In early 1990, when the accident occurred, Ken and his wife Kathy had been traveling back and forth between their home in Blue Springs Missouri and the house they were building in Vendor, Arkansas. Ultimately they were planning to retire on the “homeplace” in Vendor. The Arkansas acreage was where Ken had lived as a youngster and where his mother had spent most of her life. At the time, she was living in her home on the property.
The week before Kathy’s death, Ken had been in Arkansas spending time with family and working on their future home. On Saturday, one day prior to returning to Blue Springs, he had a conversation with his two sisters to discuss their mother’s failing health. During the time they spent together that day, the two women were concerned about Ken as he was clearly very ill. One of the sisters was so alarmed by his condition that she feared that he may have pneumonia.
Sometime earlier, Ken and Kathy had been assigned guardianship over Michelle, the 11 year old daughter of one of Kathy’s nieces. She had lived with them for quite some time and all signs were that they would ultimately retain custody of her for the long term. Her father had been deployed with the military and her mother (Kathy’s niece) was not able to care for her.
Monday morning (the day after Ken’s return from Arkansas) was routine. Kathy left for work and Ken fed Michelle her breakfast prior to seeing her off to school. The only atypical circumstance is that Ken was still ill. He had been struggling with chills and weakness for a few days.
That morning, Kathy left a note for Ken to pick up some milk. In addition to the groceries, Ken also proceeded to another store to purchase a new hose for their central vacuum system. As he was unloading everything from his truck, he realized that a handgun he had brought back from Arkansas was still behind the seat. The previous fall, Ken had been elk hunting in Colorado. He had taken the gun with him on that trip. When he returned from Colorado , he left the gun at the home in Vendor, Arkansas. He had decided to take the gun from the Vendor home back to Missouri when he saw signs that it was beginning to rust. The gun had remained in the holster since the Colorado trip. When he took the gun inside, he placed it on an ottoman along with a towel. His intention was to clean the gun and lock it in a safe inside the house prior to Michelle’s return from school.
When Ken returned home, he spoke to Kathy and let her know that he had taken care of everything. During their call, he told her how he was feeling worse. Apparently he had taken some prescription medicine on an empty stomach. The combination of this and his illness was causing Ken to feel dizzy. Following their conversation, Ken sat back in a chair in the living room and probably dozed off.
Unbeknownst to Ken, Kathy came home and picked up the gun that was out, went to use the phone, and a split second later, a shot rang out and Kathy was on the floor in a pool of blood. Somehow, she either dropped the gun and instinctively grabbed for it or it struck a chair. In either case, the gun discharged and she was mortally wounded. She was killed instantly. (Based on police officers re-tracing her drive from work, they estimate that Kathy had been in the house for approximately 2 minutes.)
Immediately, Ken made three consecutive frantic calls to 911. In each call he was begging for help for his wife. Ultimately, the 911 operator told him that help was there. That he should walk out to the garage. When he walked outside he was immediately met by police officers with guns drawn.
Fact: Ken Middleton TURNED DOWN an Alford Plea offer.
If Ken would have accepted this Alford Plea, a plea that even the West Memphis Three accepted, he could walk away a free man! They would consider his period of incarceration to that point sufficient enough to meet their sentencing requirement.
With appeals exhausted,
He wouldn't even consider it!
No guilty man would turn that down!
Fact: The original trial judge overturned HER OWN CASE, granting Ken a new trial.
In 2005, Judge Edith Messina ruled Mr. Middleton was "abandoned by post-conviction counsel, thus providing just cause to re-open his Rule 29.15 proceeding." She then held a two day evidentiary hearing that convinced her to grant him a new trial.
6 days later, the state filed a notice of appeal.
Fact: Former Missouri governor Joseph P. Teasdale testified he "would clearly have pardoned Mr. Middleton of all wrongdoing."
Mr. Teasdale exclaimed “In my 41 years as a lawyer, I had not witnessed such a violation of a defendant's constitutional rights.”
Justice For All?
We have gathered a staggering number of FACTS to show that justice has not prevailed. Read for yourself how our system failed Ken Middleton