KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The case of a 10-year-old KCK girl who was killed in a drive-by shooting more than three years ago was dismissed by a judge Friday.
The decision now opens a wound for Machole Stewart's family.
Hours after the judge's decision, Krystal DePriest felt numb knowing that the three men once suspected of killing her granddaughter were once again free.
"I think about her every day, I look at her picture every day. Machole wasn't just my granddaughter, Machole was coming to live with me,” DePriest said.
On Oct. 26, 2014, Stewart was at her home on the 1400 block of New Jersey sitting on a couch, when a car drove by and unleashed a barrage of bullets.
DePriest heard the gunfire from her home a few blocks away. A phone call then confirmed her worst fear.
"All I could hear was ‘they killed my baby, they killed my baby,’" DePriest recalled.
One of the bullets struck the fifth-grader in the head.
“It tore my baby's whole head up and they found fragments in her spine,” DePriest said.
For three years there weren't any developments, until last fall when the Wyandotte County District Attorney filed charges.
Cedric Sanders, Tommy Benson, Ja'son Johnson and Donald Martis were all charged with first-degree murder in her death.
On Friday, a judge dismissed the case stating there wasn't enough evidence for the case to go trial.
The charges have been dropped, but it's possible they could be refiled.
Two of the men in jail walked free Friday afternoon. The third was sent to Lenexa on an outstanding warrant.
Stewart's family feels the justice system has turned their back on them.
"And my granddaughter, she know I ain't giving up on her, but as far as for me to think that they're going to open it back up, they're not going open it back up," DePriest said.
The Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office put out a statement after the case was dismissed which read:
We respectfully accept the judge’s decision in this case. Our duty is to pursue justice. It should be noted our justice system is only as strong as the community it serves. It is our hope the community comes forward with additional information and be willing to come to court. Our office, in collaboration with the police department, will continue to pursue justice for Machole Stewart and victims of any crime in Wyandotte County.
Public Information Officer
Wyandotte County District Attorney’s Office