Ali Kemp’s dad prepares to fight back as her killer argues for reduced prison sentence

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The man who got a Hard 50 prison sentence for killing Ali Kemp at a Leawood pool now wants his prison sentence reduced.

Ali’s father, Roger Kemp, said he’s disgusted by Benjamin Appleby’s motion for a new sentence, that enough is enough. He talked exclusively with FOX4 about everything that’s led up to the upcoming motion hearing in Johnson County.

In 2002, people around the Kansas City metro and the nation were shocked at the brutal murder of Kansas State student Ali Kemp. She was beaten, battered and strangled in the pump house of the Leawood neighborhood pool where she worked. Her father found her.

After seventeen years, he still struggled to describe the vicious assault on his daughter.

Ali Kemp

“He murdered her because he was trying to have -- he attempted to attack her and, it’s very difficult for me to say, rape her. He killed her and then he tried to rape her again,” Kemp said.

As detectives worked every lead, Roger worked to generate new ones.

He put up billboards around the metro with the suspect’s sketch and took the story nationwide in USA Today and on America’s Most Wanted.

But it was two years before an anonymous tip led detectives to Appleby, living in Connecticut under a false name. At first, Appleby confessed, but later went on trial for murder in Johnson County.

He was found guilty and sentenced to a Hard 50 sentence under Kansas law: 50 years in prison with no chance for parole until 2054.

But now Appleby argues his sentence under the Kansas Hard 50 law is illegal and must be thrown out.

He said because the factors that led to his Hard 50 were decided by a judge and not a jury, as required by an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Kansas law automatically required his sentence be modified.

Benjamin Appleby

Prosecutors argue that state law doesn't apply to Appleby’s case, and the Hard 50 should stand.

But Roger Kemp said it shouldn't matter.

“I never, ever wanted to say his name. I never said it but once, and then swore I would never say his name again," Kemp said. "But I’m going to say it a lot now. Benjamin Appleby is a murderer. He deserves to be in jail for 50 years."

In his book, “Ali Was Here,” author Jim Davis listed Appleby’s long criminal history, detailing years of violent and sexual crimes, leading up to Ali’s murder.

“In one of them, he had a shotgun to the person’s head. He pulled the trigger and it went ‘click.' It didn’t go off. He was sentenced to one year,” Kemp said.

Kemp warned that reducing Appleby’s prison sentence would endanger others.

“I don’t know what else he’s going to do, but he is one bad individual. It’s been proven by all his convictions,” Kemp said.

Roger Kemp

He also worries that appeals like this create more suffering for other victims’ families.

“This is totally wrong. This can’t happen to other families. It shouldn’t be happening,” Kemp said.

After Appleby’s conviction, Roger started The Ali Kemp Educational Foundation, called TAKE Defense. It teaches self-defense to girls and women ages 12 and up. The training classes are held nationwide.

Staff members get hundreds of testimonials from women who say the training saved them from assaults, that it has even saved their lives. Kemp still personally speaks to the audience before every local class.

Now he's adding one more task for himself.

He's gathering information on Appleby’s past behaviors, in case he ever needs to present it to a parole board.

“We have someone that goes against our society, that goes against our laws, that doesn’t care about the law, until he’s caught," Kemp said. "And then he wants every right under the book that he’s so willing to take away from someone else. He silenced Ali’s voice. She has no voice in this. She can’t speak, so I am speaking for her."

He believes that while it can't save his daughter, it can save someone else’s.

If you would like to share information about Benjamin Appleby, you can contact Roger Kemp by email at rogdkemp@gmail.com or by mail at P.O. Box 454, Smithville, MO, 64089. You can also send a message on the TAKE Defense Facebook page.

For the upcoming schedule of TAKE Defense classes in the metro area, visit their website.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.