Kevin Strickland was finally set free last week after spending more than 40 years for a triple murder that he did not commit. He had been convicted in 1979 for the April 25, 1978, murders of Sherrie Black, 22, Larry Ingram, 21, and John Walker, 20 without any physical evidence, despite the fact that there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. His sentence: life in prison without the possibility of parole for 50 years, and two concurrent 10-year-sentences. In releasing him, Judge James Welsh, of Missouri’s Western District Court of Appeals stated that in addition to the lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, another man convicted in the killings had always maintained that Strickland had not been involved.
What wrecked his life was the identification of a single eye witness, Cynthia Douglas, the only survivor of the attack by four armed men in 1978. After being treated for gunshot wounds, Douglas had been able to identify two of the four men responsible for the attack but could not identify the others. Eventually, she picked Strickland, who was “a known associate” of the two men Douglas had identified as shooters, from a line-up, and that was sufficient for a jury to convict him.
Within a year of Strickland’s conviction based on her ID, Douglas began to tell friends that she thought she had made a mistake, but it was not until 2009 that she decided to do anything about it. She finally sent an email to the Midwest Innocence Project, saying in part that she was “seeking info on how to help someone that was wrongfully accused. 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.”