KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cousins convicted of a Kansas City, Kansas, murder walked out of prison and returned home Thursday after spending 25 years behind bars.
Celester McKinney and Brian Betts believe now-indicted former Kansas City, Kansas, Detective Roger Golubski played a part in their convictions.
While out of prison, they haven’t been cleared of the crime. Betts and McKinney were serving 25 years to life and were granted parole.
The two shared a high five and an embrace as they left a Kansas prison Thursday.
“We prayed, prayed and prayed for it, and God has delivered us,” McKinney said.
The cousins were convicted in the 1997 murder of a teenager. They’d later learn the homicide victim and a state’s witness were related to Golubski.
Golubski is facing charges where he’s accused of protecting sex traffickers and committing sexual assaults. KCK police said 150 of his cases are now under review as he’s been accused of coercing false statements.
At a hearing for a new trial, the men’s uncle testified a heavy white man with a mustache threatened him, coercing him to falsely accuse them of murder. Golubski testified he was not a part of the investigation.
“What happened to us is evident and obvious. All a person has to do is read our case to make the decision for themselves, and I’m certain it will leave any person puzzled on how we were convicted,” Betts said.
Other convictions with Golubski connections were overturned, like Lamonte McIntyre.
“I used to ask myself how is it that Kansas got no exonerations with all the people that’s been wrongly convicted in this state when we finally see one it brings strength and confidence,” Betts said.
While a judge chose not to grant them a new trial, the Parole Board granted their release with the minimum 25 years served.
As the two returned to Kansas City, Kansas, on Thursday, they found part of the city they didn’t recognize as they went to lunch in the Legends, built after their incarceration. Betts hugged a niece he’d never met, and they vowed to keep up the legal fight for themselves and others.
📲 Download the FOX4 News app to stay updated on the go.
📧 Sign up for FOX4 email alerts to have breaking news sent to your inbox.
💻 Find today’s top stories on fox4kc.com for Kansas City and all of Kansas and Missouri.
“We maintained our innocence from day one, and we’re going to continue to fight to get exonerated,” Betts said.
“Don’t ever give up no matter what. I know it looks like everything is against you but never give up,” McKinney encouraged other inmates who say they were falsely convicted.
McKinney plans to head to Georgia with family, while Betts will remain here in KCK as both fight to clear their name.