A year after release, Kevin Strickland reflects on life on the ‘outside’ and gives thanks

Updated: Nov. 24, 2022 at 4:00 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - It’s been a year since Kevin Strickland was released from prison. He spent 43 years in prison for a triple murder he swears he didn’t commit. The Jackson County Prosecutor and a judge agreed.

Strickland recently sat down with investigative reporter Angie Ricono to discuss his new life.

And he’s had a busy year.

Life on the outside is a huge adjustment but he’s had a lot of help. He’s thankful for the support he’s getting from his attorneys with the Midwest Innocence Project, Miracles of Innocence, his family and other exonerees — like Ricky Kidd.

Strickland said he always wanted to see the ocean. Ricky Kidd took him to Miami. The photo shows the pure joy on his face: the joy of freedom.

“I’m tickled to death to be out,” Strickland said. “I’m still pinching myself.”

The past year has been a whirlwind for him.

Not only did he make a trip to the ocean, but he’s also been learning his way around town, getting used to driving, and using technology — and most importantly, reconnecting with family.

He’s been to Chiefs parties and on a personal tour of Kauffman stadium. He went to a Royals game with the county prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker. Last year, he lit the Mayor’s Christmas Tree. He’s packing a lifetime of memories in the time he has left.

“I’m still looking back at the film, ‘I did that?’ I was there,” he laughs.

When asked what he’s most thankful for, he replied, “A chance at some life in society. I can’t really say a second chance because I was only 18 and didn’t have the first one.”

We caught up with Kevin at his gym. He is very active. He’s a big fan of the stationary bike, the pool and the sauna. You’ll recall when he left prison, he was in a wheelchair.

No more.

Strickland has had several surgeries to help with his mobility and now only needs a walker or cane. He says he never had that level of medical care in prison.

“People got life — 35 years — they expect you to die in prison,” said Strickland. “So why spend 160k on a surgery when he’s going to die here anyway? They don’t use those words but that’s the way they look at it.”

He enjoys his solitude and has found joy in fishing. He says he’s found a perfect local spot and has a “fish tale” of his own.

“You don’t even need a pole,” he told us. “You just go out there and whistle and fish just jump up on the dock. It’s just amazing.”

He’s found a job and will soon be working at a local marina. He loves the TV show Yellowstone and just living the everyday life many of us take for granted. But not all of the prison experience has been left behind.

“I still have penitentiary dreams,” said Strickland. “Nightmares. I have penitentiary nightmares. Until I can turn that channel. Where I’m dreaming things on the outside. I’m not going to be released.”

He told us that he worried he’d be homeless upon his release from prison, but a GoFundMe account set up on his behalf raised more than $1.7 million. He’s grateful to all those who have supported him. That’s why he agreed to do an interview with us.

“I kind of feel like I owe people — they want to know,” said Strickland. “I’m figuring this is [my] last [interview]. And then Kevin slides off into obscurity somewhere. Yeah. So, tell them I’m OK.”