KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Attorneys are pushing for a new grand jury investigation into the 1988 explosion that killed six Kansas City firefighters, citing new evidence that they saw proves their clients were wrongfully convicted for the crime.
At a press conference Friday, local attorney Cheryl Pilate and Laura O'Sullivan, legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project, said that a 2011 investigation by the U.S. Justice Department unearthed information that points to new suspects in the case.
Five people were sentenced to life in prison for the fatal explosion -- Darlene Edwards, Bryan Sheppard, Frank Sheppard, Richard Brown and Skip Sheppard. Pilate represents Darlene Edwards, and O'Sullivan represents Bryan Sheppard. Skip Sheppard died in prison in 2009.
The attorneys say that their clients were home asleep during the explosion. They want a new grand jury investigation to look into eyewitness testimony of those who saw people at the construction site before the explosion.
"It is clear that substantial new information points towards the guilt of others and exonerates Brian Sheppard and Daralene Edwards and the other three convicted in this case," O'Sullivan said at UMKC Law School on Friday.
Nancy Pointer, Darlene Edwards' younger sister, said she hope a new grand jury investigation will make a difference.
"I grew up with my sister, she wasn't like that," Pointer said. "This was wrongfully done. I just hope and pray something will finally come to justice and come back to court they'll find out that they're innocent and they'll all come home."
It took nearly a decade to convict the five accused of filling a pickup truck and a trailer with explosive materials that ended up killing six local firefighters -- James Kilventon Jr., Gerald Halloran, Luther Hurd, Michael Oldham, Thomas Fry and Robert McKarnin.
In a statement released Thursday, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Kansas City said they worked with Pilate, but found no new evidence that would indicate of the five people convicted for the explosion were innocent. They said the Justice Department's findings indicated there might simply be additional parties involved.
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