ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) – After dodging police for more than two decades in southeast Asia, Mahfuz Huq was sentenced to 40 years in prison Monday afternoon for a 1989 killing in Hamilton. Victim Todd Kelley’s family was relieved that after 25 years, “justice was served.”
Huq was remorseful during the sentencing before a packed courtroom and even broke down and cried. The Kelley family was pleased with the sentence.
“I think for a case that’s 25 years old, we feel okay about him getting 40 years,” said Shannon Kelley, sister to Todd. “It’s at least the beginning of the end of a very long process for us.
After being extradited back to Steuben County, Huq accepted a plea agreement for voluntary manslaughter in November.
Investigators say in the late 1980’s Huq and Todd Kelley were both interested in the same woman. Huq stabbed Kelley to death in Kelley’s Hamilton home in 1989 and then fled to his native country of Bangladesh for more than 20 years. Detectives located Huq and had him arrested when he flew to India. The international fugitive was extradited back to Steuben County in July of 2013.
The courtroom heard two very different sides of Huq Monday afternoon. In Bangladesh, he had been a dedicated middle school math teacher at the International School of Dhaka. Friends and co-workers flew in from as far as Africa and China for the sentencing. They testified about his care for the students, his charitable work in an orphanage, and his enthusiasm in coaching high school tennis.
Huq, known to them as Asif Haque, was traveling to India with the tennis team in 2011 when authorities arrested him at a New Delhi airport. It floored those who were with him.
Huq was eventually extradited back to Steuben County in July.
“You can’t blame those people. They did the very best for what they could do to tell everybody what they thought he was,” said Vern Kelley, father to Todd. “But obviously he was not what they thought.”
On the other hand, the Kelley family spoke of 25 years of heartache for what they called a vicious and brutal crime. Todd Kelley’s aunt told Huq, “Today you will be sentenced, but you sentenced this family to a lifetime of heartache.”
Shannon Kelley told Huq that he may have killed Todd, but he can’t kill her family’s love, respect, and honor.
Huq tearfully begged for forgiveness from the Kelley family. He said his kindness and charity in Bangladesh was a hope to gain redemption for what he did to Todd Kelley.
In the end, the judge handed down the heavier 40-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter because Huq fled the country, not taking responsibility for his actions. The sentence relieved the Kelley family. They thanked Detective Kevin Smith, who picked up the cold case in 2005.
“Justice was served today and without this guy right here, there’s no way it would’ve happened,” Vern Kelley said while putting an arm about Detective Smith. “He’s my hero forever.”
As for closure, the Kelley family said even after the sentencing, the pain is as real Monday as it was a quarter of a century ago.
“It’s not closure,” Shannon Kelley said. “This is justice for my brother. End of sentence. Justice.”
The defense had no comment on Monday’s sentencing.
Vern Kelley spoke with NewsChannel 15 in July about Huq’s extradition back to Steuben County. The following story was previously posted on WANE.com:
Vern Kelley has been waiting almost 24 years for justice. His son was stabbed to death at a Hamilton, Indiana home in 1989. Police think the suspect, Mahfuz Huq, fled to his family’s native country of Bangladesh. But with Huq discovered, extradited to Steuben County, and awaiting his trial, old emotions have resurfaced as Kelley hopes for a positive resolution to the 1989 murder.
In the golf cart friendly town of Hamilton, Kelley is the man anyone would want to see. He’s part owner of Hamilton Lake Golf Cars, and sells the popular lake town transportation.
“My wife gives me hell about waving to everybody. But I said, ‘You never know. That might be a potential customer,” Kelley said with a chuckle.
But behind the smile, there’s a loss no parent wants to experience.
In the late 1980′s, his son Todd dated Christine Mutzfeld in high school. Like many high school relationships, Kelley says the two broke up when she went to Tri-State University (now Trine University).
Kelley said she began seeing Mahfuz Huq in college, but decided to go back to his son Todd.
“Apparently Mahfuz didn’t like that,” Kelley said.
In 1989, police think Huq, then 23, stabbed 19-year-old Todd Kelley to death in Todd’s home.
“It’s probably the most devastating thing you’ve ever felt in your life and helpless feelings you know that you can’t really do anything about that,” Kelley said.
Almost 24 years later, Vern Kelley still lives just down the road from the crime scene. He drove past it Wednesday morning.
“It’s not easy sometimes when you drive by there and you think of everything that’s happened in there and you just kind of keep going,” Vern Kelley said.
So why did he stay in the same town, on the same road as the home where his son was killed? Kelley didn’t want to run from his small town support system.
“You can’t run away. You can’t hide. You can’t stick your head in the sand. You’ve just got to pick yourself up, do the best you can and try to be a man about it you know,” Kelley said. “If you face the issues, then you can handle them better. If you hide from them, then what’re you going to do? You’ll just always wonder.”
Kelley used that same attitude toward solving his only son’s murder. Investigators had labeled Huq as the suspect, but couldn’t find him.
“I spent quite a bit of money hiring private detectives and going overnight trying to find him around Chicago or whatever,” Kelley said. “That didn’t do any good, you know. I thought it did at the time. I think the biggest piece of mind was when my father was alive. I was doing all this and he said, “Son, there are just some things you just have to let the good Lord take care of.’”
But on an overcast Wednesday morning in Hamilton, there was hope that the decades of personal clouds have begun to depart not just in Kelley, but for the small town as a whole.
“It’s kind of like a black eye for Hamilton that it would happen,” Kelley said as he drove his golf cart. “I’m thinking that they would like to see justice along with me.”
With Huq arrested in India, extradited to the U.S., and awaiting his trial, Kelley understandably hopes for a guilty verdict. Although, it still wouldn’t make up for the loss of his only son.
“Life in prison would be what he deserves at the minimum in my book,” the father said. When asked if that verdict would finally serve justice, he said, “Obviously not in my book. But then, that’s the best I can hope for. I guess that’s the best I can put it. That’s the best I can hope for.”