any interaction between the passengers and Monahan. No one exited the vehicle, which was only in the driveway "for a very short time," he said.

It's also not uncommon for drivers to turn onto the wrong property in the area. Hebron, a hilly farming region tucked in the shadow of the Adirondack Mountains, registered a population of 1,786 in the 2020 census.

"It's a very rural area. There's dirt roads. There's not a lot of cell service or any type of internet," the sheriff said.

However, Monahan's lawyer, Kurt Mausert, said the sheriff's account of what happened in the driveway and his characterization of his client as uncooperative are incorrect. His client had been afraid when he pulled the trigger, Mausert told WAMC/Northeast Public Radio.

"There were errors, there were misunderstandings that culminated in a tragedy. But the fact that we have a victim in a tragedy does not mean there's a villain. Villain, to me, requires bad intent and my client, I don't believe – the facts will show – that he had bad intent," he said.

Kaylin Gillis had lived in a nearby town

Gillis was from Schuylerville, N.Y., roughly 18 miles away from where she died. She had planned to attend college in Florida, with hopes of becoming a marine biologist, according to a statement from Gillis' family shared with WAMC.

The mayor of Schuylerville, Dan Carpenter, told WAMC the incident made him think of his teen daughter, a newly minted driver.

"I mean, you just make a wrong turn, you turn around someone's driveway, and you get shot. I mean, who could imagine that?" he said.

The shooting came just a few days after a 16-year-old was shot through a glass door by an 84-year-old man in Kansas City. The teenager, Ralph Yarl, had been trying to pick up his brothers when he mistakenly approached the wrong house.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Olson
Emily Olson is on a three-month assignment as a news writer and live blog editor, helping shape NPR's digital breaking news strategy.
Natalie Escobar
Natalie Escobar is an assistant editor on the Code Switch team, where she edits the blog and newsletter, runs the social media accounts and leads audience engagement. Before coming to NPR in 2020, Escobar was an assistant editor and editorial fellow at The Atlantic, where she covered family life and education. She also was a ProPublica emerging reporter fellow, where she helped their Illinois bureau do experimental audience engagement through theater workshops. (Really!)