In 2005, a small town in eastern Texas was mourning the loss of James Kelly, the husband of Marcia Kelly and stepfather of Shaina Sepulvado. Everyone thought his murder was a tragic and random act of violence, but when the police began looking into James’ relationship with his wife and stepdaughter, the investigation took a shocking turn.
Marcia Kelly was born in 1970 and grew up in the suburbs of Eastern Texas. When she was 17, she got married to her first husband and had two children, Shaina and Kaitlin. The marriage quickly ended in divorce.
She gained a reputation as a rebellious teenager and told Oxygen’s “Snapped,” “I quit school in the ninth grade and dabbled in marijuana a little bit as a teenager.”
When she was 21, she met 19-year-old James Kelly at a local street race. The two dated on and off for several years. Marcia ended up having a third daughter with a boyfriend, while James had two sons with another woman. According to “Snapped,” in 1995, James was put behind bars for a probation violation. They kept in touch while James was in prison and wrote each other letters.
During this time, Marcia was dealing with her own tragedy. A tragic house fire took the lives of Marcia’s mother and her daughter Kaitlin. The aftermath of the fire almost helped cause the death of another daughter as well.
Marcia told “Snapped,” “Shaina attempted to ride her bicycle out in front of an 18-wheeler to go be with her grandma and her sister.”
The 6-year-old went to a mental hospital for some time after her suicide attempt, according to “Snapped.” After the incident, Marcia went back to school to become a respiratory therapist.
When James got out of prison, he bought himself a truck and went into the trucking business. He also started dating Marcia again. The two wanted to build a life together, so Marcia and her daughters moved in with James and his sons.
In 2003, 10 years after their first date, James and Marcia got married. James’ company grew into a multi-truck business and Marcia’s income at her hospital grew enough for her to invest in a side business: a part-time rental company for bounce houses for kids.
Though the two stayed busy, they always made time for each other. They also had their fair share of fights, but they always seemed to make up.
Marcia’s daughter Shaina struggled after the death of her grandmother and sister, and she had an even harder time after Marcia married James.
According to Shaina’s husband, Patrick Capps, she was a troubled teenager. She drank, did drugs and rebelled, just like her mother. But according to the local sheriff, Thomas Kerss, Marcia let a lot of things slide that most parents wouldn’t.
Marcia said, “I felt like if I gave them what they wanted or let them do what they wanted it was kind of to make up for me not being there as much.”
Shaina started skipping school and hanging out with people who had been involved in the juvenile justice system and the adult criminal justice system. James was too familiar with that world, and he wanted to keep Shaina out of it.
Marcia said, “James was always trying to correct Shaina, more or less be a father figure to her, she didn’t want that. And she would tell him you’re not my father. […] We had different ways of raising the kids that was most of our arguments and fights.”
According to “Snapped,” Shaina felt like she was the reason her mom and stepdad were always fighting, so she moved out at 14 to live with her boyfriend. Shaina was repeating all Marcia’s childhood mistakes, and James was determined to stop it. When Shaina moved back home a few weeks later, the couple agreed to be stricter with Shaina.
After she tried to move out again at age 16, Marcia went and got her things and brought her home. Tensions were mounting in the home, and it came to blows between Marcia and Shaina in October 2005.
Marcia said, “I had asked her to clean her room and she got mad and we ended up getting in an actual fight — like fist fight.”
According to Marcia, Shaina had pushed her into a sliding glass door, and her head started bleeding.
Thomas Kerss told “Snapped,” “Shaina was arrested on that and as a result was placed on juvenile probation.”
After the arrest, Shaina only became more unmanageable. She began dating a 23-year-old registered sex offender named Dallas Cristian, according to the Daily Sentinel.
Marcia apparently didn’t stop her daughter from seeing him, but James wouldn’t have it. James and Shaina fought regularly with increasing intensity.
Marcia said, “She’d [Shaina] would tell him, ‘I’m going to kill you one of these days.’”
