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Pastor who received pardon speaks about impact of having record wiped away

Missouri governor cleared backlog of clemency requests
Pastor Kenny Batson.png
Posted at 2:49 PM, Jun 03, 2024

EL DORADO SPRINGS, Mo. — Kenny Batson is living a new life, and a decision by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson means anything is possible in his new life.

Parson pardoned Batson’s crimes in 2022.

"I didn’t realize what it meant to me until it happened,” Batson said. “I cried so hard I couldn’t even talk because it made me so happy and thankful."

Batson’s first life included a long list of crimes which resulted in three separate trips to prison.

While serving that third sentence, Batson discovered God and was "born again" as a christian.

“My problem wasn’t alcohol; it was sin,” Batson said. “I was rebellious, and I needed to understand who to go to, and it was God.”

Shortly after leaving prison in 1997, Batson received a degree in theology and he is now the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in El Dorado Springs, Missouri.

Members of his congregation said they appreciate Batson’s approach to accountability.

“There’s parts of that you can relate to as far as being in your sin,” David Terpening said. “Everyone sins different; of course, the things he had struggles with, I didn’t necessarily, but I had struggles of my own.”

When Parson became Missouri’s governor, he inherited a backlog of nearly 4,000 people who had applied for some sort of clemency.

This year, Parson announced he'd ruled on all the cases.

“Whether approved or denied, we set out to provide answers," Parson said during his state of the state address in January.

Batson attended the speech as a guest of the governor.

“Besides getting saved and having an awesome wife and kids, that was the coolest thing ever," Batson said.

The pardon wiped away Batson’s felony convictions and returned rights to him like being able to vote.

The pardon also forgives Batson, which is important him and his ministry.

Parson continues to receive requests for clemency. He will leave office in January 2025 because of term limits.

One clemency request Parson continues to weigh is that of Eric DeValkenaere.

A judge found the former Kansas City Police Department detective guilty of second-degree manslaughter and armed criminal action in the 2019 death of Cameron Lamb.

He is serving six years in prison.

On Monday, gubernatorial candidate and Sen. Bill Eigel (R) promised to pardon DeValkenaere in his first week as governor if elected.

Current Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft will face Eigel and other Republicans in the August primary election.

"The men and women in law enforcement risk their lives to keep our communities safe and deserve the support of our elected leaders," Ashcroft said in a statement. "Discussions I’ve had with law enforcement about the trial give me great concern and as Governor, I am committed to a close review of Eric DeValkenaere’s conviction and consideration of a pardon."

Chris Wright, a former Neosho, Missouri, police officer who is also running for governor as a Republican, told KSHB 41 News he’s spoken to DeValkenaere’s wife and also pledged to pardon DeValkenaere.

State Representative Crystal Quade, a Democrat running for governor, gave KSHB 41 News this statement about whether she’d pardon DeValkenaere.

"Missouri ranks in the bottom 10 of states when it comes to things like food insecurity, we should be focusing on issues that build the economy, create opportunity, and support hard-working Missouri families. Bill Eigel and other extremists are a joke who are trying to gain attention by dividing Missourians. I'll spend my time working on solutions to actually make our communities safer," Quade said in the statement.

Another candidate on the Democratic side, Bishop Eric Morrison, said "if you do the crime, you do the time."

Several other candidates did not respond to KSHB 41 News’ request for comment.