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Wrongfully Imprisoned Man Finally Visits Mother's Grave after Spending 43 Years in Prison

Ayesha Muhammad
Nov 27, 2021
04:00 A.M.

A Missouri man who received a 50-year-life sentence for a triple murder he didn't commit was acquitted on November 23, 2021. He found out about his release through a breaking news report while watching a soap opera.

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Life can change in an instant, but for a 62-year-old man who had spent more than 43 years in prison, a lot changed after he received the news of his exoneration and release.

As he spent more than four decades behind bars, the world outside kept moving forward, and the wheels of time continued to turn. Sadly, not much changed for the man who was only a teenager when he was convicted of a crime he had nothing to do with.

WRONGFULLY CONVICTED

At 19, an all-white jury convicted Kevin Strickland for the April 25, 1978 murders of 22-year-old Sherrie Black, 21-year-old Larry Ingram, and 20-year-old John Walker. He was sentenced in 1979.

Throughout his time at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri, he maintained his innocence despite being convicted of one count of capital murder and two counts of second-degree murder.

His wrongful imprisonment resulted in Strickland missing out on a significant part of his life, including spending time with his family and friends. The Missouri man was still serving his time in the prison when he received the news of his mother's demise.

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VISITING HIS MOTHER'S GRAVE

Strickland's mother, Rosetta Thornton, passed away in August, but he could not visit her grave as he was serving his time in prison. But after being exonerated and released on Tuesday, he went straight from the prison to the graveyard. He told CNN:

"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 (sic)."

The 62-year-old man shared he received the news of his release through a breaking news report while watching a soap opera on Tuesday, November 24, 2021.

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THE TESTIMONY

Strickland was taken into custody after Cynthia Douglas, the only survivor and eyewitness of the 1978 murder incident, testified that she had seen him at the crime scene.

Having spent more than 40 years behind bars, Strickland is facing multiple challenges after his exoneration.

She was wounded during the altercation and received a shotgun injury. Douglas identified Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins as being involved in the killings. Both Bell and Adkins pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, and each served a 10-year sentence.

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MIDWEST INNOCENCE PROJECT

Surprisingly enough, Douglas did not recognize Strickland until it was suggested to her that his hair matched her description of the shooter a day later. She then spent 30 years trying to recant her testimony. Douglas wrote a letter to Midwest Innocence Project:

"This incident happened back in 1978, I was the only eyewitness and things were not clear back then, but now I know more and would like to help this person if I can.”

Midwest Innocence Project is a non-profit organization committed to investigating and seeking litigation for the wrongfully imprisoned. After receiving Douglas's email in 2009, Mr. Strickland also contacted the same organization, asking for help.

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LONGEST WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT IN MISSOURI

Douglas revealed that she had failed to recognize Strickland initially because of the use of marijuana and cognac. When she realized her mistake, she tried to make amends and even told her family she had misidentified Strickland as an assailant in the murder.

While Douglas passed away in 2015, the Midwest Innocence Project took up Strickland's case and began the investigation. According to BBC, Douglas's mother, sister, and daughter testified in court that she accused the wrong person.

Later on, Bell and Adkins also swore that Strickland was not with them during the attack. Now a free man, Strickland has served the seventh-longest wrongful sentence in the U.S and the longest wrongful imprisonment in Missouri history.

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STARTING OVER

Having spent more than 40 years behind bars, Strickland is facing multiple challenges after his exoneration. Only those exonerated through DNA testing are entitled to $50 per day of post-conviction confinement in Missouri.

In short, Strickland is not eligible for any compensation from the state. The Midwest Innocence Project has set up a GoFundMe to help Strickland with starting over.

Strickland is still in the process of recovering from the emotional trauma, now that he's no more confined to a prison cell. He will need a considerable amount of time and help to adjust to his new life.

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