The youngest defendant in one of Kansas City’s deadliest crimes will soon be released after over two decades behind bars.
Bryan Sheppard was one of five people convicted in the 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters- an arson-originated blast so intense, it reduced fire apparatus to scrap metal.
Now 45 years old, Sheppard’s life sentence could be coming to an end in a matter of days.
In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences for juveniles were unconstitutional unless a judge first considered their individual situation. Sheppard, 17-years-old at the time of the explosion, was granted a new sentencing hearing and testified February 15th.
While Sheppard’s family and supporters were jubilant at the hearing, the family members of the firefighters who were killed were less than pleased.
“We were mentally prepared for this, but it is an incredible disappointment,” said Cassie McKarnin, whose father was killed in the blast.
At the end of the trial, Ashley Keeney -Sheppard’s daughter- read a statement from her father.
“Right now, my main focus is to work hard every day to show you that I’m worthy of this chance,” he said in the statement addressed to the families of the victims. “I am so sorry for everything you have been through.”
While Keeney is happy to get her father back, she feels bad for the victims’ families.
“I’m so pleased with the judge’s decision. I know we all are,” she said. “But I wish … I felt nothing but relief, and while looking across the aisle (at the families of the firefighters) today, I could see my father’s release would not only bring happiness and joy to our family, but would also bring suffering for the families of the fallen firefighters.”
Keeney said that while she is convinced her father is innocent, she and her family have vowed to find the people responsible.
“I pray and hope every day we can look beyond our years of suffering long enough to work together and find the real people responsible for the 1988 tragedy,” Keeney told the Kansas City Star. “It is my hope that we can come together and seek justice as a team. I look forward to a new life with my father and our family, and I’m so very thankful to all the wonderful people who have helped us and stood by us through all of these years. We wouldn’t be here today without you. Here’s to our new life.”
The six firefighters that were killed are Fire Capts. Gerald Halloran and James Kilventon Jr. and firefighters Thomas Fry, Luther Hurd, Robert D. McKarnin and Michael Oldham.
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