Lawyers: New Evidence Clears Defendants in Deadly 1988 Blast
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Attorneys representing two people convicted in the 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City Missouri firefighters are asking for a federal grand jury to look at what they say is new evidence that could prove their client’s innocence.
At a press conference on Friday, attorney Cheryl Pilate – who represents convicted suspect Darlene Edwards – says that interviews of passerby’s on the night of the blast point to the involvement of others in the explosion.
“The things that they have seen point to the involvement of others, specificially there is an account that a fire was observed on the property while others were present,” said Pilate, who declined to discuss the specifics of the case.
On November 29, 1988, six KCFD firefighters – Thomas Fry, Gerald Halloran, Luther Hurd, James Kilventon Jr., Robert D. McKarnin and Michael Oldham – were killed in a massive early-morning explosion at a construction sight near 71 Highway in southeast Kansas City. The explosions were ruled to be caused by arson at a construction trailer loaded with tens of thousands of pounds of explosives.
Five people were eventually convicted in the case - Frank Sheppard, Earl “Skip” Sheppard, Bryan Sheppard, Darlene Edwards and Richard Brown – all of whom are sentenced to prison. On Friday, supporters of those convicted say that witness accounts make it clear that the wrong people are behind bars.
“The people up on that site obviously were the guards. When we say the people up on the site, it’s not a mystery, we’re talking about the guards up on the site,” said retired publisher and author Pat O’Connor.
“I honestly think that our prosecutor and (ATF agent) Dave True and all of them went around threatening people and told people that this is what they wanted to hear and believe, and pressured me somewhat in my statements,” said Richard Brown’s sister, Shannon Reimers. “It was very overwhelming and scary as a young girl at that time.”
In a prepared statement released on Thursday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office says that it has seen no new evidnce that indicates that any of the defendants were wrongly convicted.
Pilate says that some of the new evidence has not yet been presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and says that if she can’t convince prosecutors to reopen the case, she will pursue other legal avenues.