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Quincy man held without bail in hatchet attack

Michael A. Kelly

A longtime Quincy attorney is recovering from a vicious hatchet attack allegedly committed by the ex-husband of a woman he represented in an acrimonious divorce case.

Robert L. Johnson Jr. had represented his client on Tuesday morning in Norfolk Probate and Family Court in Canton. During that session, his client’s ex-husband, Michael A. Kelly, 53, of Quincy, failed to show up, and in his absence a judge ordered Kelly to pay his ex-wife $30,000, according to court filings.

Hours later, at 5:30 p.m., as Johnson loaded items into a vehicle parked in the Ross Parking Garage in Quincy Center, Kelly allegedly attacked him from behind, striking him in the head with the hatchet.


“He came up from behind me and hit me a number of times in the head, at least a dozen times,” Johnson, who is 63, told police, according to court filings.

Johnson described the blows as “bang, bang, bang.”

“What do you want?” Johnson said during the struggle, but the assailant kept “pounding him.”

“He’s going to kill me,” Johnson screamed several times, according to the filings.

At one point, Johnson said he pleaded with the assailant to stop by saying that he has children.

“The victim put up a good defense and was able to take the hatchet away from him,’’ Lieutenant John Steele said in an interview. “Had he not been able do to so, who knows how truly bad this could have been?”

“With blood on his face,’’ Johnson turned on his attacker, wrested the hatchet from him, and then covered the weapon with his body to prevent it from being used against him further, Steele said.

But the man allegedly did not stop the attack and instead started spraying Johnson in the face with poisonous wasp spray, Steele said.

The attack was witnessed by other patrons who shouted that they had called police, which apparently prompted the assailant to flee, Steele said. He allegedly climbed into a Jeep Cherokee and drove out of the parking lot. A witness photographed the vehicle as he left, Steele said.


Police, with the help of prosecutors, enhanced the image and were able to see the license plate. They determined the vehicle was registered to Kelly, Steele said, and officers arrested him Thursday afternoon.

Steele said Johnson needed 25 staples to close wounds to his face. A message seeking comment left with Johnson’s law firm was not returned.

A lawyer representing Kelly could not be reached.

Kelly was ordered held without bail Friday after pleading not guilty in Quincy District Court to charges of armed assault with intent to murder a person over age 60, and two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person over 60, Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said in a statement.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Sean P. Murphy can be reached at sean.murphy@globe.com. Aneri Pattani can be reached at aneri.pattani@globe.com.