62-year-old Missouri man Kevin Strickland was exonerated this week after spending over 43 years in prison, and just days after his release he’s set to become a millionaire.
As the New York Times reported earlier this week, Strickland was convicted in 1979 for the murders of 22-year-old Sherrie Black, 21-year-old Larry Ingram, and 20-year-old John Walker. He has long maintained he had no involvment in the the murders, and Judge James Welsh noted on Tuesday that he was convicted despite the lack of physical evidence. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years, but Welsh said that it is believed that another man committed the murders and highlighted that the only eyewitness wanted to recant her testimony in the case.
He has not even been released from prison for a week, and yet CNN reports Strickland has received donations from thousands of people. A GoFundMe campaign was launched earlier this year as he’s reportedly not eligible for financial assistance from the state, and now that fundraiser has reached over $1.1 million. Only individuals who have been exonerated through the use of DNA testing can receive such funds. Initially the GoFundMe had a goal of $7,500.
When he was released this week, he said the first thing he wanted to do was visit his mother Rosetta Thorton’s grave. “That was the first stop that we made,” his lawyer, Tricia Rojo Bushnell said. Thorton died in August this year. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Strickland served the longest wrongful imprisonment in Missouri history.
The only eyewitness in the triple-murder, Cynthia Douglas, testified that Strickland was present at the scene of the crime in 1978. After she was injured by gunfire, she told police the two people responsible were Vincent Bell and Kiln Adkins. She later identified Strickland a day later, but has said for 30 years that she falsely identified the suspects. The two she initially identified pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and served ten years in prison.