Doyle Kelley: Jealous husband kills two wives, gets double life sentences after body of first spouse is exhumed

The investigation of the murders led detectives to exhume the body of the first wife, which led to Kelly being sentenced to life in prison. 


                            Doyle Kelley: Jealous husband kills two wives, gets double life sentences after body of first spouse is exhumed
Doyle Kelly (middle) was convicted of the first-degree murders of both his wives, Diana Kelly (left) and Christy Kelly (right).

JOPLIN, MISSOURI: In a harrowing case of double homicide years apart, a Missouri man was convicted of killing both his first as well as his second wife out of sheer jealousy after they began dating other men after separating from him. The investigation of the murders led detectives to exhume the body of the first wife, which led to Kelly being sentenced to life in prison. 

The murders committed by Doyle were revisited in the premiere episode of Oxygen crime series 'Exhumed.' 

Who is Doyle Kelly?

Doyle Kelley was born on February 7, 1959. He was handed two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the first degree murders of his first and second wives, Diana Kelley and Christy Kelley on October 20, 1994. In 1997, Doyle Kelley’s murder conviction in Christy Kelley case was overturned on a technicality.

According to a statement by the Missouri Court of Appeals Souther District, "In his direct appeal, Defendant's principal claims of trial court error are in two categories: First, that the trial court committed reversible error when it allowed the State to join the two murder charges and refused to sever the cases, and second, that the trial court erred in several evidentiary rulings. We reverse the judgment stemming from Defendant's conviction for the murder of Christy Kelley and remand that case for further proceedings. We affirm the judgment on Defendant's conviction for the murder of Diana Kelley."

Murder of Diana Kelly

On the morning of September 26, 1990, the body of Diana was found in her car on a Joplin, Missouri, parking lot. Hours before her body was found, there was a missing report filed by her estranged husband, Doyle. They were married for 5 years and had a 4-year-old son together. They had separated 2 weeks before she was killed. Diana had agreed to meet her estranged husband at 9:00 pm the night before her body was found but never showed up. He even called her mother, with whom the victim was staying before her death to enquire why she had not shown up for the meeting. 

Doyle Kelly was handed two life sentences without the possibility of parole for the first-degree murders of his first and second wives (Missouri Department of Corrections)

Virginia Stepp, Diana’s mother, told police that Diana was afraid of Doyle and had been living with her for two weeks before her death. Autopsy report showed that there were several small areas of hemorrhage on Diana’s face and neck. The cause of death was concluded to be respiratory failure. However, the medical examiner at the time could not detect if she had died of strangulation.

Debra Stout, a friend of Diana’s, testified that Diana visited her home on the evening before she died. During that visit, Diana was wearing a gold chain and a St. Christopher medal, which was given to her by the man she was dating -- a guy named Richard. Two days after Diana’s death, Stout visited Doyle at his home where she witnessed him taking Diana’s gold chain and St. Christopher medal to the basement where he “smashed it, I believe with a hammer.” When she asked him if he had an explanation about where he had gotten the jewelry, Doyle said it had been given to him by the police or someone at the mortuary. However, policemen testified that the chain and medal were not at the murder scene when Diana's body was found. 

Lack of evidence to tie Doyle to Diana's murder, led to the case initially going cold. 

Murder of Christy Kelly

Doyle married his second wife, Christy, in 1991, and in March 1993, they separated. They arranged to meet on April 24, 1993, to exchange items of property.   Witnesses saw Christy and Doyle in the parking lot of Christy’s apartment on that day, and later, one of them saw Doyle alone at Christy’s apartment building that afternoon. That very evening, Joplin police officers found her body floating face down in the bathtub of her home.

Doyle became the prime suspect in both Diana and Christy's murders when detectives discovered that he was the common link between them. Christy's autopsy report revealed that she had suffered a deep laceration on her forehead caused by blunt force trauma, vomitus in her nose and mouth, and edema in her lungs. Christy’s death was caused by drowning, the examiner concluded. 

Exhumation of Diana's body

Detectives decided to exhume Diana’s body to get her autopsy done again by a forensic pathologist and her family permitted the exhumation. Her body had been in the ground for 3 years at that point.

According to court records,"On August 25, 1993, the body of Diana was exhumed. At this time Dr. Jill Gould conducted autopsies of both Diana and Christy. She found the ligament from Diana’s hyoid bone had been pulled apart and discovered a bruise on the back of Diana’s esophagus. Dr. Gould concluded that Diana’s death was caused by soft ligature strangulation. During Dr. Gould’s autopsy of Christy’s body, she found several bruises in various locations. Dr. Gould suggested that these bruises were caused by blunt impact from multiple directions, which would have been inconsistent with a fall in the bathtub. Dr. Gould confirmed Dr. Swank’s finding that drowning was the cause of Christy’s death."

In September 1993, Doyle was arrested from his work site and charged with double homicides. 

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