(Trends Wide) — Thousands of people are raising money online for a Missouri man who served 43 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
Kevin Strickland, 62, was exonerated Tuesday morning after serving decades at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. Strickland was convicted in 1979 of one count of capital murder and two counts of second degree murder in a triple homicide. He was sentenced to 50 years of life in prison without the possibility of parole for a crime in which, over the years, he maintained that he had not participated.
Chief Judge James Welsh dismissed all criminal charges against Strickland. His release makes his confinement the longest in Missouri’s history and one of the longest in the country, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
The Midwest Innocence Project created a GoFundMe account to help Strickland restart his life, as he is not eligible for help from the state of Missouri.
In Missouri, only those exonerated through DNA tests are entitled to a grant of $ 50 per day of confinement after conviction, according to the Midwest Innocence Project. That was not the case with Strickland.
By early afternoon Thursday, donations to Strickland had exceeded $ 910,000.
The fund was created over the summer with the goal of raising $ 7,500, which the fund says would equal about $ 175 for each year Strickland was wrongfully convicted.
Thirty-six states and Washington have laws that offer compensation to the exonerated, according to the Innocence Project. The federal standard for compensating the wrongfully convicted is a minimum of $ 50,000 per year of incarceration, plus an additional amount for each year sentenced to death in the past.
Adapt to a new world
Strickland said he learned of his release through a news flash that interrupted the show he was watching Tuesday on television.
The first thing he did after his release was visit his mother’s grave.
“Knowing that my mother was underground and that I had not had the opportunity to visit her in recent years … I saw again those tears that came when they told me that she was guilty of a crime that she had not committed,” Strickland told Trends Wide’s Brianna Keilar this Wednesday.
His first night out of jail was restless, in which thoughts of going back to prison, among others, kept him awake, he said.
“I am used to living in a closed and confined cell where I know exactly what is going on in there with me,” he said. “And being at home and hearing the creaking of the house settling in and the electrical wiring and whatever else … I was a little scared. I thought someone was coming for me.”
Convicted as a teenager, exonerated as an adult
On April 25, 1978, four people were shot in Kansas City, Missouri, resulting in three deaths, according to Trends Wide affiliate KSHB. The sole survivor of the crime, Cynthia Douglas, who died in 2015, testified in 1978 that Strickland was at the scene of the triple murder.
Douglas suffered a shotgun wound and then told police that Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins were two of the perpetrators. But he didn’t identify Strickland, whom he knew, as present at the crime scene until a day later, according to the KSHB, after it was suggested that Strickland’s hair matched the description of the attacker who shot Douglas. Douglas claimed his initial failure to identify was due to cognac and marijuana use, according to KSHB.
But for the past 30 years he has reiterated that he was wrong and that he falsely identified Strickland. According to KSHB, Douglas endeavored to free Strickland through the Midwest Innocence Project.
The two assailants she identified at the crime scene pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and each ended up serving about 10 years in prison for the crimes, according to Strickland’s attorney, Robert Hoffman.