On October 22, 2005, James had the day off, but he was at home doing repairs on the trucks in order to have them ready for the next day. Marcia had gone to her overnight shift at the hospital, and James was able to work in peace since Shaina was also out of the house. She had gone out with her new boyfriend and a boy named Colton Weir to party and ride around.
At around 3 AM, James finished and called Marcia to ask for a wake-up call to get back to work later in the morning. At 7 AM, Marcia called James over and over, but he wouldn’t answer. She then called her father-in-law and James’ stepfather, David Bone, to go check on him. David lived next door to the couple, and he knocked on their door but James didn’t answer.
When David went inside the house, he made a gruesome discovery. James was in bed with the comforter over his head, and David took his walking stick and poked James’ feet. He didn’t move.
Prosecutor Stephanie Stephens told “Snapped” that David then “pulled the covers back from James’ head and immediately saw that James was dead.”
David dialed 911 and then called Marcia back to let her know something bad had happened. No one knew what might have happened, but investigators knew one thing for sure: James had been shot in the face. The home didn’t appear to be disturbed, and there was only one apparent clue.
Thomas Kerss told “Snapped,” “There was a cellular phone laying in the bedroom on the floor that was still open, still in a call type state.”
When Marcia got home, she somehow seemed very calm and collected. According to James’ friend, when they pulled up to the yard, she slowly got out of the car and walked up to an officer. After confirming that her husband was dead, Marcia apparently went into shock. Marcia went inside the house, where she flipped through her cell phone and fed their dogs before checking on her husband.
Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Barnes said, “When you have an individual in the house who is deceased, that is highly unusual.”
James’ brother, Pat Kelly, told “Snapped,” “She was flat, she had no emotions, no, no nothing.”
Marcia then gave the officers a brief statement, and they asked her if James had any enemies.
Marcia said she told them, “Well, I mean, there’s people that don’t like him, but I wouldn’t say enough to kill him.”
When detectives interviewed the family members outside, however, they got a different story.
Reporter Kyle Peveto told “Snapped,” “Shaina’s name came up several times.”
According to Thomas Kerss, “Dallas Christian’s name, Colton Weir’s name, ah, they all emerged very early on and we in law enforcement here were familiar with some of those names from some prior dealings as well.”
Marcia then helped track down Shaina, who went down the station with Dallas Christian later that evening. Shaina told investigators that she last saw her stepdad around 9 PM the night before. She said she had asked for permission to stay at a friend’s house because she was on probation. She claimed he said yes and that they didn’t argue. Shaina then said she’d spent the evening driving the back roads and partying down by the river.
In the interrogation room next door, investigators got the same story from Dallas Christian and a similar one from 15-year-old Colton Weir the following day. According to Thomas Kerss, small inconsistencies began to arise in their story. The police pressed Colton Weir, as he was the youngest of the three and the most likely to break.
When asked if he had anything to do with James’ murder, Colton immediately broke down and confessed to shooting James. That night, he said the kids had gone out partying and had discussed and planned to kill James. Colton told investigators that he, Shaina and Dallas had driven to James’ home early in the morning.
Stephanie Stephens told “Snapped” that Shaina and Colton got out of the car, got gloves and gun from the trunk and went into the house. Shaina showed Colton the location of James’ room. Colton then snuck up to sleeping James and pulled the trigger.
The trio then went back to the river to dispose of the gun and burn the items of clothing. Investigators had a confession, a list of accomplices and the location of the murder weapon. But they wondered, why would Colton go along with this?
According to Colton, he was offered payment for the murder. Only, it wasn’t Shaina, but Marcia who had put out the hit, Colton told investigators.
When detectives questioned Shaina again, she “didn’t say anything that helped the investigators,” a Stephanie Stephens told “Snapped.” Dallas, however, fessed up and said both Shaina and Marcia had plotted the murder-for-hire.
Dallas told police that Shaina called her mother after the murder and told her James was dead. Colton, Shaina and Dallas were all in custody, but they could not arrest Marcia without more evidence. Marcia later came to the sheriff’s department to support her daughter, but as Shaina was booked on murder charges, she started to break down.
