KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Warren Thornton is a man who misses his big brother.
“Free Kevin Strickland, you’ve done enough hurt to our family," Thornton said. "Let him go, he’s on the last end of his life already, so let him out."
After over 40 years, Thornton just wants his brother to come home.
“He can’t really stand up for longer than two minutes. Let him out. What is he going to hurt?" he said. “He’s so far out of it.
"I try to ask him, 'What are you going to do?' He says, 'I’ve been trying to keep up with TV a little bit.' But other than that, he has no reality of what it’s like out here at all or what McDonald's tastes like or what Minsky's Pizza tastes like — he’s been eating rations for the last 43 years.”
Now 62 years old after going to prison at 18, Strickland has missed out on life, including the death of their mother in late August 2021.
“My mother was not able to see him at her passing, and that’s probably one of the biggest things that she wanted, to at least be able to see her son one time before she passed, and she wasn’t able to,” Thornton said.
Warren says their mother's death has left Strickland silent, telling KSHB 41 News he last spoke to Strickland in early September.
“The last conversation was, 'Let me talk to Mom.' Now my mom has dementia, so she can’t really respond, so we just put the phone to her ear and my wife sitting on one side of the bed, and he just starts, 'Hey ma, it's ya baby, it’s ya boy,'" Thornton said. "He called on the day of the funeral, asked who all was there. I asked, did he want to talk to anybody? He said no, and he hasn’t made any contact since."
Now unsure of Stickland's condition, Thornton says he’s able to stay strong thanks to support from so many, including the National Organization of Exonerees who rallied outside of the Jackson County Courthouse Saturday ahead of Strickland's evidentiary hearing Monday.
“To see the people in person and to see the love that they gave, it was really good to see the people supported him like that,” Thornton said.
Thornton's wife LaTrecia agreed, telling KSHB 41 the support really helps keep hope alive.
“We don’t know anyone here for them to support him in the way that they have, it’s very encouraging,” said LaTrecia Thornton, Kevin Strickland's sister-in-law.
Over the last 43 years, Thornton says he and his family have been traumatized by the uncertainty of his brother's release.
“They told us he was going to get to come home for the funeral, he doesn’t come home for the funeral," he said. "Next thing he goes to court, and they say the chances of him getting out looks very great, then the prosecuting attorney says no, then they move the people. So yeah, it's very agonizing."
Thornton says he and his family want one thing and one thing only.
“Free Kevin Strickland, free my brother,” Thornton said.