U.S. News

Donors raise more than $1M for freed Kevin Strickland

By Jake Thomas   |   Nov. 27, 2021 at 8:38 PM

Nov. 27 (UPI) -- An online fundraiser has collected more than $1 million to help Kevin Strickland, a Missouri man released earlier this week after spending 43 years incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit.

A judge ordered Strickland, 62, to be released from prison on Tuesday after he was cleared of his 1979 triple murder conviction. Prosecutors argued that Strickland's innocence was "clear and convincing" after a witness recanted her statement used in his conviction.

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Despite experiencing the state's longest known wrongful imprisonment, Strickland was released penniless from prison. Missouri law only allows wrongful conviction compensation to prisoners who prove their innocence through DNA testing.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, one of Strickland's lawyers and Midwest Innocence Project executive director, set up a GoFundMe account to help his reentry. As of Saturday, more than 25,000 people had donated $1.46 million.

Strickland, who is back in Kansas City and staying at his brother's house, told The New York Times that his first purchase would be a bag of cough drops and a shower cap. He also told the paper that the community didn't owe him any compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.

"The courts failed me and that's who should be trying to make my life a little more comfortable," he said. "I really do appreciate the donations and contributions they made to try to help me acclimate to society."

John Billharz and his wife Cameo, who own a Kansas City pediatric practice, donated $10,000, the largest amount, reports The Kansas City Star. Born in 1979, Billharz told the paper he thought about how he went to school, got married, had children and started a business all while Strickland was wrongfully imprisoned.

"He can't get that time back, but you can help take care of somebody for the time they have left," Billharz said.