Metro-East News

‘Evil and diabolical’: British man gets 20 years for O’Fallon teen’s heroin death

Tyler McKinney
Tyler McKinney Provided photo

A 41-year-old man British man will spend the next 20 years in federal prison for selling the heroin that killed 19-year-old O’Fallon Township High School graduate Tyler McKinney in 2011.

Richard Klemis was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis by Judge David R. Herndon. Klemis had earlier been found guilty of nine federal charges on Feb. 4, following an eight-day jury trial.

“I’m satisfied with the fact he (Klemis) will at least be off the streets for 20 years so he doesn’t have the chance to hurt other people’s children,” Tyler’s mother, Dawn McKinney, said Friday afternoon. “We wish he could have gotten longer.”

It was clear during the trial, she said, that Klemis has “absolutely no remorse” for his actions. “What kind of 37-year-old goes out preying on young teenagers when they aren’t able to make a good decision at that age,” said McKinney, 47, of House Springs, Mo. “What kind of person does that when he’s old enough to be their father.”

At Klemis’ sentencing hearing, Herndon described Klemis as “evil and diabolical” and called him “a one-man drug store for high school kids at a party.”

Herndon also described Klemis as “a drug predator who preyed on children who were not yet capable of making reasoned choices.”

McKinney said Klemis “basically killed” her son when he injected the heroin into him.

In addition to providing the heroin which killed McKinney, Klemis was also sentenced for nearly killing a second man; selling heroin to four other O’Fallon High School students; and employing a 16-year-old to assist him in distributing heroin.

“Given all the facts in this case, we were extremely pleased by this result,” said Stephen Wigginton, U.S. Attorney for the southern district of Illinois. “Klemis got far more consideration from the British Courts than he ever gave his victims. Judge Herndon’s sentence was both wise and appropriate in this case.”

He added, “For five years now, my office has made the prosecution of heroin dealers who ‘accidentally’ kill someone a top priority. We are in the midst of a heroin abuse epidemic, and the victims are disproportionately teenagers. I’m proud to have played a part in removing a predator like Richard Klemis from our community.”

The investigation which resulted in Klemis’ arrest and conviction was conducted by the O’Fallon Police Department, the Millstadt Police Department and by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

At Klemis’ sentencing Friday, McKinney and her fiancee Robert Dealey addressed Herndon. Tyler is also survived by his father, Craig McKinney.

Dawn McKinney noted that at trial, many witnesses testified that Klemis often referred to McKinney as “my boy Tyler.”

Addressing the court, Dawn McKinney said, “He was my boy, your honor. Not Richard Klemis’ ‘boy.’ I will never get to see him married. I will never see the grandchildren he might have had. Instead I had to bury him.”

McKinney described Tyler as a “very sweet kid” who was loved by many. Tyler, a 2010 graduate of OTHS, had a scholarship to Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis for lacrosse.

“He wanted to be a coach” at the high school or college level, his mother said.

McKinney also said Tyler was generous. “He would give you the shirt off his back,” she said. “He would lighten up the room with just his smile.”

As mothers celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday with their children, McKinney said she will visit her only son’s grave.

“He’s very missed,” she said. “He will always be in our hearts, forever and ever.”

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at or 618-239-2562. Follow her on Twitter: @BND_JForsythe.