In 2001, Kelly Forbes immigrated from her native Trinidad with her young daughter to Brooklyn. She was a single parent with a history of trauma, and wanted to be near her family. She married Michael one year after meeting him in the doctor’s office where she worked as a medical assistant. She was 28, he was 48. After enduring several months of abuse, he was killed during an altercation in which she defended herself as he tried to choke her. Imprisoned since 2007, she has served eleven years of a 21 year sentence for his death.
Initially Kelly rejected Michael’s advances because they were very aggressive, and because of his age. After two months, she gave in, and they got married in 2007, the following year. Her thinking at the time was that she was better off married with a safe and stable home for her daughter. Supposedly he owned a barbershop, but she really knew very little about him.
After the wedding, Michael “surprised” Kelly with an enormous house in Merrick, NY (Long Island), where she had no desire to live. It was a very long commute to work, her daughter had to be placed in a new school, and she was completely isolated from her family. She felt that he was trying to control her every move. He didn’t want her to work and he didn’t want her to spend time with her daughter. He often fired the babysitters that she had to hire to look after her daughter after school until she arrived home from work. Then she would have to take the day off the next day, endangering her employment status. He began to abuse her emotionally, mentally and physically, telling her not to go see her brothers, because “he had enemies in Brooklyn.”
They argued constantly, and he started hitting her on a regular basis. At one point he almost pushed her down a flight of stairs, which her daughter witnessed. She called his parents, so they knew what was going on. She told him she wanted a divorce and he said “You’re never leaving me”. He started drinking heavily, which in combination with his health issues, his weight, and smoking, added to her concerns.
On Thanksgiving eve in 2007, they got into an argument about how much time she spent with her daughter. Kelly promised to talk to him after putting her daughter to bed. Michael was furious and forced her to sleep in another bedroom. She woke up and saw his hands coming toward her as he wrapped an electrical cord around her neck. She thought she was going to die. In the midst of a struggle, she managed to get the cord around his neck and pulled. He died from the injuries sustained. She remembers little from that night. She called a friend and then called 911. She was questioned for over 30 hours during which time she was not allowed a phone call, and she was told that he was still alive. A relative who knew about his prior abuse of his first wife said they would testify at trial but then changed their mind. Initially they tried to indict her for murder but had so little evidence they had to let her go. The second time, the charge was second degree manslaughter. Michael’s past convictions for rape and burglary came to light, but unfortunately the jury was not swayed. They deliberated for 3 hours, before convicting her. Having served more than half her sentence, Kelly just wants to go home to her daughter, who now lives with her parents in Trinidad. When she moved to this country it was to make a better life for herself and her daughter. She could not have imagined it ending this way.