A 62-year-old Missouri man, Kevin Strickland, spent 43 years in prison for a murder crime he did not commit. Senior Judge James Welsh struck out all criminal charges against Strickland and he was released on Tuesday. The Midwest Innocence Project opened a GoFundMe account to raise $7,500 for him, but the account now has almost $900,000 to help Strickland find his feet again.
The National Registry of Exonerations said Strickland’s wrongful incarceration was the longest in Missouri and one of the longest in the United States. He was wrongfully convicted in 1978 when three people died from a shooting incident and a fourth was injured. The only survivor, Cynthia Douglas, testified that Strickland was the shooter and that he had shot her and killed the other three on April 25, 1978.
Douglas was not sure if it was Strickland he saw as the shooter, but she claimed he looked like the shooter. Before her death in 2015, she claimed that she was mistaken and that Strickland was not the actual shooter. She mentioned Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins as the shooters, and the duo later confessed in court that they were guilty of the crime. They were sentenced to 10 years in prison for second-degree murder, but Strickland remained incarcerated.
Following his release from the Western Missouri Correctional Center where he had been serving a 50-year life sentence without possibility of parole for capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder in a triple homicide. The first thing he did on being released was to visit the grave of his mother where he shed tears.
“To know my mother was underneath that dirt and I hadn’t gotten a chance to visit with her in the last years…I revisited those tears that I did when they told me I was guilty of a crime I didn’t commit,” Strickland said.
He also said he is trying to adapt to life outside prison since he was used to the routine of prison life.
“I’m used to living in a close, confined cell where I know exactly what’s going on in there with me,” he said. “And being home, and you hear the creaks of the home settling and the electrical wiring and whatever else…I was kind of afraid. I thought somebody was coming to get me.”
According to him, he didn’t know anyone was working to get him released, and he learned of his release when breaking news flashed across the TV screen while watching a soap opera in the prison.