Marcia told “Snapped,” “In the office with one of the deputies, I heard her saying, ‘You know, yeah, I did it for my mom, I didn’t want him making her cry anymore.’”
As they continued their investigation, detectives recovered the rifle from the river, according to the Daily Sentinel, as well as the fire where they burned the clothes. Finally, phone records were used to confirm the call from Shaina to Marcia to tell her that James was dead, also according to the Sentinel.
After subpoenaing the records, they found a series of calls made between mother and daughter throughout the night.
Shaina’s attorney, John Heath Jr., told “Snapped,” “Marcia’s phone calls to Shaina before James was shot and after James was shot very much put her in the role of at least being a participant.”
This led back to the investigations first clue of the open phone left by James’s body.
Thomas Kerr said, “We really believe that Marcia had staged this to be able to hear the gunshot, ah, as this act actually took place.”
Marcia was charged with capital murder, according to the Sentinel.
On July 31, 2006, less than a year after James’ slaying, Marcia stood trial for murder. The prosecutors claimed Marcia’s motive was money and that she wanted to collect on James’ $100,000 life insurance policy. According to the prosecution, through Shaina, Marcia promised Colton a truck, $10,000 and two jet skis to commit the murder.
Shaina also allegedly told Colton that her stepfather mistreated her and had her arrested, which he was “moved by,” according to court records. The defense claimed that Marcia routinely wished James dead, but she was only kidding.
Marcia told “Snapped,” “I did a few times say that I wanted James dead, but people say that every day… I mean everybody says that sometimes you know, ‘God, I just want to kill you.’ But they’re not in the same context as it was made out to be.”
But according to the prosecution, this wasn’t the first time Marcia had solicited the murder of her husband.
Thomas Kerr told “Snapped,” “We were actually able to establish two different individuals that Marcia had approached in the past and offered the payment of money or vehicles to have her husband killed.”
The defense continued to claim Marcia never intended for James to be killed, and that her own daughter and her friends acted on their own. Marcia did not take the stand, but Shaina did testify on her behalf. Shaina claimed she did not know Colton planned to kill James.
According to “Snapped,” Shaina said, “We left the house and after I heard the gunshot nobody said nothing in the car. I had went back to the car nobody has said nothing and then just out of the blue Colton says that he killed him. He goes I killed a man. Well I freaked out and I started screaming because I couldn’t believe that anything happened like that. [...] My mom was at work and stuff I mean she didn’t have nothing to do with this. And the DA was saying she paid this kid, she paid this kid — she didn’t. I made all fingers point to me and my friends, mainly all fingers point to me.”
On the stand, Shaina also claimed that James had molested her and beat her family, which prosecutors explained she never disclosed before her arrest. Shaina really threw herself under the bus for her mother.
On August 4, 2006, it took the jury only two hours to find Marcia guilty of capital murder. She was sentenced to life without parole.
Shaina and Colton both appealed their sentences for life without parole because they were juveniles at the time of the murder. In 2015, the Texas supreme court decided the sentencing was unconstitutional for both Shaina and Colton to be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole without having a hearing first. They were both then sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. Shaina and Colton will be eligible for parole in 2045.
Shaina still maintains Marcia’s innocence.
She told “Snapped,” “I don’t think my mother should be in prison there’s no reason for her to be here.”
Marcia claims she didn’t murder James, but does feel that she shares a percentage of the responsibility: “Twenty-five percent and that’s because I had, you know, we were all there; as far as the actual murder itself, I don’t feel responsible for. I just hope that one day, this will be straightened out. There was no capital murder; there was a murder, but there was no capital murder.”
Searching for the best true crime podcasts? Subscribe to Martinis & Murder and join hosts Daryn Carp and John Thrasher as they chat about creepy crimes and unsolved mysteries... while sipping on killer drinks from our murderous mixologist Matt the Bartender. Each episode will focus on a new true crime, with all the gory details, and a cocktail recipe to get you through.