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Straight talk from Kevin Strickland after 100 days of freedom

Kevin Strickland reflects on the 100 days since his release from prison.
Kevin Strickland reflects on the 100 days since his release from prison.(KCTV5)
Published: Mar. 1, 2022 at 8:54 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - It’s been 100 days since Kevin Strickland was released from the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri.

That’s just a blink after spending 43 years locked up for a crime a judge has ruled he did not commit.

Strickland reached out to KCTV5 to thank Kansas City for its support. He looked good. He told us he’s lost 20 pounds and works out a local gym. He’s awaiting back surgery and hopes to be out of his wheelchair.

Adjusting to this new life of freedom is not without its challenges.

“I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me,” said Strickland. “I want them to know that I’m coming along and not abusing their love.”

Strickland told us he was worried about being homeless after his release. But Kansas City generously supported him through a GoFundMe page. More than $1.7 million was raised.

“I just want to thank (people) and let them know that I don’t think I’m going to have to live under that bridge,” he said.

Strickland is getting support from attorneys with the Midwest Innocence Project, social workers, his family, and Ricky Kidd. Kidd understands more than most what Strickland is going through. He was released in August of 2019 after spending 23 years in prison before being exonerated.

“Ricky Kidd has been crucial,” said Strickland. “he’s helping me navigate my way.”

Adjusting to this new life of freedom is not without its challenges.

Technology has changed life in the 43 years Strickland was away. He laughs about needing help doing the self-checkout at a store. He got a call on his smartphone and couldn’t answer it, “had to just call them back.”

And driving is a whole different experience.

“The navigation system and the thing that talks to you, all the buttons and switches and controls—like a spaceship,” said Strickland, but he adds, “It’s fun. It’s refreshing—it’s freedom.”

Strickland says he loves to cook and bake. He told us he made a cheesecake for his daughter, but he doesn’t enjoy eating, “Matter of fact, food kind of disgusts me.” He thinks prison food conditioned his body for “the gross stuff” so when he eats “good stuff” his body doesn’t accept it.

“So, I found myself making a prison meal,” he told us. Ramen noodle soup, with tuna, jalapeno peppers, cheese and crackers on the side. “It went down well, it really did.”

Strickland has moved out of the city—he says needs space. He has a small yard and a shot-term lease. He is taking time to determine his next steps and figure out his place in the world. First, he wants to be able to walk, and is about to get new fishing equipment.

Ultimately, he wants to work with other exonerees to raise awareness and fight for compensation for those wrongly convicted.